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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Commemorating the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald

This afternoon at 1:30 German time, we will be commemorating the liberation of Buchenwald Concentration Camp.  Present will be politicians of various levels, a ton of international media, tourists, guests and of course, survivors. 

There are fewer and fewer of them every year.  The eldest is a gregarious gentleman from Norway, 95 years young. 

Among the group are three of the 168 Allied Airmen who were shot down over France, connected with the French resistance, were betrayed to the Gestapo by a collaborator and sent to Buchenwald.

These three gentlemen will be unveiling a plaque commemorating the experience of these 168 Allied Airmen.  While the main ceremony will see representation from the EU and local representatives of the various nations whose nationals were held in Buchenwald, I don't imagine we'll see anyone from the Canadian, American, British, Australian or New Zealand embassies.  Which is sad.

Here, though, you can read at least my grandfather's remarks.  I will try to post more content and photos when I can.


KLB/Allied Airmen Plaque

13 April 2014 (Buchenwald)

Today, April 13th of 2014 (lucky 13) we are witnessing the second miracle that the Allied Airmen who were incarcerated in Buchenwald have experienced.

The first miracle was our timely removal from Buchenwald by the German Airforce. 168 of us had been shot down over France and betrayed to the Gestapo by a Belgian collaborator in the French Resistance. Stripped of our dog tags and labelled as spies and saboteurs, we were first sent to Fresnes prison and eventually, Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
As horrific an experience as this was, we knew we were The Lucky Ones - many of our friends spent years in this awful camp. Everyone who endured and survived Buchenwald carries deep scars from the experience.

We Lost Airmen of Buchenwald were forced to endure a second wave of torture.
For 70 long years we tried to tell our stories and share our experiences with our militaries and governments, but no one would listen.

Friends and strangers alike doubted our experiences. Our politicians weren't interested and historians felt they already knew the whole story of Buchenwald - and we weren't in it.

Fortunately we Airmen have friends who know that the story of the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald, as non-Europeans who faced the same horrors as they did, matters.

This brings us to our second miracle.

After 70 years fighting for recognition, we finally have our chapter of the Buchenwald Story recorded officially with this commemorative plaque.

The Buchenwald song says: "how can I forget you, when you shall be my fate" - this plaque now permanently etches our story into the history of this place, tying our fates together.

This plaque would not have been possible without the commitment, passion and compassion of our friend and documentary film-maker Mike Dorsey.

I first met Mike at the Elephant Hotel in 2010, he was making a film about us, The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald. He and I got to talking.

When Mike heard about the personal devestation we felt from being told to repress our experiences by our own government, he said "that´s not right."

He felt, as we do, that our experiences matter, that they hold lessons for future generations.

Mike Dorsey spearheaded a campaign to raise funds and support for this plaque, and worked closely with the Memorial to make today's unveiling happen.

While this plaque is the realization of our second miracle, there is still work to be done.

We have made our governments hear our story and have partnered with friends with the Memorial and the IKBD to preserve that story, but there is a third miracle still to be achieved.

By each of us survivors telling and sharing our stories at these commemorations, at school visits and with plaques and interviews, we are ensuring the horrors and lessons of Buchenwald are passed on to the next generation.

Hopefully, today's youth will take these lessons to heart so that our past doesn't become their future.

That would be our third miracle - a future where there are no Concentration Camps, no genocides and no war except in stories like ours.

Looking at the world today, it's clear we have a long way to go.

We should not and cannot lose hope - if today teaches us anything, let it be that miracles are possible.

Thank you.

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