Today the North County Times posted a very thoughtful editorial by Susan Estrich. The editorial deals with her recent trip to France that included Normandy. She talks about the driver who drove her out to Normandy. He commented that he felt France had been wise to stay out of the war. He felt that it was unfair that Marshal Petain was prosecuted for treason after the war because he made peace with Hitler. When asked about the Jews, the driver said he didn’t know.
Ms. Estrich reminds us:
There were many righteous men and women in France who tried to save their Jewish countrymen and -women. Clearly, that did not include my driver’s family. Nor the Vichy government. All told, 76,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps in France. Refugees were among the first to be rounded up. Pity those who thought they would find refuge from Hitler in France. They were as much in the dark as I was. They paid with their lives. All but 2,500 of those sent to the camps in France died.
Ms. Estrich then points out that because it was January, most of the places she wanted to visit near Normandy were closed, but the American cemetery and the small museum next to it were open. She then comments on the beauty of Omaha Beach, reminding us that it was not beautiful on June 6, 1944.
She tells us:
Omaha Beach is quiet. Even on a rainy day, it is beautiful. But it was not beautiful on D-Day. The ocean was dyed red with the blood of brave Americans who waded from their boats into enemy fire —- kids who gave their lives to save each other, to liberate the French, to defeat evil.
On that day, as the tape in the museum says, they carried the fate of the free world —- “the entire free world” —- on their young shoulders.
They saved the world.
My father was one of the people who landed on the shores of France on June 6, 1944. He was one of the lucky ones who landed on Utah Beach instead of Normandy Beach. He was one of the lucky ones who came home safely. His generation paid a tremendous price so that Europe and America would remain free.
Ms. Estrich concludes:
My friend Annie was the one who told me to go to Normandy. She is the child of survivors, born in Munich after the war. She said that standing in that cemetery, she was overcome with pride to be an immigrant to this country.
For all our problems, we are still the luckiest people on the face of the globe. And one of the reasons for that is because of those young soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom —- and for the freedom of people like my driver and his family. He may not know enough to appreciate that. But I do. God bless America.
Sometimes it is good to reflect on the challenges and accomplishments of the American past. I feel that some day in the future we may be called to meet similar challenges. I hope we are still up to the task.