We will remember them – but will you?

NATHANIEL ZELINKSKY questions our lack of commemoration of D-Day here in Cambridge, because it matters 70 years on.

Cambridge D Day forgetting liberal elite normandy prisoners of war

Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Across this country and around the Western World, communities will commemorate the Allied landings at Normandy and the broader struggle to free Europe from the forces of fascism.

Cambridge, though, will largely remain silent. I have looked, and while I might be wrong, I cannot find a single event within the university honoring the men who fought and died to secure those five bloody beaches: Omaha, Juno, Sword, Utah and Gold. Our institutional amnesia is not only deeply troubling, but indicative of the corrosive ideologies that plague the academy.

D-Day, and by extension the entirety of the Second World War, carries important lessons for us, should we choose to acknowledge them.

Do we even care?

Do we even care?

I am always struck that the soldiers in that conflict were no older, and were often younger, than university students. They came from all walks of life, and they endured unimaginable horrors. They epitomized the ideals of service, not to ‘human rights’ or to a chic NGO, but to their nation in her hour of need. Sadly at elite universities, both British and American, it is once again hip to vow never to fight for ‘King and country.’

For modern academics, patriotism of any kind is the original sin — and I think this goes a long way to explaining why D-Day goes unnoticed in Cambridge. The anniversary seems too close to a glorification of Britishness that the politically correct have long deemed hopelessly outdated and which they tell us will always lead to the extreme nationalism of the Third Reich.

But the abhorrence of patriotism is not the only worldview that D-Day shatters: Nazi Germany and Hitler’s vision for a new European order were an ultimate evil. My grandmother, a Polish Jew, survived Auschwitz, but eleven million people just like her perished in the camps and killing fields. No human being can think about that barbarism and maintain the egg-headed belief in moral relativism that is so popular among the intellectual elite.

The Allied forces at D-Day were primarily American and British, two peoples joined by our common history and our shared democratic traditions. In commemorating what General Eisenhower called “this great and noble undertaking,” we must honor the special-relationship that not only turned back the tides of fascism but then anchored the NATO alliance against the horrors of communism for the second half of the 20th century.

We forget to celebrate peace at our peril

We forget to celebrate peace at our peril

But it wasn’t simply Americans and Brits at Normandy. Soldiers and sailors from at least ten other nations took part. That multi-national cooperation presaged the political-economic integration of Europe that has led to the longest stretch of peace this part of the world has seen in modern history. I don’t understand how so many can advocate for the EU, but ignore its chief purpose: to never allow another country to fall into the economic and political despair of the Weimar Republic, dragging this continent into another war.

When I got up to row this morning at 6:30, I remembered that the first landing craft were just hitting the beaches seventy years ago. When I eat lunch at noon, I will remember that Omaha, the bloodiest of the beaches, was finally secured. One hour later, British soldiers led by bagpipes marched inland to relieve the beleaguered airborne troops at the crucial Caen Canal bridge. When I go to bed, I will know what those around the world began to realize: that the hour of deliverance was at hand.

I hope you join me in memory.