Monday, June 08, 2009

Sarkozy Speech at D-day ceremonies June 2009

Here is a partial English transcript of the Sarkozy speech at
Normandy. There are no videos of his speech anywhere that I can find. One of the most moving speeches I have ever heard or read about Normandy. I know it is long, but worth taking the time to read!


[Introduction Omitted]
They were 135,000 in thousands of boats. They formed two armies: one American, the other British and Canadian. A few hours earlier, Eisenhower had wished them “Good luck! ”. All were kept silent. What did these young soldiers think, their glance fixed on the thin black tape of the coast which emerged little by little from the fog? With their so-brief life? With the kisses which their mothers tenderly did deposit on their face when they were children? To recall the suppressed tears of their fathers when they left? Those who awaited them on the other side of the sea? What did they think, these young soldiers into whose hands destiny had put the fate of so much of people, if not that at 20 years it is too early to die? Their silence was like a prayer.On the beaches 50.000 Germans awaited them, them also in silence. Fatal moment. The day before,

Resistance had dynamited 500 bridges. Between midnight and 2 hours and a half of the morning, the parachutists of the 82nd and 101st American airborne divisions and those of the 6th British airborne division had been released behind the first lines of defence. Between 3:15 and 5:00 of the morning, 5000 bombers had pounded all the coast. At 4:15 the troops had started to be transhipped on the barges. With 5:45 the guns of 1200 warships had opened fire. With 6:30 the unloading started. The wind blew extremely hard. The barges were battered by waves of several meters. The soaked soldiers, shivering of cold, patiently bailed with their helmets.

Those who unloaded too early drowned. Boats ran aground before arriving at the goal. Of 19 tanks on the whole, a Canadian armored unit lost fifteen of them before reaching the beach. Those which arrived as far as the beach unloaded among deaths and casualties who floated in water, carried by the tide. Then they had to span corpses asleep on sand. One of the first American soldiers unloaded with Omaha Beach will write: “all that seemed unreal, like an waked up nightmare

One could almost walk over the entire length of the beach without touching the ground strewn with bodies”. Opposite, the German soldier who aimed at him above with the machine-gun tested the same feeling of nightmare by looking in front of
him “the space of bloody vase where hundreds and hundreds of inanimate bodies were strewn”. At the evening of June 6, more than 120.000 allied soldiers had been unloaded to which the 32000 men of the airborne divisions were added. In their rows one counted more than ten thousand dead, wounded or disappeared. The Staff had envisaged 25.000 of them …

At the evening of June 12, after six days of engagements without mercy, the Allies had succeeded in establishing a 80 km length continuous and deep front line from 10 to 30 km. But the battle of Normandy was going to last until August 29. On this date, two million allied soldiers will have unloaded, 38.500 will have been killed, 158.000 wounded, 19.000 carried disappeared. The Germans will have had 60.000 killed men, 140.000 wounded, 210.000 captive facts. Nearly 20.000 civilians will have lost the life. *

** The battle of Normandy decided the fate of the war. It was gained on the beaches and in the sunken lanes of barbed wire by peasants and workmen Americans whose fathers had fought in the Meuse and Argonne in 1918, by British soldiers in whom were incarnated the heroic virtues of the great people which in the most terrible test of its history had not yielded, by Canadian soldiers which as of the first days of the war had gone voluntary, not because their country was threatened, but because they were convinced that it was a question of honor. The battle of Normandy was gained by the soldiers of the 1st Polish armor-plated division engaged in the combat of the Cliff pocket and which covered itself with glory by pushing back the German counter-attack of the 19,20 and August 21, 1944 when 2300 of them were killed or wounded. The battle of Normandy was gained by aviators Czech, Danish, Norwegian, by Belgian and Dutch parachutists, by the soldiers of Leclerc, the commandos of Kieffer, SAS who fought under the English uniform. The battle of Normandy was gained by some twenty year old soldiers which killed not to be killed, who feared dying, but who fought far from their homelands with an admirable courage against a pitiless enemy as if the fate of their own fatherland were at stake. The battle of Normandy, it was the revenge divided Czechoslovakia and Poland, Belgium and the controlled Netherlands, France overcome in five weeks. It was the revenge of Sedan, of Dunkirk, of Dieppe.

In front of the nine thousand American tombs of this cemetery where we joined together today, Mr. President of the United States, I want to pay homage, in the name of France, to those who have poured their blood on Norman ground and who sleeps there for eternity. I want to say thank you to the last survivors of this tragedy present today and through them all those whose courage made it possible to overcome one of worst cruelties of all times. They fought for a cause of which they knew at the bottom of them was larger than their life. Not one retreated. One cannot cite them all,these heroes to which we owe so much.

They were so numerous. But we will never forget them. Among them, Mr. President, there were your grandfather, sergeant in the American army and his two brothers. For all the French, you are thus twice, Mr. President, by the office which is yours and the blood which runs in your veins, the symbol of America which we love. America which defends the highest spiritual values and morals. America which fights for freedom, democracy and Human rights. Open, tolerant, generous
America.

Mr. President of the United States, Mister the Prime Minister of Canada, the American and Canadian soldiers came to fight twice at the sides of the English and the French. What would have occurred if they had not come? From this question whose answer was so obvious and so tragic was born Europe. In front of ruins and coffins, each one understood it was necessary that the infernal cycle of revenge stopped which in each war planted the seed of the following war and had brought the European people to the edge of the destruction. Then, we made peace and we create Europe so that it always lasts. We owed it to all the innocent victims. We owed it to all these young soldiers who had sacrificed themselves for it. We owed it to our children to save them from the same sufferings. We owed it to all the Men whom Europe had involved in its misfortunes. All those who had fought against Nazism and Fascism while dreaming to build a better world where right would replace force. We know the way which remains to be made. We know that this way is long, that this way is difficult. But we know also what Europe and America faithful to its values can achieve
together. Great totalitarianisms of the 20th century were overcome.

The threats which weigh today on the future of Humanity are of another nature. They are not less serious. What will become of the world if climate warming deprives hundreds of million of men, women and children of water and food? If a capitalism of speculation and revenue destroys the goods of a million people? If extreme poverty pushes part of humanity to despair? What would so become of the world if by a coward abandonment the democracies were to leave the free field to terrorism and fanaticism? If they renounce the defense of human rights and the rights of the people? From the fight of free people against Nazism was born the ideal of the United Nations. Our duty, Mr. President, is to make live this ideal. If not, what use will have been so much of the poured blood, sacrifices, and sufferings? Heroic deaths which sleep here should not only belong to history. More, the nicest homage that we can return to them, the only one that counts really, it is to seek to be worthy of what they achieved for us.

When on June 7, 1944 sergeant Bob Slaughter found himself on Omaha Beach where he had unloaded the day before, he was all the more upset by the vision of all these men taken along by the waves, men that he knew since childhood and that had grown with. A thought then crossed his mind: “we were brothers, we will be always. They died so that we can live. I thank them for what they gave us”. During all his life, there remained haunted memories of “these austere faces, large eyes and mouths opened, fixed in the cold of death”.

Like the German sergeant, Hein Severloh, which“for this time, always and without stop had seen a GI isolated emergingfrom the gray floods of its dreams and unloading over there on the beach.It shoulders its rifle, aims it and draws. Its helmet rolls as to the idle, it whirls above sand, bathes in the waves which come to die at the water’s edge then, slowly, the soldier crumbles and falls face
forward… ”.

Like the American soldier who, in Dachau or Buchenwald,encountered for the first time the hallucinatory glance of an amazed deportee, amazed to have survived the unforgettable hell. He had just understood why he had fought… From all the suffering that they carried in them and of which they could not be spared, the combatants of this atrocious war drew a great dream from justice and peace. Can we, Mr. President, never forget in our turn what was this suffering, nor to give
up this dream? Can we share this dream with our children? This great dream
of Justice and Peace.

************

You may be interested in the following manuscript:

The Meaning of Sarkozy by Alain Badiou translated by David Fernbach

A trenchant and witty dissection of the French political scene by the leading radical philosopher Alain Badiou, this sharp and focused intervention, claims that, in and of itself, the election of Nicholas Sarkozy as President is not an event, nor is it the cause for wring of hands and gnashing of teeth. ...