War Memorials on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Throughout the past four weeks we have been discussing the memorials of the Civil War and the impact they have had on the memory of the Civil War. I have been wondering throughout this if other nations commemorate their soldiers in a similar fashion to that of the Southerners and the rhetoric they use to remember a terrible event. In doing a Google search, I found there are some memorials and museums in Europe, particularly pertaining to World War II and the Holocaust, but there doesn’t seem to be the vast number of memorials as there are in the United States about the Civil War. In doing my Google search, I found a new article sharing the dedication of a memorial in London to World War II Bombers and the impact they had on the war.

There are several memorials in Britain to commemorate the soldiers who fought during World War II, but this is the first to commemorate the crews during the war because the air raids these crews carried out killed at least 300,000 German civilians and had completely destroyed many German cities. The Allies did not want to remember this shortly after discovering the horrors of the Holocaust.[1]

The memorial that was unveiled last week in London to commemorate “those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing of 1939-1945.”

Before the memorial was unveiled and dedicated, invitations were extended to the German government to send representatives to the dedication ceremony in an attempt to “broaden the theme of reconciliation.” The Germans, still obviously upset about the destruction the raids caused, were not even happy with the wording on the memorial:  “This memorial also commemorated those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing of 1939-1945.”[2]

An attempt to reconcile with the wronged nation, sound familiar? Seems like memorials all over the world have the same goals in mind: commemorate our fallen soldiers, make us look as good as possible in a terrible event and don’t offend whoever it was you were fighting. The Civil War memorial all across the South in battle fields, cemeteries and town squares do the same thing. Most of the memorials do not mention the cause of the war, nor do they mention the numbers of civilian lives lost, they simply mention the lives of the soldiers. Seems to me, our friends across the pond have at least come a bit further with their war memorials being more inclusive than many of the memorials across the United States.

[1] John F. Burns, “British Memorial Honors World War II Bomber Crews,” The New York Times, June 28, 2012, under “Europe,” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/world/europe/britain-honors-world-war-ii-bomber-crews.html?_r=1 (accessed July 4, 2012).

[2] Burns, “British Memorial.”

  1. I’m so glad you decided to write on this topic, it’s something that has piqued my curiosity as well. I wonder if you were to travel to somewhere like Germany or Japan who lost World War II if they would have a Lost Cause? I also wonder too if their memory of the war looks vastly different from ours? Are they trying to justify murdering thousands of Jews or simply ignoring that it happened altogether? We all know that the South is part of the U.S. but I wonder how much that plays into the Lost Cause? Germany does not have two opposing forces within the same country like the U.S.

  2. bktitus17 said:

    This is a very interesting topic and I like how you have pointed out that the U.S. is not the only country that has memory issues. To me, it seems like the Allies are trying to do the same thing that the Confederacy did in terms of making themselves heroes. Granted this is probably easier to do with the Allies given the fact that they indeed won, but it seems like the same type of deal as the Civil War Monuments where the minute you memorialize something or people, they become heroes or martyrs as opposed to people that actually kill others. I am not saying that building a memorial is wrong, but this also goes back to the same question we have been asking for four weeks…is it right? Do the Allies have an obligation to include these raids in their monuments and telling of history or is the freedom to neglect certain subjects, like slavery for the South, still an inherent right?

  3. jadams08 said:

    I have visited Europe a few times and it is ironic that the United States has so many memorials in the South for one war. There are countries that have been in existence way longer than the U.S. and fought many more wars. It is interesting to see and wonder why we have so many and they have so few, and why plaques and such usually have no reference to the war itself, but more for the men who served. It makes me wonder if other countries do not want to remember, maybe they are looking towards the future instead of the past, or something else? Then that makes me wonder if the U.S. has so many memorials dedicated to the Civil War is that holding us back? Should we move on? I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer, but the monuments and memorials do pollute the landscape of the South.

  4. drobnicker said:

    The United States does have memory issues. We memorialized the Civil War in so many ways that it became absurd, especially to the foreign visitors. But, I suppose that is how so many families handled such an insane catastrophe of so man thousands of lives. America always seems to do things in excess. In a sense, I think the lost cause finds its way in every American when it comes to other countries we perfer to forget. What about Hiroshima were those lives necessarily lost? That’s debatable.There is a certain arrogance about American memory and identity. That’s probably why the French hate us so. This was a good topic to research, I wondered about as well. This is why I think Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial is one of my favorite. It exemplifies the individual name and the essence of the soldier rather than an image of a model.

  5. magaliq said:

    It seems that the United States has memorialized the Civil War so much. But we do not have the long history of European countries. If America had been invaded and destroyed as many times as our European friends, maybe we too would not feel the need for a memorial at every turn. I just had a friend return from France after a dedication about D-day. He explained that even the little children knew about their history and were so happy to thank the American veterans who were present.Maybe memorials are not as important as sharing our memories.

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