#DDay70: Editorial from the French Ambassador [fr]

Editorial from the French Ambassador, Philippe Zeller,
regarding commemorative events on June 6th

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of the Allied landings in France. What meaning should we give to these commemorations? First of all, observing an anniversary of the D-Day landings means remembering the Franco-Canadian friendship that was forged in this trial by fire. It means paying tribute to the bravery of the young people lost on the beaches of Normandy.

These men who crossed the Atlantic came from Montreal, Moncton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Victoria or Regina to liberate our country. They were but twenty years old, with their whole lives ahead of them. They were prepared to give everything for our liberty. I find it moving to think back on the experiences that soldier Gérard Bouchard lived through on that particular day: “We landed, we had to run 1000 feet and then dig ourselves trenches big enough for our bodies. We gained ground step by step. It was Hell!”

On June 6th, 1944, 15,000 Canadian soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division landed on Juno Beach. For France, their arrival meant the end of night. A night that had lasted 1,500 days. The long night of Nazi occupation. There, on the beaches of Normandy, hope would be reborn.

By the evening of D-Day, Canadian soldiers had successfully penetrated deep into French territory after facing some of the strongest resistance yet on the beaches. Historian John Keegan very rightly paid homage to the courage that they displayed on June 6th, 1944, a courage in which a “whole nation could take considerable pride.”

One group in particular that comes to mind is the French-Canadian Régiment de la Chaudière, who landed on June 6th at about 8:45 in the morning. This came as a surprise to the local populace, who certainly did not expect to meet Francophone troops among the Allied forces! Throughout the month of June, this regiment fought tirelessly around the city of Caen. This regiment helped to close the Falaise Gap, a decisive maneuver that opened the way for the liberation of Paris in late August.

For all of these reasons, I remember that it was the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers that helped my country free itself from the Nazi forces. The best pages in that generation’s history were surely written at that time. Those Canadians who fell during the landings are at rest in a military cemetery in Bény-sur-Mer, France. Their graves bear a grey cross and the inscription “Mort pour la France”. We are thus eternally in their debt.

Today, June 6th, 2014, we are celebrating this shared history through unique commemorative events taking place on the same beaches where the landings took place. It is an honour to welcome Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a joint Franco-Canadian ceremony.

Commemorating the D-Day landings also means celebrating the fraternity of democracies. It means remembering the blood that has been spilled in the name of freedom. It means defending the shared values in the name of which our elders fell: the respect for human rights, the love of liberty, and the protection of human dignity.

Commemorating the D-Day landings also means addressing a new generation of people. I hope that we take the opportunity presented by these celebrations to pass the flame of remembrance on to this new generation. To these young people who have only known peace and democracy, I would like to say: remember how fragile these things are! Remember how precious they are!

More than ever, celebrating our shared history is about more than nostalgia. It is a matter of looking to the future without forgetting anything from our past. It is a matter of taking on an immense responsibility: living up to the sacrifices made by soldiers on June 6th, 1944.

Dans la presse canadienne :

Last modified on 06/06/2014

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