Local residents and the family members of veterans are up in arms over a proposed D-Day attraction, named the Hommage aux Héros, that could be opening near where the Allies landed during Operation Overlord. The aim of the €90 million project is to show the multiple facets of the historic offensive, from planning to execution.
The Hommage aux Héros – “Tribute to Heroes” – has been dubbed a “theme park” by many and would be built on a 75-acre site at Carentan-les-Marais, near the American landing beaches of Utah and Omaha. Screens would stand before a 1,000-seat moving theater, each featuring an audio-visual presentation accompanied by in-person actors.
The project’s backers hope that, if approved, the attraction will open in 2025. Around 600,000 guests are expected to visit each year, with tickets costing €28 per person. With many World War II veterans having passed, the hope is the attraction will appeal to the younger generation and bolster attendance at D-Day commemoration events and memorials.
News of the proposal has left the local community split. While there are those who believe it could be a reverent reenactment of what was arguably the turning point of the war in Europe, others feel it would do a disservice to those who fought and gave their lives at Normandy.
People have also criticized the creators’ motives when it comes to profit, with Bertrand Legendre, who is leading the resistance, telling The Guardian, “They talk creating the ‘wow factor’ of a ‘sensational show’ that will take place near the beaches and cemeteries of Normandy, which seems fundamentally immoral and indecent. The ethical principle of this commercialization of history is extremely shocking.”
Those in support of the Hommage aux Héros, such as Régis Lefebvre, refute this claims, saying, “It’s not a theme park and we never called it D-Day Land. That’s the name our opponents used. As for making money, who seriously sets up a business to lose money?”
Former French Minister of Defence Hervé Morin has echoed his support for the Hommage aux Héros, saying it will “continue to uphold its values of humanism, tolerance and peace, with the desire to keep alive the sacrifices and acts of bravery that marked these great pages of history.” He added that it “will also promote the attractiveness of our region” and cooperate with other tourist sites in the area.
Over 150,000 Allied troops, 5,000 ships and 11,000 aircraft participated in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944. The aim was to launch what would be the liberation of France, which was occupied by the Germany Army. After the Allies suffered nearly 10,000 casualties (4,000 of which were deaths), the fighting moved inland.
Over the course of the Battle for Normandy, there were 425,000 Allied and German casualties, with the former suffering 226,386. Less than a year later, on May 7, 1945, the Germans signed their unconditional surrender, signaling an end to the war in Europe.
A public planning consultation for the Hommage aux Héros is scheduled to run until October 7, 2022, after which a decision will be made as to the attraction’s future.