Like all of us, I am mindful today of the great courage of so many hundreds of thousands who fought on D-Day and across Europe for our freedom.
I’ve been many times to the Normandy beaches and visited the military cemeteries. I’ve stood by the graves marked with a Magen David and looked up in the carefully kept record books the short entries about the lives of those soldiers. Many were refugees from Nazi Germany, advised to change their names before going on active service so that, if captured, they would be treated as British prisoners of war, not as Jews.
I’ve thought often about the inscription ‘Know unto God’ and of the families who never received the small comfort of knowing at least when and where their sons died.
The American memorial on Omaha beach, where the bitterest battles were fought, offers an especially moving film. It doesn’t only feature the bravery of the landings. Rather, through interviews with families of soldiers who were killed, it focuses on the lives they would have led if they had survived to return to their homes.
The familiar words are simply true: they died so that we, our grandparents, parents and children, could live in freedom.
Earlier this week was Yom Yerushalayim. I remember my father waking me in the night to tell me that the Old City, where several of his friends fell in 1948, had been captured.
For those like me who never served in an army, the courage and resilience of those who fought for the freedom of others, risking death and terrible injury, is unimaginable.
We must never take for granted the peace and freedom for which so many died.