On VE Day it is essential to not only remember the brave souls that gave their life on the battlefields, but also those who risked their lives daily in countries controlled by the Nazis, says Sixth Form student Luca.
The conquest to free Europe from a tyrannical and murderous regime, responsible for the death of millions of innocents, cost the lives of 12.1 million Allied soldiers. It cannot be denied that their sacrifice shaped today’s world and prevented many more from experiencing the horrors of the Nazi ideology. However, to remember the bravery of all who made that victory possible, we must also remember those who fought behind the front lines and inspired resistance. Throughout Europe, in almost every occupied country, resistance groups fought to end the war and the tyranny of the National Socialist Regime.
It is important to remember the individuals who worked in the underground to incite change against an enemy, which was remorseless. One of the most notable resistance movements was the French Resistance, which emerged after the German occupation of France in 1940. Men and women from across the country worked together to sabotage the Nazi rule, while supplying military intelligence to the Allies. The resistance was so successful that it played a significant role in facilitating the Allies’ rapid advance through France following the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Their courage and sacrifice provided the world with an inspiring example of patriotic fulfilment and has gone down in history.
Across Europe, as the terrible progress of the Holocaust was unfolding, people showed extreme bravery and compassion, by helping Jewish people escape a fate worse than death. Common citizens risked their lives and that of their family to shelter and hide Jews from the claws of the Holocaust. One of the most famous examples of this is the hiding of Anne Frank and her family from SS authorities in the Netherlands in 1942. Four Dutch residents who had worked for Anne’s father, supplied the family with food and news of the war, all while risking their own lives, as hiding Jews was punishable by death.
However, resistance was not just in the conquered countries that the Nazi regime had taken by force, but also inside Germany itself. Although there were no united resistance movements in Germany, individuals and small groups of civilian and military personnel decided to oppose the Nazis and risk their lives in order to fight for the good of their country and its people. Several attempts by members of the military to overthrow Hitler were unsuccessful, yet they inspired others to follow in their footsteps. Most notably, Operation Valkyrie, or the July 1944 Bomb Plot, was the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler and overtaking of the government to end the war by officers of the German military. More peaceful civil resistance, such as the White Rose group, wanted to spread awareness among German citizens through the distribution of pamphlets and graffiti campaigns. Tragically, leading members of the White Rose group, consisting of students, were arrested, sentenced to death and executed. In total around 77,000 German citizens were killed for resisting the Nazis.
On VE Day it is essential to not only remember the brave souls that gave their life on the battlefields, but also those who risked their lives daily in countries controlled by the Nazis. Their courage and self-sacrifice, to help shape a better future and free the world from the shackles of a murderous ideology, should never be forgotten. We owe it to them that we may live a life of freedom.