A Visit to Normandy
The following is the account of a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France from reader Lou Schwartz:
I never knew these men; they had died 4 years before I was born.
They now rested on a high plateau overlooking the beach where they perished. A beach that in 1944 was an open killing ground providing some shelter about 400 yards from the water’s edge.
I chose ten Star of David headstones, not in any order, nor location, but because they were Jews like me. This was our minyan. I often wondered if anyone came to their graves to recite the prayer for the dead, the Kaddish. If they had been forgotten, then it would be my honor to remember them. The age group was between 19 and 23, they came from LA, Chicago, New Orleans, Knoxville and NY. They were young men all with a future, all with dreams and goals until that day in June 1944. They may have won a Nobel Prize, or discovered a new invention, taught school, or just coached a Little League team. They never got to see a man on the moon, or use a computer. They had joined the army, because it was the right thing to do, and they were Americans. They went through training and some may have experienced anti-Semitism, because “others” said Jews don’t fight. Jews who died at Guadalcanal, Kassarine Pass, and Anzio proved that wrong. Did they know what this war was all about at the time? Those that survived and continued would surely know 8 months later when the first concentration camp was liberated.
As I said the Kaddish, and placed a stone upon each Star of David, I silently recited it again for all those buried here in Coleville Su Mer, both Christian and Jew alike, for these men and all America’s warriors past and present should never be forgotten. Norman Schwarzkopf said it best, “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” The cemetery at Coleville Su Mer and all our military cemeteries home and abroad should be visited by every American, for the basis of our freedoms is forever on display.
Remember, you don’t have to travel to France to honor the men who gave their lives there. The Normandy Project is a way to bring the names and stories of these brave many into your own community.