May 8, 2013

May 8 Remembrance: VE Day

A quick mid-week post here in honor of the 68th anniversary of VE DAY- the official end to open combat in Europe in the waning days of World War II, May 8, 1945. My dad was serving in Germany and years later told how devastating it was to see the German people (old men, women, and children) nearly starving after years of Hitler depleting their homeland to underwrite the war. He said when Allied troops hauled in truckloads of potatoes to feed them,  the locals would first  cut out the healthy eyes as seed crop for the coming year before cooking and eating what remained, even if it was rotten.

That sounds harsh, and yes, it was tragic. 

On the other hand, it was in these same days that Allied troops were liberating the desperate survivors of concentration camps, discovering their horrid truth and their even more devastating reality of furnaces, crematoriums, and mass graves.
Orchard Books, 1996

Today or any day is an ideal time to share LET THE CELEBRATIONS BEGIN, written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Julie Vivas. Now out of print, it is worth a search to track down this sensitive treatment based on Holocaust survivor reports. 

Reflecting actual events in WWII concentration camps as liberation neared, this is the story of a group of women prisoners who patched toys together (literally) from the meager scraps of their lives to assure that the few children who survived with them would have a celebration once the Allies reached them and finally released them from a living Hell. The author's note confirms the actual events and artifacts from which this story was developed

Some escaped the horror of the concentration camps, but not without the help and bravery of others. This was the case 
for PASSAGE TO FREEDOM: The Sugihara Story

Perfection Learning, 2003
Several international leaders during the Holocaust have been honored as "Righteous Among Nations," their stories told in books and movies (Schindler's List comes to mind). The story of Sugihara, Japanese ambassador to Lithuania in 1940, has been told here through the eyes of his young son, with an afterword in the son's own words. He is justifiably proud of the role his father played in saving thousands of lives, and the fact that he was the only Asian recognized for such service to humanity.

When you're having a bad day, pause to honor the struggles and suffering of the Allies who ended this devastation, and those who lived through countless days whose horrors defy description. 
And then share their stories so kids today can keep their own bad days in perspective.

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