In the lounges of the sub-prefecture of Bayeux, this Friday, December 1, the French ambassador Philippe Etienne smiled in front of the press: “We are not here to make big announcements, I hope you were not expecting any. not. It’s a work trip.” The organizers of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings crisscrossed Lower Normandy this Friday: from the Cité de la mer in Cherbourg to Omaha Beach via Saint-Lô and Bayeux.
The Liberation Mission, created to organize the commemorations at the beginning of June 2024 and made up of around fifteen people, is accelerating preparations. She is visiting the region more and more, with around ten trips in recent weeks, like this Friday. The president of the public group, Philippe Etienne, explains the method: “We are in a program built in close collaboration with the prefectures of Calvados and Manche. But also with local authorities and civil society. There will be major commemorations and lots of events.” Which will be labeled in a memorial program published subsequently.
Collect diaries, letters, films…
With local actors, the organizers worked in Bayeux on numerous subjects such as Memory, projects, logistics, communication and even security. “It must become more and more concrete because June 6 is approaching,” slips the French ambassador. The progress will be specified “in the coming weeks”, without a precise date.
The Liberation Mission must make “recommendations”, validated in high places. But, as we perceive in the speeches, time is running out because it will be necessary to organize the immense machinery of security, transport and all the ceremonies for this great anniversary which will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors as well as high international authorities to whom the invitations have already been sent out, without any confirmation of attendance so far.
Visiting Omaha Beach, scene of the big ceremony on June 6, the group carried out scouting to “specify the proposals”. The objective is clear: “It is important that these demonstrations are designed to carry the messages we want, to recall the values of courage, commitment and attachment to the values of the Republic, to Freedom. 80 years later, it’s important to do it.”
In addition to the highlights, the organizers intend to rely on local networks to highlight sections of the Memory that they wish to honor. As veterans pass away, the memory of civilians will be honored. The historian Denis Peschanski, president of the scientific and orientation council of the group, wants to “search for the intimate. You have to go see what families have like diaries, letters, films. There is exceptional wealth. The challenge of the 80th anniversary is to integrate this memory of the Allied bombings into a grand narrative about the civilians of the war.”
Long-term work that must accelerate and come out of work meetings in the coming weeks, while the world will have its eyes on Normandy next June.
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