I was in the south of France.
They will never forget. I wont’t either.
They will always remember, and they ask the same of all of us who see them. They are kept clean, well-etched, with flowers. Stoic they stand, knowing their role in their village is very important. Every village, no matter how small, had one. And all had flowers and was tended by with love someone. And remembrance. And I am certain that the story about each of the fallen is remembered still. I would like that about a village; privacy issues aside – you would be remembered. We got out of the car on our small trek through the Ariége at most of them. There were many more, or just crosses (called war memorials in the UK) we passed by and I wanted to get back to a couple of them for photographs but we ran out of time.
Alan knew the stories for some of them; the most striking was for the first one. A 16-year old boy who just came over the hill at the wrong time. And no one could admit to knowing who he was until after the war was over. Then, the exact spot was marked with the stone because although no one could say anything at the time they all knew, and would always remember.
In Pamiers at the Place des Victimes de la Gestapo, no one will ever forget the threat made and acted upon. 47 to be killed for every one person who violated their rules. The sheer brutality of the occupation stuns me. How can forgiveness ever happen in these circumstances? A few have said you just have to “move on”. But you can, and should, always remember. Toujours Souviens. Souviens-toi, s’il vous plait. It isn’t just the occupation, it is all wars where you might not have had the choice and had to go and follow orders whether you were in agreement in principle or not. And you will be remembered.
Merci Alan, for showing this to me. I have thought about it a lot since being back. I will always remember, too.