WAR IS SERIOUS BUSINESS
Editor, Daily News
A STEP BACK IN TIME. This text is the banner for the above-the-fold photo of a flame-thrower tank in action and enthusiastic article about “WWII Battle Re-Enactments” in the Athol Daily News on Monday, May 23. What did we, as a community, “step back into” over the weekend of May 21-22?
It feels as though we stepped into a celebration of war, devoid of historical context. Jeeps, tanks, airplanes, and guns on display; people dressed as U.S., British, and German soldiers; artifacts for sale; food vendors. Bring the family and watch the flame-thrower.
War is serious business. Lives are lost, military and civilian. Cities and landscapes are ripped apart. Huge numbers of people are injured and/or displaced. War, particularly on this scale, is about whole societies, many nations, and military and civilian losses.
The National WWII Museum reports that military war deaths were around 400,000 for both the U.S. and Britain, 5.5 million for Germany, and between 9 and 11 million for Russia. Civilian deaths for the U.S. and Britain were fewer than 100,000. But Germany lost between 6 and 8 million civilians and Russia 24 million (including deaths from famine and Holocaust victims). This is what we should always remember on Memorial Day.
Missing entirely from this event was an acknowledgment of the Nazi ideology of racial and ethnic cleansing that led to the Holocaust, in which tens of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals were sent in trains, some with a suitcase of precious belongings, to death camps throughout The Third Reich. Some of us grew up in families and communities where many were survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust survivors were reminded every day by the numbers tattooed on their arms and memories of family members taken and murdered. The normalization of Nazis is abhorrent. While people can dress up any way they choose and concoct their own stories about history, we know what was done and it should not be forgotten.
Which battles in particular were re-enacted over the weekend? The siege of Leningrad? The bombing of Dresden? D-Day in Normandy? Clearly the war in the Pacific Theater, which ended when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was not included in this version of WWII.
Today, when the U.S. has been constantly at war ever since WWII, should we not have taken the opportunity this Memorial Day to “step back in time” and reflect on the causes and consequences of endless war?
There is nothing to celebrate.
From Athol — Marcia Gagliardi, Hattie Nestel, Ellen Woodbury; from New Salem — Mary-Ann DeVita Palmieri, Tony Palmieri; from Orange — Susan Aisenberg, Ricky Baruc, Judy Bisinger, Doris Bittenbender, Karl Bittenbender, Lynn Boudreau, Candy Cross, Peter Cross, Deb Habib, Pat Larson, Bruce Scherer, Kathy Scherer, Rachael Scherer, Samuel Scherer; from Petersham — Candace Anderson, Mick Huppert, Louise Dwyer Huppert, Diane Nassif; from Royalston — Allen Young; from Warwick — Miryam Williamson; from Wendell — Dorthee (her full name), Nina Keller, Patty Smythe.