75th D-Day anniversary: A Jewish perspective

In June 1940, that same stretch of water had seen “Operation Dynamo,” the evacuation of 338,226 British and French soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, cut off and surrounded by German troops.

June 4, 2019 21:40
1 minute read.
Men saved from Dunkirk

Men saved from Dunkirk. (photo credit: ARCHIVE)


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Born in London one week after V-E Day, I was raised with an enormous respect for the power of water: the 21 miles of the English Channel that saved Britain from a German invasion – as well as the 330,000 British Jews among the 11 million listed for extermination by the Nazis, in their January 1942 Wannsee Protocol.

In June 1940, that same stretch of water had seen “Operation Dynamo,” the evacuation of 338,226 British and French soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, cut off and surrounded by German troops.

Churchill, in his June 4 speech, stated: “We shall fight them on the beaches,” and described Dunkirk as “a miracle of deliverance.”

He was vindicated by “Operation Overlord,” on June 6, 1944, when more than 160,000 Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches of France, a day commonly known as “D-Day.”
From a Jewish perspective, however, D-Day came too late!

It was the Battle of Stalingrad, from August 1942 until February 1943, followed by the Red Army advance on the Eastern Front – in which more than 500,000 Jewish volunteers, recruits and partisans participated – that ended Hitler’s plan to invade Britain.

D-Day did not prevent the deportation of 430,000 Hungarian Jews, who perished in the Auschwitz gas chambers over 10 weeks between May and July 1944.

Indeed, preparations for the Western invasion were an excuse not to apply resources to bombing the known railway tracks to Auschwitz.

The most disconcerting failure in the 21 miles of defense were the 12 Jews in the Channel Islands, deported by the Germans to their death, from the only British territory occupied by the Nazis. The collaboration of the islands’ administrators set off frightening “what if” scenarios for British Jewry, had London succumbed.

On January 27, 2020 – ironically United Nations Holocaust Commemoration Day – we will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Red Army – leading three years later in 1948 to the Cold War, a lengthy incarceration sentence for Soviet Jewry and the establishment of the State of Israel.

From utter powerlessness to a return to sovereignty, we salute the signposts along the way, commemorating the liberators – including those of D-Day.

The writer is director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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