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D - Day Plus 69

D-Day was as much a moral victory over evil as it was a military expedition that succeeded against most formidable odds. It renewed the belief that good can and will overcome evil and that tyranny and hatred eventually always must collapse from the weight of its own iniquities.
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This past June 6 marked the sixty-ninth anniversary of the invasion of continental Europe by Allied forces in World War II. There has been much discussion over the past few decades as to the strategic and true military importance of that great amphibious landing operation. However for all those who were alive at that time it was an event of almost messianic proportions.

All felt that here at last Hitler would meet his final comeuppance. Even though it is obvious that the bulk of the war against Germany was carried by the then Soviet Union, the successful landings on Normandy’s beaches signaled to the free and not so free world that Germany would finally be crushed and defeated.

Stalin had long pressed Roosevelt and Churchill for such an invasion in order to relieve some of the German pressure on his troops and fronts. Churchill was very skittish about the wisdom of such a landing, fearing the worst scenario that the Allies would be driven off of the beaches into the British Channel.

General Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme allied military commander over the invasion forces, had prepared an announcement for release to the press and media in the event that the landing forces would have to be withdrawn. Later in his memoirs he wrote that defeat in Normandy on D-Day was a very real possibility in his mind.

The Western Wall built by Germany’s formidable generals has a certain air of impregnability about it and if Hitler had not withheld two armored divisions from the initial landing battles, the success of D-Day would certainly have been jeopardized. Rommel was convinced that the entire battle for Europe would be decided on the beaches of the landing areas chosen by the Allies. It was prescient of him to call the day of the landings "the longest day."

June 6 1944 came too late for European Jewry. The destruction of European Jewry was almost complete by then, though tragically hundreds of thousands more would still die in the remaining months of the war and even after the war had officially ended. Even though it was obvious to all that Germany was finished, having now to fight a two-front war against enemies that outnumbered and outgunned her, German forces fought bitterly and tenaciously until the end.

Distorted into fanaticism, the German army remained a potent fighting force until its ultimate demise. And the killing of the hapless Jews continued till the very end of the war. There were great reputations that were made by Allied commanders from D-Day forward to the end of the war – Eisenhower, Bradley, Dever and others. Some commanders, such as Montgomery, had their reputations during this latter stage of the war, diminished.

General George Patton, who was in charge of occupation policy in southern Germany, was tarnished by his post-war behavior and statements. Patton and his Third Army did not participate in D-Day itself though they eventually became the true driving force that liberated France and invaded Germany and Czechoslovakia. War oftentimes leaves mixed results and perplexing judgments about the men who wage it.

Time and the events of the last sixty-nine years have allowed D-Day to start to slip into oblivion. Time erases almost everything and World War II and all of its horrors and heroism has certainly receded from the conscience and psyche of the Western world. Former enemies have become steadfast allies while former allies became openly hostile one to another.

Anti-Semitism, which was one of the driving ideologies of World War II, became unacceptable for a short period of time, but has currently redeveloped in all of its virulence and poison. There will always be those that will arise and say that the whole effort, the lives and money expended in D-Day, was unnecessary in light of today’s world and its values. But only those who did not live through that moment in history would be foolish enough to maintain such a position.

D-Day, at the time, was as much a moral victory over evil as it was a military expedition that succeeded against most formidable odds. It renewed the belief that good can and will overcome evil and that tyranny and hatred eventually always must collapse from the weight of its own iniquities. And it gave beleaguered and broken Jewry a glimmer of hope that better days would arrive ahead. Those were and are very important accomplishments and they should never be minimized. The "Longest Day" morphed into a long and difficult, over half-century of profound problems, wars and challenges. But the light of D-Day still shines upon us.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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