A leading article in The Guardian asked the question whether in Britain it is time to stop making an industry out of living in the past, and honour the sacrifices made in that war as we would any other.
Of course it isn’t ‘either, or’ and the making an industry out of the past is not the same as remembrance. But the heart of the question isn’t that; it is whether those events which took place seventy years ago are such that we can today still learn something from them that is unique.
My answer to that is unquestionably, yes. During those six years of war events occurred on a scale and to a degree that contained for the world a shock akin to a child’s first experience of a bursting balloon but immeasurably more sinister. This country came within a cat’s whisker of losing its freedom. Thousands of innocent men, women and children died awful deaths inside their own homes. Soldiers lost lives in numbers beyond our imagining. The leadership of a civilised nation took it upon itself to exterminate a race of people simply because of their membership of that race.
These are events from which we must learn. The leading article perhaps had a point if we consider the singular failure on the part of world leaders to do that learning. Until such lessons are learnt, I, for one, pray that we will continue to remember this most dreadful event.
There is though a lighter side and one from which we can perhaps also learn. Many of the people I know who participated in the war remember it as the time of their life: the female spitfire pilot who so regretted returning to ‘women’s work’, the many who found friendship and love amid the horror.
This is a chapter in our history so rich in its texture and content that to forget it would be to impoverish ourselves and betray the sacrifice of so many.