Memory Tracks Origins
Even though the liberation was desperately awaited by the enormous majority of the French, and therefore generated joy, elation, and infinite gratitude towards the allied forces, the price to pay by all was extremely significant: 209,672 allied soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing. For their part, 80,000 German soldiers were killed or missing, and 170,000 were wounded.
Over 3 months of intense and difficult combats would be necessary to liberate Normandy from Nazi subjugation. On September 12th 1944, Le Havre, 80% of the town being destroyed, will be the last Normandy city to be liberated. Nine days after the liberation of Brussels…
The Normand civilians them too had a very high cost to pay for the liberation of their region. It is estimated about 20,000 French civilians lost their lives by the end of the summer of 1944, and the number of seriously injured people was unfortunately much, much higher. My own maternal family was one of these families particularly hurt by the violence of the events of June and July 1944, and I very often think of my grand-parents...
Of my grandfather, Henri Le Rasle, doctor in Caen, a blood transfusion specialist and head of Pediatrics at the hospital, who from June 6th until the very end of the Battle of Caen, committed all his energy to give the best care to any and all wounded transported to the hospital.
Of my grand-mother, Denise, gone in the night from the 6th to the 7th June to hide with her 7 children and her mother-in-law in the neighbour’s shelter, without imagining that two bombs would fall on them only a few hours later.
27 years after her death in 1995, I still often wonder how she managed to keep her sanity after the horrible and traumatic experience and consequences of this bombing.
And I often think of my own mother, uncle, aunts, forever scarred in their bodies and souls.
Towards the end of the 70s and beginning of 80s, while there were many monuments, the museums dedicated to D-Day and to the combats of the summer of 1944 were quite few and far between. Major historical sites such as the batteries of Crisbecq, Azeville, Longues, Merville, the Radar station of Douvres la Délivrande, or the Command Post Hillman (...), went back to being silent and the cows had – peacefully – taken over from the German garrisons.
Since the 90s, the interest for D-Day and the Battle of Normandy seems to be growing. Perhaps we felt the last veterans and witnesses would soon leave us, and with them the memories of a major historical event?
It seems evident now to the eyes of many that we must not let history be forgotten, and thanks to the efforts made by many enthusiasts, with the support of the public Normandy collectives, many sites have been preserved and restored, many museums opened their doors and offer today such abundant collections of great historical and human interest.
The Memory Tours offered by Memory Tracks are therefore my personal contributions to the duty of remembrance.