The Turkish Remembrance of Gallipoli

al68
King & Country AL68 – Turkish Machine Gunner lying prone

As we approach November 11th and the ceremonies organized to commemorate what it represents, the theme of remembrance occupies a special place in my readings.

Just the other day, I found a very interesting and informative article about the historical evolution of the Remembrance of the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey, under the pen of Mesut Uyar of the University of New South Wales in Canberra (Australia) in First War Studies.

Since the evacuation of the last Anzac troops at dawn on December 20th 1915, marking a Turkish victory, the process of memory and remembrance on the Turkish side has been all but easy. Subjected to political, religious, military and identity considerations – just to quote these examples – Turkish people incessantly advocated the development and promotion of awareness of the sacrifices of their fellow citizens during that famous campaign. And it is one of the most interesting aspects of this article. Family and friends of veterans, soldiers and officers who served and fought on the peninsula along with university students were at the vanguard of this evolution.

At the entrance of the Australian War Memorial, in Canberra, the visitors can see a whale boat that served to transport the troops on the shores of Gallipoli, in front of which the following inscription is displayed: “The Australian nation was born on the shore of Gallipoli.”

With our Western eyes and conceptions, it is often too easy to focus exclusively on the military feats of Australians, New Zealanders and other Allied troops and to ignore the gallantry of the Turkish soldiers and their commanders – the most notorious being Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – founder of the Republic of Turkey. Doing so, we forfeit the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the impact of the Gallipoli campaign in the national identity and consciousness of Turkey, a country that is not only member of NATO but also an ally in the fight against terror.

Thanks to military historians like Mesut Uyar, we can better appreciate the efforts deployed by the Turkish people to bring the valor of their ancestors on the battlefield to our attention and appreciation.

At the going of the sun, we will remember them

cenotapheThe days leading to Remembrance Day are always a privileged moment to think about the sacrifice of these men and women who, throughout the ages, have sacrificed so much for our societies and our world. Remembrance should not occur exclusively in the morning of November 11th. It should be a daily exercice. That’s why I was so happy to take a picture of this King & Country figure, FW162 “The Last Goodbye”, last night in front of the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario.

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

Remembering Jewish Soldiers of the Red Army

parade-031209According to a very interesting story published in the Jerusalem Post today, almost half of the Israelis polled are in favor of making May 9th, which is the day when Soviet Victory over Nazism is commemorated in Russia, a national holiday in Israel, too. Even more interesting is the fact that Yad Vashem (the Memorial and Museum to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem) evaluates that no less than 1,5 million Jews took arms and fought barbarism during World War II. Here’s the eloquent example reported by the JPost:

“Anatoli Shapiro, for example, a Red Army officer who commanded the division that liberated Auschwitz, was the first man to open the gates and inform its prisoners ‘the Red army has come to liberate you.’ His story reflects most of all the essence of the Jewish fighters, fighters who didn’t just ask to bring freedom to Europe, but fighters who fought to save their brothers and sisters.”

There is ample academic research (you could fill a few bookshelves of books about that subject) supporting the fact that, without the USSR, it is doubtful that the Allies would have crushed Hitler’s hordes. It is no less significant to recognize the service of Jewish soldiers who were part of the Red army. On May 9th, we not only salute the Soviet (Russians, Ukrainians and others) men and women who made tremendous sacrifices, the ultimate one in the case of several millions, but also these Jewish and Israeli people who also carry that involvement as a badge of honor. A national holiday is not an exaggerated way to say: Thank you!

Merci, soldat soviétique!

Dans le contexte actuel de confrontation entre l’Occident et le monde russe, il est facile de sombrer dans un sentiment anti-Moscou primaire et dénué d’une profondeur dépassant les grandes lignes du discours ambiant.

Mais éloignons-nous un instant des lignes éditoriales, des ateliers de rédaction de discours de chefs de gouvernement occidentaux ou des analyses des prétendus « experts » perchés dans leurs tours d’ivoire académiques à cent lieues de la réalité sur le terrain, pour nous pencher sur un fait indéniable.

Il y a de cela 70 ans, le monde était à la veille de vaincre le péril hitlérien. Sans les troupes soviétiques, nous n’aurions pu accomplir cette besogne.

Je prends à témoin l’historien militaire Jean Lopez qui, dans son excellent livre Opération Bagration : La revanche de Staline (été 1944) cite l’historien Rüdiger Overmans lorsqu’il évoque le fait suivant :

« Rappelons que, par année de guerre, les Occidentaux éliminent en moyenne 200 000 soldats allemands (tous fronts et toutes armes confondus), les Soviétiques presque 1 200 000. » (page 3).

Si les hordes nazies ont pu être stoppées, ce sont les soldats qui se battaient sous l’emblème du marteau et de la faucille qui en ont payé le plus lourd tribut.

Tâchons de ne pas l’oublier, alors que nous nous apprêtons à commémorer le 70e anniversaire de la victoire de 1945.

Si vous n’êtes pas familier avec la langue russe ou encore l’anglais, vous ne comprendrez peut-être pas les paroles de cette chanson dédiée aux anciens combattants soviétiques (russes), mais vous pourrez sans doute en deviner le sens, celui de la reconnaissance et du souvenir.