June 6, 2024

D-Day. 80 Years Ago

Stefan Liebich

“The grass, this good, soft, lush grass. You could lie in it, and if you stretched out flat, the grass about you would be as high as your body. It would sway in the wind which came from the Channel, from the beachheads still strewn with the remnants of invasion, the gear thrown off in battle, the fragments of German guns, the vehicles smashed and twisted. At moments, it seemed to Bing that this wind still carried a trace of the heavy, sweet odor of the dead. But that could not be — the dead had been buried in the dunes of Omaha and Utah.”

Stefan Heym. The Crusaders. Little, Brown and Co., Boston 1948.

Eighty years ago, on June 6, 1944, the final chapter of German National Socialism was finally opened. On D-Day, the Allies opened the long-awaited second front with the landing in Normandy. One US soldier who was there was the German Jew Helmut Flieg from Chemnitz. He was able to escape the Nazis to safety in the USA, but others in his family were not so lucky and perished in the German extermination camps. Flieg’s father committed suicide. Helmut Flieg joined the US Army in 1943 and became a sergeant for psychological warfare. Under the name Stefan Heym, Flieg published the novel “The Crusaders” about this time, which became a world bestseller. The preceding quote is taken from it.

Heym later returned to Germany, to the GDR. He clashed with the powerful all his life. “I always got involved,” he said himself. As a directly elected non-party member of the German Bundestag for the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) in Berlin, Stefan Heym opened the German parliamentary term in November 1994. His constituency included Prenzlauer Berg, which I also represented in the Bundestag from 2009 to 2021. It was always a great honor for me to follow this liberator of Germany.

Today, on June 6, I am thinking of the US soldier Stefan Heym and all those who were there in Normandy. The joint effort of all the Allies ended the Nazi dictatorship. For this: Thank you! Merci! Спасибо!

Top photo: East German writer Stefan Heym pictured at his home in East Berlin, on August 2, 1983. (AP Photo/Edwin Reichert)