Saturday, April 30, 2016

Celebrating Liberation Day

In Italy, we celebrate Liberation Day on April 25. This national holiday honors those who served in the Italian Resistance against the Nazis and Mussolini's troops during World War II. The Italians were formally liberated by Allied troops on April 25, 1945. Ceremonies will take place in most towns in tribute to the event. I saw a few Italian flags hung out on balconies but other than that it goes unnoticed unless you make a concerted effort to participate in the commemorative services. In other words it is not decked out like Memorial Day in America.

All across Europe there are celebrations of liberation at various times as it was the spring of 1945 that the Allied forces pushed through. Last year we traveled through Germany in the spring where we stopped to visit both Dachau and Flossenbürg concentration camps. It was the 70th anniversary and the heightened emotion was certainly felt in the air as survivors returned to be commemorated. We arrived at Flossenbürg just as the memorial service was starting.

Man with red tie is a survivor

 Flowers gifted from countries all over the world

Samuel shared a bit about our visit to both camps here. However, I never personally wrote anything. I really struggled with putting my thoughts to paper. How does one even begin to process the atrocities that took place? Having visited a concentration camp like Dachau, one can in a way understand how the greatest generation returned in silence. My maternal grandfather was a part of George S. Patton's army that helped liberate Buchenwald concentration camp. First they fought through Trier, Bullay and St. Goar, France and then crossed the Rhine into Lumbach. At Lumbach, my grandpa received the Silver Star for saving 4 men by leaving a covered position to get to where they lay wounded and raked by machine gun and artillery fire. With his skill as an army medic he amputated a leg on one man and kept him from bleeding to death and treated the other three while under fire. From there they fought close to Frankfurt and then on to Herzfeld, Eisennach, Gotha, Erfurt, Arnstadt, Jena, Kahla and ended at Zwickau on the Czech border on the Mulde River. (Thanks to my dad for researching this information) He also received the Croix de Guerre medal of honor from General de Gaulle, the president of France, for the liberation of France. Tata never spoke much of his experience in the war and I can now better understand why. However, stories need to be shared and passed along to the next and future generations so that we don't ever forget and don't repeat this horrific and dark time in world history. I am so grateful for the men and women who sacrificed so much for freedom both in Europe and the United States, in the military and the resistance.

Dachau was a very different experience than from Flossenbürg in that Dachau was left mostly untouched to be a visual reminder of what took place.

View from barrack

Lockers and eating area

Flossenbürg has been turned into more of a memorial as much of what it was either was torn down or built over since the time of its liberation. It was only in 2007 that it was opened as a Holocaust museum.

 Building where Dietrich Bonhoeffer was held before execution in the courtyard

This plaque is placed at the execution site in memory to members of the German resistance executed on April 9, 1945 which included the Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

On our trip we listened to the story of Bonhoeffer by the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. It was very good and we would recommend it. Since last spring I have done my share of reading historical novels and biographies from the WWII period. Having traveled now a good amount through Europe I can better comprehend things culturally and geographically. Here are some book recommendations if you are interested:

Things We Couldn't Say - Diet Eman (Dutch Resistance)
A Thread of Grace - Mary Doria Russell (Italian Resistance in Piedmont)
Zion Covenant Series - Bodie Thoene

Emma's class integrated a drama course into their studies this year and presented a production last Friday in collaboration with another 7th grade class from a different school. The play was based on the book "Fulmine, un cane coraggioso--La Resistenza raccontata ai bambini" (Fulmine, a courageous dog--The Resistance told to children). In the play there were narrators telling stories about partisans fighting the Nazis and the dog Fulmine passing along secret notes to partisans throughout Italy. The play also includes scenes in which grandparents tell stories to their families about the Resistance and the War, to help them remember what happened years ago. The play ends with Italy celebrating their liberation from the Nazis and Fascism at the end of the war.

She did an excellent job with her lines and really had a lot of fun.

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