Enough is Enough

6 Jun

The same day we visit the champagne caves in Reims (rhymes with France), we will also be visiting what the French call Musée de la Reddition.  That roughly translates into the Museum of Surrender and that’s roughly what the building is.  For only €1.52 you can see the very room where World War II ended.  History on a dime, my friends.

It’s May 7th, 1945 and there are 13 chairs in which the British, French, American, Soviet and German heads of state sit.  They are in a former school room that has served as General Eisenhower’s headquarters since February of that year.  They have come to agree upon the terms of surrender.  General Alfred Jodl, German Chief-of-Staff, would sign the official documentation at 2:41 in the morning and end the war.

Today you can visit Reims and see the room as exactly as it was left that morning.  The maps are still on the wall where they were used for following troop movements.  The chairs are still there in the same places that they were in that day.  The flags, the ashtrays, all there to share this moment in history.

As I study up on European history I keep feeling that much of what I learn about Germany and Germans is negative.  This is because so much of what I’m reading is about the world wars and the Nazis.  I’m glad that the Allies won the war, I’m appalled by what was carried out by Hitler and his henchman but I still feel that painting the Germans with this one color – hate – is wrong.  It’s as wrong as many of the generalized negative impressions that are held about Americans.  For example, we’re all fat, ignorant and loud.  Okay, well… I’m loud, so that’s accurate but maybe you’re not.  Whatever happened or is happening in Germany doesn’t automatically explain Germans.

So when we visit Reims I will pause to appreciate the surrender.  I will celebrate the Allied victory and then I’ll also think about how horrible war is.  Because it’s a lesson that warrants revisiting.

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