Seventy-five years have passed since nearly 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. The D-Day assault was the beginning of the end of the horror inflicted on the world by the fascist regimes of Europe.
Casualties were high that day and reached more than 10,000, including 1,074 of the 14,000 Canadians who stormed the beaches on D-Day.
By the time the Battle of Normandy ended, more than 5,000 Canadians had died. By the end of the war, that number had risen to more than 45,000 Canadians and hundreds of millions worldwide.
But despite the horrific human toll of D-Day, the passage of time has unquestionably dulled the memory of the sacrifices of those who died, and has caused some to question the relevance of the date to our lives today.
There are few veterans still alive after all, who can speak to that struggle, or remind us of why it was important.
It’s a situation that should not be allowed to stand.
It was George Santayana who said that those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and even a cursory glance at world events today should be enough to frighten us all.
Nazism did not arrive in Germany overnight. Nor did Mussolini’s rise in Italy.
They were the face of insidious ideologies and beliefs that had their fans even in North America.
In 1939, a Nazi rally filled Massey Hall in Toronto and, that same year, New York’s Madison Square Garden saw 20,000 attendees carrying placards with George Washington flanked by swastikas.
It wasn’t easy, but in North America, society fought back against those extremist views.
In Europe, they were not so lucky. Fascism was the eventual outcome of decades of unchecked populist movements and the embrace of a mix of nationalist fears, international grievance, racism, misogyny, and tyranny masquerading as extreme law and order – the same sort of beliefs being propagated today by leaders of countries that once fought against those same stains on our humanity.
Our commemoration of D-Day is, of course, our way of honouring those who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms. But it’s also a call for everyone to learn the history of struggle and why those men were willing to die to protect our freedom.
And it’s a call to remain vigilant against those who would undo that sacrifice.