D-Day: What then to make of the plan, announced recently, to build a “theme park” -type permanent installation near where the D-Day landings occurred, in Normandy?
With the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz happening on January 27th, people in countries around the world are hosting events to mark the historic day.
Those events will be solemn, dignified and respectful, fitting the tremendous seriousness of the occasion when prisoners barely alive were finally liberated by the Russian Army.
This announcement has outraged many people, who say it is an insult to the men who fought, died or were injured on those famous beaches.
Herve Morin, who is president of the Normandy region, told the UK press that he hopes to see the complex built by the 80th anniversary of D-Day, on June 6th 2024.
“All that’s left,” he said in an interview, “is to find building lands, not on the beaches themselves, but very close to Juno, Omaha or Utah,” which are three of the five beaches at which the invasion took place.
But some say such a complex would cheapen the invasion’s significance and be an insult to the men and women who fought, died or were injured there.
One of the project’s most vocal critics is the National Research Group of France. This organization is comprised of historians who specialize in the Second World War.
A spokesman for the group said in a statement, “The Normandy landings (are) a page in the history of France,” it stated, “which should be respected — and the theme park, if that is in fact what’s planned, is a grave mistake.” The proposed project has been derisively nicknamed ‘D-Day Land.’
Other opponents include Oliver Paz, who is mayor of Merville-Franceville, the place at which British soldiers parachuted into to help destroy a German gun battery just before the D-Day invasion occurred.
He told the daily mail that the proposed project “should not be allowed to become Disneyland.”
That certainly sounds like a fair description of the project, which planners said will include movie theatres, light and sound displays, and battleground reenactments.
Millions of people already visit Normandy each year, particularly when anniversary celebrations for the invasions take place on June 6th, D-Day.
There already exists monuments, statues and museums in the region that commemorate the landings in what critics of the proposed site say are more dignified, and befitting the solemn aspect the invasion engenders.
At the moment, it seems that many French citizens, not just nearby officials, are also against the proposed project.
An online petition against it has garnered almost 17,500 signatures since it was recently launched, according to a recent article published by the telegraph.
But Morin seems undeterred by the criticism he, and the site, are facing.
He said he hopes to hire a Hollywood director to help stage events that will draw “thrill seeking” individuals to the area, even more than the millions who already make the pilgrimage each year.
Although respect for the veterans who fought at Normandy is the priority for the National Research Group, the statement issued by the organization also noted that the project “will do serious harm to the ecology” of the area.
But it is the reaction of veterans that most concerns the group: “It…lacks respect for the veterans and the people killed during the Normandy landings, and the battle that followed,” the petition says.
Morin, however, claims that approximately 100 million Euros in private money has been raised for the project, and he is determined to see it through.
So far there is no word whether federal officials, like President Emmanuel Macron, will get involved to either support or axe the project.
In many ways it is a local matter, but Morin’s plans are getting a lot of resistance, both online and in the media.
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One individual involved in launching the petition, Christophe Clement, told the telegraph, “this requires a certain elegance and dignity, and we want to be sure that politicians and private business respects that.”