|English and French volunteers created art commemorating fallen D-Day soldiers. Source below.|
|Komm Frau by Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk Source: Der Spiegel|
Whenever the anniversary of D-Day rolls around, the French and the Belgians put on touching displays of their gratitude to America and Americans for liberating them from Nazi occupation.
I am always touched by these displays, especially since otherwise the French appear so sophisticated as to be above such old-fashioned sentiment. French and Belgian gratitude is unalloyed. They never say, "We are grateful but…" or "Those soldiers sacrificed their lives for us but…" No. It's always "We are grateful to the American soldiers who sacrificed to liberate us from Nazi occupation." Period. Full stop.
A remarkable expression of this gratitude is the sand images created by hundreds of British and French volunteers to honor nine thousand soldiers who died on D-Day. You can read more about this poignant project here.
I expressed my own appreciation for American D-Day soldiers on Facebook.
Two Facebook friends, one American, the other Polish, objected.
"You should be grateful to the Red Army," they said.
When I was a child, I met a loved one in Slovakia who had been, when she was a child, gang raped by Red Army soldiers. She was traumatized for life by this, and was never able to have children.
Historian Antony Beevor documented the pervasiveness and brutality of Red Army rapes. See here.
I see the Red Army as invading and occupying Poland, not as liberating Poland. Killing didn't stop in Poland in 1945. Russia had been an ally of Nazi Germany and Russia invaded Poland in 1939, shortly after the Nazis invaded Poland.
I see the Red Army as the foot soldiers for the regime that demonized, incarcerated, tortured, murdered, buried in unmarked graves and erased the memory of heroes like Witold Pilecki who fought the Nazis.
I see the Red Army as the spear for propagandist who would utterly distort the history of Auschwitz and murder Raoul Wallenberg.
Oh, but you must remember that the average Ivans in the Red Army were nice guys; only Stalin was a bad guy.
I have read many memoirs of Poland during WW II, and average Ivans were perfectly happy to engage in petty and unnecessary cruelty while carrying out the orders of their higher ups. Anti-Polish feeling was certainly a live force in Russian culture and it certainly motivated some in the Red Army.
Should Poles and Poland be grateful to the Red Army? Most Poles, when surveyed, report that they would like to see monuments of gratitude to the Red Army removed.
In one case, artist Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk, student at the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts, erected a statue, Komm Frau, next to a monument to the Red Army in Gdansk, Poland. Szumczyk's statue shows a Red Army soldier raping a pregnant woman at gun point. Szumczyk was arrested for telling this historical truth.