Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rising from the ashes

One of the many perennially fascinating aspects of spending part of each year in this particular part of France is the way in which the past still so tangibly impacts on the present. Two years ago I wrote a post reflecting on the irony that a lover of historic buildings like myself should have bought a house in an area where so much of the built past was wiped out in a few short weeks in the summer of 1944.

Almost every week during the summer there is a report in our local French newspaper of one commune or another holding its annual commemoration of the day it was liberated from Nazi occupation. The town or village dignitaries and a rapidly decreasing number of old soldiers gather at the war memorial, together with the school children and a good sprinkling of the population not at work, to lay flowers, make speeches and stand in silent tribute.

Some of the communes are able to give thanks that their buildings were largely or completely spared by the fighting.  Others in our immediate area hold their ceremonies of commemoration in surroundings that their ancestors would not recognise, so complete was the devastation.

On top of the ridge to the north across the valley from us is a little village called Gathemo. Sixty-nine years ago today, on the 10th of August 1944, it was virtually wiped out in just one day of violent conflict. It wasn't a particularly pretty little place and after the war it was rebuilt as quickly and efficiently as possible, with no attempt to imitate or restore what had been lost.




To the east of Gathemo along the ridge is the small market town of Sourdeval on its high plateau. It too was almost obliterated from the map when fierce shelling caused a catastrophic fire which rapidly spread out of control until the old town centre lay in ruins. It too was rebuilt, largely on the old footprint, and when we go to the market there it is a pleasant little place to be. But there is none of the mingling of different periods of building, none of the quirky mixture of old and new, the secret little bits of history, which make most towns and villages in France and elsewhere so rewarding to explore.

Pre-war Sourdeval

A town reborn

Like so many other places on all sides of the conflict, these courageous little Norman communities had to create new identities for themselves in the aftermath of war, mourning what had been lost, but turning their faces resolutely towards a new and hopefully peaceful future.  Our Normandy idyll is rooted in a landscape that has suffered, and amidst all its quiet beauty I can never forget its turbulent and sometimes tragic history.

62 comments:

  1. Oh how sad - I'd no idea that so much destruction had been inflicted on these little communities in the wake of D-Day (or that it had penetrated to that area - we always think about the push towards Germany via Belgium and Holland, not about the rest of France). It's a wonder that those who remember what it used to be like before 1944 don't hate the British, although I suppose we did liberate them from the German invaders, but at what a terrible cost. "'Allo! 'Allo!" doesn;t begin to give a true impression of what it must have been lke for the ordinary French people under the Nazi jackboot. My penfriend's mother was in the resistance (I think her father might have been, too, as he was dead by the time I met them, and Tante Odette never mentioned him - this was in 1951 or thereabouts).
    Bonnes vacances à DD et sa famille!

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    1. It's been a voyage of discovery for us too, Helva. Having only visited the north coast of Calvados before we bought here, we knew nothing of the fierce fighting down the length of Manche or the German counter-attack from Mortain which swept through our area. If you read my previous post which I've linked to here, you'll get much more of the background.

      Having lived under occupation for 4 years, the northern French on the whole are very welcoming of those who come from the nations which liberated them. We certainly have met with nothing but friendliness.

      DD and family are crossing the Channel as I type. :-)

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  2. Almost everywhere we have been in France it's as if the locals still feel the pain of the two wars. They go to great trouble to look after memorials and hold commemorative events. The ones we have attended have been incredibly moving, as if it all happened just a few years ago rather than decades.
    It's a good thing, I think, so that new generations are reminded of what it can do to families, villages and communities.

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    1. Exactly, Jean, and they hold commemorative events at different times of the year, not just on November 11th. Here there are events to commemorate the liberation, to mark the end of WW2 and of course on July 14th, the Fete Nationale, some places hold a commemorative event, before the other celebrations begin. As I said in the post I linked to, our tiny commune suffered badly during the German counter-attack and there are civilians as well as soldiers listed on our war memorial. I don't see them forgetting any time soon.

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  3. Human beings are very resilient in the face of adversity, and this is an example of communities devastated, not only by the loss of their towns and villages, but also their families, friends and neighbours, pulling together to make new lives for themselves.
    We really became aware of how much Normandy had suffered whilst travelling through it last June on the route from Cherbourg to Rennes. I think I mentioned to you before how we noticed the large pictorial notice boards for each town along the route that we past, showing images from the war that had been pertinent to each town.
    Your DD's family must be en route - have a lovely week - the weather is looking good here, I am sure it is with you too.

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    1. It must have been the most tremendous struggle after the war to rebuild all that had been destroyed and it's not surprising that there was little attempt to rebuild exactly what had been lost. Having seen pre-war photos of the half-timbered houses in places like Mortain and seen their artificial stone replacements, I can imagine the huge adjustments the inhabitants had to make.

      Manche in particular suffered a great deal of damage in the Allied push southwards, yet only a few miles further south there are few traces of physical war damage.

      DD and family are mid-Channel just now and the weather is definitely looking promising. :-)

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  4. Hari Om
    Wonderful, wonderful tribute you have paid by recording a part of the history for all of us to share - as good as any memorial service. Fascinating reading, Perpetua-ji. Thank you. YAM xx

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    1. It's a history not much known beyond the immediate area, yam, but one which I think deserves to be remembered. If you read the post to which I linked you'll see something of what happened to the little commune in which our house stands and even to our house itself. A lot of buildings still bear the scars.

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  5. During our years of living in Germany we often attended Armistice Day services in small Dutch cemeteries. The people still say thank you when they see a Canadian uniform. Sixty or seventy years - an enormous amount of time in a country as young as ours - is nothing when put against an ancient human landscape.

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    1. Memories are long here and North American and other veterans still visit and are most warmly welcomed and appreciated. There are streets and squares in local towns named after Allied soldiers or battles or significant dates. Indeed in the little town just above us on the hill, which also suffered much damage, there is a Rue 8 mai 1945. What happened here will not be forgotten for a very long time.

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  6. A few years ago Husband #1, The (Then Infant) Daughter and I stayed a night and breakfasted in the new village of Oradour-sur-Glane in the Limousin region. Off to one side of the new villahe remain the burnt-out ruins of the old village, its church, and even the rusted relics of the cars that stood in the street when the commune was put to the torch by the SS in June 1944. The men had been tortured and then massacred in the barns, and the women and children burnt alive in the church, in a reprisal for material losses (reputedly gold) and casualties the SS had suffered at the hands of the resistance a few nights earlier.

    I think if the UK had suffered similarly during an occupation we Brits would do more than commemorate the war on 11 November each year. We have much to be thankful for that the Channel proved to be such an effective barrier to extending the land war in Europe between 1939 and 1945.

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    1. I've never been to Oradour-sur-Glane, but have read quite a lot about it and what happened there, including a very moving commemorative website. Ironically, the SS division responsible for the massacre was on its way to Normandy in response to the allied landings and indeed ended up at Mortain, from which the counter-attack was launched that so devastated this area.

      I'm not sure I can add anything to your last paragraph, which sums up so clearly how lucky we were to be an island. Of course the bombing caused many casualties, but at least there was no land war and military casualties were far, far fewer than in World War 1.

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    2. That SS division passed through here too - with similar devastation.

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    3. I didn't know that, Rosie, but I'm sure your French neighbours still remember and commemorate the liberation and those who died.

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  7. Thank you Perpetua, for this fascinating post. Like other commenters before me here, I hadn't realised the extent of the war damage and destruction in your part of Normandy.

    As I've written on my blog http://rickyyates.com/liberation-day-8th-may-2012/ , the end of WW2 is always faithfully commemorated each year here in the Czech Republic. And in the western part of the country, which was liberated by the US Third Army under General Patton, there are commemorative events & parades in various town & villages in early May, on the exact anniversary of each community's liberation. This has only been possible since 1990. Before that, such celebrations were not permitted because the communist authorities insisted on perpetuating the myth that the whole of Czechoslovakia had been liberated by the Soviet Red Army!

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    1. Like you, we too had no idea of how the Allied campaign had affected areas south of the immediate landing-beaches, Ricky. The typically Norman bocage or hedgerow countryside meant that troops and vehicles had to use the roads to advance, hence the intense fighting and damage which occurred in every crossroads town or village such as Gathemo, Sourdeval or Saint-Hilaire. It's a fascinating history and one which we are constantly learning more about each summer.

      I shall go and read the post in your link, but even before doing that I can totally identify with the way the Czechs hold their commemorations as I see the same thing around me here and read the reports in the local paper. It's so important not to forget.

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  8. Thank you for this post P. Soon there will be very few who remember events of the 2nd World War and we should all do our best to keep these events in our mind's eye. My parents lived through the atrocities, my daughter has a very vague concept of the suffering.

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    1. Absolutely, Annie. The last of the WW1 veterans have gone and those of WW2 are disappearing fast. There was an interview in our local paper this week with a man who was a teenager during the occupation and his memories were very vivid and faithfully recorded. My father was in the navy in WW2 and my grandfather was with the army in France in WW1, so I've always lived with their memories and wanted to share them.

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  9. The pain these people must have gone through. When we were on holiday, we visited a place called Gydansk in Poland. To me it was just like a scene from a World War II movie - not destruction, but just that feel about it. We discovered a beautiful little church. There were people sitting quietly inside. You almost felt as if you needed to take your shoes off to enter. The interior was breath-taking. I would have loved to have taken a picture, but I couldn't - it seemed like sacrilege to do so, but I'll never forget it.

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    1. If you've visited Gdansk, you've been in a city as badly damaged in its way as those around us here in Normandy, Molly. And I know just what you mean about the atmosphere of some places - intangible, but intensely real. I felt it in the Jewish Quarter of Prague, where it seemed as though I could almost see the memories it held. It's probably as well you couldn't take the photo of the church as it wouldn't have captured the atmosphere as well as your memory has.

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  10. I'm sitting here at my desk, on a warm night, safe and comfortable in my home, far from war, Perpetua, but your words and these images, as well as so many of the comments here, leave me heavy of heart for all the losses suffered as well as all the hope, determination, fortitude, faith that helped rebuild after the war. I've known some of battles fought in Normandy through books I've read, documentaries I've seen, but, no where near what I should know, so,I appreciate your posts as you settle in to your French home. Thank you.

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    1. I've often though the same back in quiet and untouched Mid-Wales, Penny. My time in Hamburg as a student and our stays here in southern Normandy are what have brought me into physical contact with the impact of war and both have made a great impression on me.

      It was the German counter-attack from Mortain, as they attempted to break out of the Allied pincer movement which triggered the violent fighting in our area. It's one of the lesser-known parts of the Normandy campaign, but well worth reading about.

      As for settling-in, I'm afraid that by the end of next week we will be back in the UK, preparing for my cataract surgery in September. How time flies....

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  11. This was such an affecting post, Perpetua, reminding us of suffering and destruction that must never be forgotten. For those of us born at the end of or after the war, the memories were still quite immediate because of our parents' experiences. But for younger generations, it's increasingly remote, I fear. Reminders in posts like this one keep those memories alive.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy. You and I are of the same generation and grew up very aware of our parents' and grandparents' memories of the two world wars. Nowadays both of them form part of the school history curriculum which immediately distances them from the students concerned. Hopefully next year's centenary commemorations of the beginning of WW1 will bring these events closer to the younger generations and ensure they aren't forgotten.

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  12. Wonderful old photos, and a very thoughtful post, Perpetua. It is difficult to imagine a town so reduced to rubble (despite seeing it in countless movies), and how courageous to totally rebuild. It must be difficult for the community to have lost the fabric of their history so completely. It is important to hold the commemoration ceremonies, as the old soldiers pass on, and keep the memory alive.

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    1. The old photos were a wonderful internet find and actually sparked this post, Patricia. They show so clearly and poignantly the extent of the devastation and the speed with which it happened. There are still many old people in these communities who lived through those times and the local schools are making a point of taking children to meet them and listen to their memories of those days. In the UK I have conducted many church services on Remembrance Sunday and always there are children taking part so that the tradition goes on.

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  13. Thank you for this post, Perpetua. I wonder how much longer these commemorations will continue. Most of the generation that was old enough to remember what it was like to live through such horror will be gone within the next decade, and then the horrible events will forever be contained in history books rather than human hearts.

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    1. My feeling is that they will continue for much longer than you might expect, Kristie. Even when the last survivors of WW2 have died, there will be a generation who grew up with their parents' and grandparents' memories of the two world wars and for whom such commemorations will continue to have great significance. In the UK more attention is being paid to Remembrance Day now than 30 years ago, perhaps because of our armed forces' involvement in more recent conflicts.

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  14. Fascinating post Perpetua and interesting photos.

    We should never forget the two World Wars and the tremendous loss of life.

    I somehow always feel that communities who suffered not only loss of lives, but devasating effects on their buildings, seem to become stronger as a result. A solid, caring community is only as good as it's people really.

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    1. Thanks, Ayak. I so agree that we must continue to remember in an effort not to repeat such terrible events.

      The little communities around here certainly are strong and resilient and I'm sure that is true of the others. To rebuild and carry on with life after such devastation takes courage and strength and hope for the future.

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  15. Such an interesting post Perpetua. Thank you.
    Since she arrived in Berlin, Meg and I have spoken often about the pre/post war Europe. And she has posted about her visits to museums and memorials on her own blog - so I'll not duplicate here! (http://meginberlin.blogspot.co.uk/).
    Robert and I are just back from my Aunt's home near Coventry - and spent time in the town visiting the Cathedral site and memorial. It's only 73 years ago Coventry was blitzed - and there have been efforts made to record the powerful, harrowing eye witness accounts of residents.
    Likewise, the memorials in Berlin challenge us to reflect upon the things that human beings are capable of - and to respond with a vehement rejection of the values of that time.
    It's so important that 'we' remember...but like so many commenting here I'm afraid that time erases lessons learned and 'truth' becomes too historical to feel relevant or real.
    My parents only vaguely remember the war (they have greater memories of post-war rationing etc) - and it was rarely referred to during their school education. WW2 was a 'Modern Studies' topic for me at school - but felt very real. My children are taught it within History. My grandparents were reluctant to speak of what they endured, believing it best put behind us all.
    As those who directly experienced the war die we become increasingly removed from the lessons that can be learned. In schools here, visits from Concentration Camp survivors are organised and pupils have the opportunity to hear first hand of experiences - and to speak and ask questions.
    There's such a short time left for this to continue.
    And when I see and hear reports of the rise of the far right, the Nazi and National Front and Fascist movements again I think of those who were blitzed and bombed and gassed in an attempt to obliterate - and feel a real need that we redouble efforts to 'remember'. For that reason I'm glad to hear that Normandy communes have their own way of keeping memory alive.

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    1. Thanks for this long and thoughtful comment, Yvonne. I've just looked at Megan's blogs and found the post in which she describes her visit to the Museum of Jewish history and the memorial there, which strongly reminded me of the Pinkas Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Prague. After WW2 the synagogue was turned into a memorial to the 80,00 Jews of Bohemia and Moravia who died in the concentration camps. On its walls are inscribed their names, their personal data, and the names of the communities to which they belonged. It is almost overwhelmingly moving.

      At school our O-Level history curriculum ended in 1914 and everything I've learned about the two world wars has been by my own efforts and from the still very vivid memories of my parents and grandparents. I've always felt it so important to keep these memories alive, hence several posts on different aspects over the two and a half years of my blog. I'm glad to hear of the efforts made in Scotland to bring home to schoolchildren the reality of what happened. The same is done here in Normandy, with children being told first-hand of the occupation, deportations and eventually liberation.These memories are too important to be allowed to die with those to whom they belong.

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    2. PS I forgot to say that apart from the childhood memory of empty bombsites in Manchester and Liverpool, my first more adult awareness of the devastation of war was a school trip to the newly-consecrated Coventry Cathedral in 1962, which deeply impressed me.

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    3. And in 2013, Coventry Cathedral is still a very impressive place.
      :-)

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  16. Fascinating, and something that, like many I suspect, I know but rarely stop to think about. And it's so important to remember and continue to record so that future generations will know too. Wonderful post Kathy :)

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    1. To be honest, if I spent all the year at home on our Welsh hillside, I doubt I would think about it much either, Annie. Here in southern Manche we are surrounded by reminders, from the lack of old buildings in the little market towns to the memorials and the explanatory placards in many villages, including our own, which describe their wartime experiences. Also the summer is the time of the commemorations of liberation, so one would have to be very dull not to be aware of these things.

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  17. Our European travels in May took us through several German towns and cities that had been devastated at the end of WW2 - with Nürnberg being the most striking. Every church seemed to have stories of destruction and of total ruin averted by individual action - and we saw many photos of what had been, and warnings that this should never be allowed to happen again. Fascinating.

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    1. Apart from a brief stopover in Cologne, my only experience of the destruction caused by war to German towns and cities is confined to Hamburg and Lubeck. I spent over 6 months in Hamburg in the early and mid 60s, first on school exchange visits and then working there as a student of German and was deeply impressed by the wartime memories of those I met and worked among: http://perpetually-in-transit.blogspot.fr/2011/05/lessons-for-life.html

      We must hope that what was endured by all sides will help to ensure that such things won't be repeated.

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  18. There are so many places here in France that were devastated by war. Close to me is Oradour Sur Glane which has been kept just as it was when an SAS squad slaughtered all the towns inhabitants. It is very painful to visit, the bullet holes throughout the church and old bicycles in the road just make you want to cry.
    Also nearby is Royan. That was bombed by allied forces who thought that the only people left there were the Germans. Unfortunately the information was incorrect and thousands of civilians were killed as well as decimating the town.
    I did a post about these two places a while ago if anyone want to see the pictures. http://kerrydwyer.net/2012/06/08/oradour-sur-glane-and-royan/
    I do wish that Royan had been more sympathetically rebuilt.

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    1. Your post is fascinating, Kerry, and serves to emphasise just how widespread the damage and destruction was. Oradour-sur-Glane is on the lists of places I hope to visit one day, not because I want to but because I feel I ought. I know what you mean about certain sights making such a deep emotional impact. One I remember vividly was the huge bells in the church at Lubeck which still lie shattered where they fell as a memorial to those who died.

      Thee rebuilding of Royan sounds very like that of Saint-Lo, where 80% of the town was damaged or destroyed as the allies fought their way south. It's now a fairly awful collection of 50s and 60s concrete blocks, as is the centre of Vire, only 15 miles north of us here, where another mediaeval town centre vanished almost overnight.

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    2. Saint Lo sounds like Royan. The seafront is pretty dismal. The new cathedral grew on me after a few years but I still would prefer the old one from the pictures.

      Do go to Oradour but go when feeling 100% and take hankies. I have been twice. The first time the two of us were the only ones there and I couldn't bear it.

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    3. I can imagine the effect it must have had to be almost alone in a place so haunted. I found it very moving just to read the website carefully.

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  19. What interesting photos seeing the before and after. The north suffered so much. In the south we still have so many intact medieval villages, we're very lucky they were spared.

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    1. The photos really have an impact, doesn't they? I always think that when I look at the before and after photos of our little local church in the post I link to and realise what the villagers lost. The northern half of France very much took the brunt in both world wars, but it's good that so much history survives elsewhere.

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  20. Dear Perpetua, I've read a number of books on D-Day and its aftermath, but I've never really seen photographs that illuminate what I'm reading with regard to the villages in the path of the Allies advance. Thank you for sharing these photographs. Your words capture the tragedy that seems to visit every country sometime in its history. Unfortunately for France and other European countries there have been so many wars. So many feet have marched across the land. So many hands have held guns and manned cannons. And yet the people go on and the soil survives and the wild flowers grow. Peace.

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    1. I'm glad you appreciated them so much, Dee. They certainly illustrate more poignantly than a thousand words just how devastating was the fierce fighting in this area. For me it was particularly moving to find such photographs of places I now know well after several summers here. We have accumulated several books and pamphlets about the war in this area after D-Day and they make fascinating if deeply sobering reading. It would be wonderful if we had finally learned enough not to let it happen again.

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  21. Perpetua, your own little village may well have been wiped out so drastically almost 70 years ago, but so much of Normandy preserves the memories of this time. It's something I have always felt when visiting this part of France. That and people like you for whom it will always be too important to forget. Thank you for sharing these photos and for your poignant and powerful words.
    Axx

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    1. Annie, the only photographs I can find of the effect on our own village are in the post I linked to, but I imagine it must have looked much like Gathemo in the postcards above when the tide of battle finally receded. All these tiny ironstone and granite villages resemble each other and most suffered badly. Wherever we go in the area the effects of war can still be traced and yet the beauty of the countryside isn't dimmed and life here is real and strong.

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  22. Such sadness during the awful war. Your poor little village must have been totally distroyed,as some of the photos show.
    Its uplifting to know that the people remember and celebrate this day.
    Some families will have lots to tell about that time.
    A very touching post Perpetua. Thank you for sharing those great old photos.
    xxx val

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    1. Val, the photos aren't of our village, But I understand that the damage here was also very bad. In fact our house was damaged by a shell, so all the interior woodwork is post-war. I found the photos very moving and thought they deserved a wider audience.

      The commemorations are carried out very solemnly and the war memorials are beautifully cared for. Memories are long and the history of those times is being handed down to later generations.

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  23. Those were awful days; civilian populations suffered untold disasters. May it never happen again.

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    1. Amen to that, Friko. I can never forget the reminiscences of an elderly woman in the care home where I worked in Hamburg as a student. She and her family were very lucky to escape with their lives during the firestorms and her home district of Rothenburgsort near the docks was totally obliterated.

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  24. I enjoyed looking at your old postcards – I have several like that too and also of World War One. Of course I am old enough to remember the war- not completely but I do remember having to go down to our Paris cellar in the middle of the night and heard the planes going over us. I also remember the Liberation of Paris and walking on the Champs Elysees with mom (my father was handicapped so he could not walk well.)

    When I was maybe 6 or so (1946) my father and mother drove to Normandie and I remember all the pretty houses along the beach being totally destroyed. Then when we went back several times I would play on the cliffs in the bunkers left by the Germans. Of course, my father had been badly injured in the war and was left a cripple (and also had the stress disorder but we did not know it then.) I also remember the Gestapo coming to our flat in Paris – I must have been 4 years old, but I remember them, they made me very scared. And I remember my mom hiding her Jewish friend in the room upstairs. I’ll have to write a post on it someday. My mother also wrote in her memoirs how she worked with the Resistance several times and could have been shot (her cousins were also in the Resistance.) My father did save the life of a British pilot, he hid him somehow, but I don’t remember the story well.

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    1. Not my postcards, sadly, but found on a website. Knowing of your childhood holidays in Normandy, I thought you would have personal memories of the immense destruction along the coast. But your memories of the wartime years are new to me and must indeed have been terrifying to a small girl.

      Of course I've seen photos of people walking along the Champs Elysees after the liberation, but to have actually been there must be truly unforgettable. I'm sorry your father was so badly injured. That must have changed your life as a family very much. You have so many personal memories of this time, as well as remembering what your mother told you. A post by you on the subject would be truly fascinating.

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  25. The before and after 10 august photos leave little to the imagination, what incredible devastation. I think French communities are very good at ensuring people remember what has happened. I know in our part of France, which of course was part of the Vichy regime, there are many anniversaries that are still remembered with great solemnity. There are various memorials in Carcassonne itself ( not the old city) reminding residents of the cruelty undertaken by the Vichy government, in collaboration with the Nazis. Les maquis, and the resistance movement is very much celebrated in Caunes and the surrounding Black Mountain areas.
    However, whatever happened in our part of France, the physical devastation did not occur, and that must provide constant reminders for the now ageing population who can recall those days.
    A really interesting post Perpetua. Jx

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    1. The photos are extremely graphic, Janice, and hence so shocking, as such scenes always are, wherever they have occurred. Like you I'm always impressed by the earnestness with which these commemorative events are observed.

      What you say about the impact of the war in your area is very interesting. It must have been a very different but nevertheless equally difficult situation for those living under the Vichy regime, rather than under occupation. There were resistance workers here too and one of the annual local commemorations is of the execution of a group of these in a quarry not very far south of us here at the end of July 1944.

      I'm glad your area escaped the physical damage. We need to conserve as many of our ancient places as we can.

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  26. It's sad all the devastation that war causes. Thank you so much for sharing, amazing photos and fascinating post.

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    1. Hello Linda and welcome to my blog. Yes, parts of Europe saw massive damage in the two world wars and though buildings have been restored or replaced, the memories linger on. It's so important not to forget.

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  27. A very thought provoking post. I had similar reflections on my visit to Guernsey where now as well as celebrations of liberation there are also celebrations of reconciliation, as many of the German soldiers who were part of the occupying forces came back to the islands in peace-time, some staying, some returning annually. When huge battles and wars rage it's easy to forget the individuals on both sides of conflict, and it's the human stories of these and the communities which struggled with courage throughout that hold my respect and admiration as well as interest.

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    1. Thanks, Sian. I think one would have to be very unobservant and self-absorbed not to have these kinds of thoughts when faced with places of such history and significance, even on the smallest of scales, such as these little communes.

      How encouraging that there are now celebrations of reconciliation on Guernsey. Such a positive, forward-looking thing to occur. I don't know whether similar events have taken place in mainland France, where the history of hostility and invasion between France and Germany goes back way before the two world wars. Until recently there were certainly many British and American veterans returning regularly to revisit the places where they fought and take part in local ceremonies.

      As for the human stories - our elderly neighbour was a young teenager during the occupation and liberation and still remembers those events and their effect on the commune very well.

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  28. What wonderful photos, Perpetua! I think this part of France would hold a lot of appeal to me. There is a different level of history there, that to an American, feels hallowed. I think that's true for many English and French, too. I'd like to soak up some the "current" history myself.

    I've realized today that you've been absent from my Reader. I had missed you, but thought you'd been simply very busy and perhaps just weren't able to post right now. I have some catching up to do! :-) Debra

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    1. I think you would love it here too, Debra. The older history is still there, if somewhat hidden compared to other parts of France, but the more recent history is very evident. One day perhaps.....

      i too had been wondering where you were, as you're usually such a faithful commenter, but assumed that you'd been caught up in a post-holiday work rush. Nice to see you back. :-)

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I welcome your comments and will always try to respond to them. Thank you for reading.