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2 panoramas by mickael therer
Victor my grandfather is a young gendarme quartered in Malmedy and Saint Vith, in Belgium near the German border. On the 16th December 1944 at 5:30 am the Battle of the Bulge begins, ‘They’ are coming back.
From then on nobody will hear from him for weeks as he is caught in the lines of fire. On Christmas Day Saint Vith is wiped in just 14 minutes under allied bombs, he will then set to cross the battlefield by foot to rejoin his family some 100 kms away.
It is only by the 20th of January that my grand mother eventually recovered him alive. What he went through and had seen he never told. 60 years later I’m walking his footsteps and that of 100,000 dead soldiers’
This picture was taken at Bois Jacques, North of Bastogne in the hamlet of Foy. This is where the Easy company of the 101st US airborne division was defending Bastogne.
Bastogne – Bois Jacques
As a child, every year around new year’s day I visited my father’s family in the Ardennes. It was often a time of tears and sorrow as my great aunts and uncles silently remembered the winter of 44.
This 16th December 2004 I spent it in the woods around Bastogne trying to remember something I have hardly been told and never lived through. The weather conditions are similar to what they were 60 years ago: foggy, cold and humid, it is hard to believe that in 1944 people buried themselves here for days, weeks even by -20°C.
I wander through the woods occasionally coming across soldiers’ foxholes and young US cadets roaming in noisy search of trophies: pieces of shrapnel, rounds or instant coffee sachets that can still be found here. I wish them no war.
History will account for the winners against the loosers but for civilians things are really different in the fields of war. This panorama is dedicated to all the Victors caught in wars and their anonymous fate and accomplishments.
To die for a historically unjust cause, without even a name on your tomb seems a terrible thing to me. The winners are celebrated for their courage, and on this December 16 Bastogne welcomes 200,000 visitors glorifying victory. Here’s a panorama in remembrance of the loosers, most often just ordinary men caught in history. That same day, this cemetery was empty.
Bastogne – Recogne German cemetery, 6807 graves
© 2005 Mickael Therer
Battle of the Bulge at wikipedia.org
Belgian research centre on the Battle of the Bulge (uk)
Dad’s war (uk)
Ardennes testimonies (fr – uk)
Accounts and units histories (uk)
These 2 panoramas were originally posted on 360days and they are at the very heart of the whole ww2panorama project. I received many comments on these panoramas but 2 were really different and decisive in bringing this collaborative project together:
Received from Thomas Pindelski (NY-USA) 5 Jan 2005:
Incredibly moving and thank you for this rare perspective on the Other Side.
I always remind myself that combatants from both sides claimed primacy in their entiltement to an audience with God, whether it be the ‘Gott mit Uns’ on the Wehrmacht’s insignia, ‘Dieu et mon Droit’ from the magnificent British or ‘One Nation under God’ from those wonderful, selfless Americans.
The reality, as your fine photo shows, is that there are always evil men leading many who are, fundamentally, honorable and decent. Your picture rises above the mundane and is truly courageous in spirit.
That’s not easy to write for one whose parents were Polish refugees from the Nazis.
Received from Aya Zvaigzne (NJ-USA) 16 Jan 2005:
Thank you kindly for your work and sharing the power of the forest. Also for your story. I too am a grandchild of ww2 only because my grandfather managed to escape with his family from Latvija. He and the family ran from both the nazis and the soviet.
The boat to Sweden was confiscated, and the only way out was to Germany itself to a dp camp. From the dp camp they were taken in by a German farmer’s wife who hid them in a secret room in her barn, where she kept them at risk of her own life.
Food was scarce, and when the nazi troops came by almost every other day, she would say “The chickens did not lay so many eggs today”. My mother and her brother (in their teens at the time) would sneak out to the woods to pick rose hips. That and potato skin soup kept them alive (and the occasional egg or so). Since you are European, you know these stories better than most Americans.
I recently met an Iwo Jima veteran (and vet of Korea and other places) at the grocery store, shortly after the newest war broke out. After a brief exchange of conversation, (he was wearing his vet hat and other things to show what and who he was), he looked me straight in the eye and said.. War never solves or fixes anything. Blessings to you and your family and Peace and Freedom to All.