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Sympathy or Vengeance?

Each new memorial, monument, or museum we visited has introduced a new viewpoint into my schema of World War II. Jumping back and forth from emotions like sympathy and vengeance is disorienting. The “mother and father” watching over the German cemetery at Normandy hit me particularly hard. The men buried there were human, just like I am. On the other hand, the slaughter at Omaha Beach perpetrated by these same men is impossible to disregard. Conflicting emotions are important, though. Information that challenges or even changes what we believe is the only kind worth pursuing. The competing perspectives I witnessed in Normandy do not upset me. They encourage me to learn more about both sides and continue studying what it means to accept the past without forgetting it. Forgiveness isn’t mine to give to the 30,000 dead German soldiers buried at Normandy. It isn’t my responsibility to dehumanize or sympathize with them. It’s my job to try to grasp how something like this could happen, encourage others to do the same, and work towards a better understanding of the world around me. Every memorial I saw at Normandy either introduced a new idea or shattered a pre-existing one, but I’m processing everything as best as I can. That is my, and my classmates, job.

Pictured above is the “mother and father” watching over their sons buried in the La Cambe German War Cemetery.