After spending the first leg of the trip in London, where we learned about the British perspective during World War II, we set sail for Northern France. While in Bayeux, we visited the British, German, and American cemeteries and the famous beaches of Normandy that tell the story of young men and their sacrifices not only for their countries but also for the entire world. The narrative in a movie at the American military cemetery said, “They did not know it at the time, but the fate of the entire free world rested on their very young shoulders.” Our time in France has shown me the difference between the British and French perspectives on the war. The French believe in not glorifying winning the war but in remembering the suffering that came from the sacrifice involved.

I think the heaviest moment of this trip for me so far has been seeing the beachfront in Normandy. We arrived at Omaha Beach at low tide rising, the same conditions as on the morning of the D-Day invasion, and the distance from the water across the beach and to the hills was astounding. It gave me chills to picture Allied troops storing ashore across such a vast span. You can read about this invasion and see photos, but seeing the beach for myself and realizing how far those men had to advance through gunfire with their friends being gunned down beside them really weighed down on me.  I am so very glad that I will never have to experience that for myself because of the sacrifices made by those brave men almost eighty years ago.

The cemeteries we visited portrayed three different impressions: the British cemetery gave off a warm feeling, the German cemetery was somber, and the American cemetery felt triumphant. The fact that France has burial grounds dedicated to the German soldiers who also fought in the war was something I had never thought of before. They remembered the men on their own, winning side, yet they also thought to provide a resting place for everyone, no matter the cause for which they fought. “Man is not entirely to blame; it was not he who started history; nor is he entirely innocent, since he continues it.” This quote by the French philosopher Albert Camus describes how the French display the history of the war very well. The terrible war caused the suffering of many, and France recognizes the suffering and hardship of everyone (while not glorifying those who fought for Nazi Germany) and chooses never to forget the tragedy of World War II.

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