VE Day: Britain Celebrates, France Honors EU

VE Day: Britain Celebrates, France Honors EU

VE Day: Britain Celebrates, France Honors EU

May 8 will mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, commonly called “VE Day.” Despite the quarantines, Britain will still carry on with commemorations. So will the United States, although American commemorations have always been more muted. Then again, the US honors its dead on Memorial Day. Plus, American citizens did not experience the terror of the German blitzkrieg or the bombing of their cities. The British did, and they still remember.

A brief review of history is in order here, although I’m sure our good readers know the facts.

On May 8, 1945, Germany formally surrendered to the Allied Forces, marking the end of World War II in Europe. Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler had committed suicide in his bunker the previous week on April 30, as Russian forces invaded Berlin. Hitler’s successor, Karl Dönitz, negotiated the German surrender to the allied nations of Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union (although I cringe to type those final two words. But I digress).

The British people went through hell during those six years between September, 1939, and May, 1945. Britain had barely saved her forces during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. They had endured 57 nights of continual bombing of London during 1940-1941. Yet the little island nation carried on, joining with American forces on the shores of Normandy on D-Day, 1944, landing on beaches nicknamed “Gold” and “Sword.”

Altogether, Great Britain lost over 450,000 of her people, which included over 383,000 military personnel. Even the Royal Family was affected. During the blitz of London, a bomb landed in a courtyard of Buckingham Palace while the King and Queen were in residence.

So now, even 75 years later, proud Brits will be celebrating the end of the Nazi scourge in Europe, despite the pandemic.

And what is France doing on VE Day? American and British forces had helped to liberate Paris from Germany on August 25, 1944. Prior to that, Nazis had controlled the nation for the previous four years. So you’d think they’d be celebrating along with the British, right?

VE Day

French crowds greet British soldiers, 1944. Wikimedia Commons/Imperial War Museum/public domain.

Mais non. VE Day has been a mixed bag in France for a number of years now, and this year is no different. Oh, you can find French streets named “Le 8 Mai 1945.” But the nation prefers to celebrate May 9 as “Europe Day,” instead.

French dilemma over VE Day has existed ever since 1959, when Charles de Gaulle changed May 8 from a bank holiday to a commemoration. Then in 1975, President Valéry d’Estaing ended the commemoration. Instead, he chose to mark the following day to recall an event from 1950.

That event was the date of a speech by French statesman Robert Schuman (not a French name). Schuman had called for friendship with Germany and laid out a foundation for the eventual European Union. So d’Estaing decided that the speech was more worthy of commemoration. Besides, he said, hardly anyone showed up in Paris to celebrate VE Day anyway.

But that wasn’t the end of it. In 1980, Guy Genermont, the president of a veterans association, called for VE Day to return to France.

“The decorated veterans saw around 400,000 of their comrades killed and awarded medals posthumously, and they don’t think that dedicating one day a year to them is over the top.”

Mais oui. 

After François Mitterand became President of France in 1981, VE Day became a bank holiday once again. But in 1985, the French went back to celebrating May 9 as Europe Day. It’s been that way ever since.

Last year, local officials in France still laid wreaths for fallen soldiers on May 8. Also, President Emmanual Macron laid a wreath at France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe. Thus, France still remembered their countrymen who suffered under German occupation, including French Jews whom the Nazis sent to concentration camps. And there were the heroes of the French Resistance, too.

But it looks as if France would rather leave its World War II past behind. Perhaps it’s because of the German occupation. Or perhaps it’s because Vichy France is a shameful part of that past, when General Philippe Pétain, a French hero of World War I, cooperated with his Nazi overlords in setting up a puppet state.

Whatever the reason, France wants to move on. She prefers to shill for the European Union than honor the sacrifices of those who fought in World War II. And that’s a shame.

 

Welcome, Instapundit readers!
Featured image: VE Day in London, 1945/Imperial War Museum/wikimedia commons/cropped/public domain.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

18 Comments
  • Taylor says:

    Love France, dislike the French. By the way it is “Adolf” not “Adolph” Hitler. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have seen that mistake. 🙂

  • Jim says:

    I think many French citizens have never forgiven the Allies for rescuing them – a second time in C20. Many of the French were very comfortable living under the regime of Vichy and turning over French Jews to occupation forces.

  • Dave says:

    I’m not normally a person who says this but I think one needs to separate the French people from French politicians. My wife and I visited the American cemeteries for our war dead for both World Wars. I saw school groups and individuals with children visiting them and with the exception of the Normandy the French visitors heavily outnumbered the Americans. We visited Normandy on 6 June so perhaps that explains it. Individuals I spoke to, not including those at the cemetery were fully aware and thankful of the sacrifice. They were certainly more aware of those events than your average American citizen and order of magnitude more aware than say the French involvement in the American War of Independence.

    • GWB says:

      Not sure if it’s the politicians vs the people or something else. After all, someone has to vote them into office. I think there might be a Paris/everywhere else divide. And maybe one between “patricians” and “peasants” (which also tends to be Paris/everywhere else).

    • PD Mason says:

      The residents around Normandy are very much pro-American, and remember very well those sacrifices…

      • Chancellor says:

        Very true. I spent a lot of time in France in the ’90s, and the Normandy area and Alsace were by far the two best areas. Everywhere else was pretty nasty. I was in Paris shortly before the Notre Dame burned, and I will say it was much more pleasant.

    • Bob says:

      I agree with Dave. Having visited the Normandy region, which is mostly small farming communities (remember the “battle of the hedge rows”, after the D-Day landings). Many private homes display plaques bolted to them such as ‘Parking only for U.S. Military personnel’, and ‘Everyday is Memorial Day’).
      And when my wife and I toured the U.S. Cemetery on a non-holiday weekday, we waited in a long, long line of cars to get to the parking lot. Whose license plates were from all over Europe. Made my heart glad that their sacrifices are not forgotten.

  • Looking at history, the French élite are obviously afflicted with ADD. They keep on trying to reestablish Charlie’s Glorious Empire – but within a generation or less, they lose interest, and get pummeled by those they would make subjects. Rinse, repeat.

    (Note, the French are not the only cultures afflicted with ADD at their highest levels. Just the best documented.)

  • Philippe says:

    I’m sorry but this is just untrue. May 8 is a bank holiday in France and there are commemorations all over the country (not so much this year, for obvious reasons) while may 9, (EU day, not a french only occasion) is virtualy unknown.
    While it makes sense that french and british people have a different history and heritage regarding may 8 ans and that it’s not celebrated with the same fanfare in both countries, you’re litteraly making things up with may 9. As a quick google search (try 8 mai 2019, for instance) would demonstrate.

  • Frank says:

    The French can celebrate on June 22, which will be the 80th anniversary of their surrender to Hitler. Surrendering is the thing they do best.

  • Chad Hudock says:

    I am an American, son of a WWII vet and relative of several more and I am pausing a moment to reflect on VE Day. I remember the sacrifices of the civilians and militaries of the countries of Europe that suffered under the Nazis. The Poles, who bought us valuable time and provided the Allies with information leading to the cracking of the Enigma code, the British and the Commonwealth who stood alone against the tide until America could gear up, both industrially and militarily, to join the fight. I have been to Normandy, and have seen firsthand, the respect and gratitude shown towards the American vets and their families by the people of that region. It is indeed the transplants and others who come later who have short memories, or none at all. I am grateful to the French for helping us gain our Independence and freedom. I to count them as our first ally. I regard the British as one of our oldest and strongest allies.

    • Kate says:

      “I am grateful to the French for helping us gain our Independence and freedom. I to count them as our first ally. I regard the British as one of our oldest and strongest allies.“

      Yes. Completely agree.

  • kitty says:

    without the brits and the yanks, france and the EU would all be speaking german. ungrateful cowards

  • Bob says:

    I agree with Dave. Having visited the Normandy region, which is mostly small farming communities (remember the “battle of the hedge rows”, after the D-Day landings). Many private homes display plaques bolted to them such as ‘Parking only for U.S. Military personnel’, and ‘Everyday is Memorial Day’).
    And when my wife and I toured the U.S. Cemetery on a non-holiday weekday, we waited in a long, long line of cars to get to the parking lot. Whose license plates were from all over Europe. Made my heart glad that their sacrifices are not forgotten.

  • Steven says:

    Take history in 100 year bites. England was our greatest enemy in the 1700 to 1800 years. The French were our allies, sort of. The Germans were horrible opponents in WWI. A few years later, the Germans, Italians, Japanese, and Vichy French were our enemies, now they are all our friends (thanks to the George Marshall Plan.) Are the French our friends today, who knows. Many of the friends who have benefited from the lives and fortunes of our nation have turned on us. But as already defined, it is the elite government officials that castigate us. I think the people of these nations know who their friends are.

  • DON ODAM says:

    I was in Germany for three years in the mid 50’s. Made several trips to France and was not well received in the cities or country side. I was impressed with the hospitality of the Germans though.

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