Fort des Dunes Archives - St. Stephen's University

Revering Fort des Dunes

By | 2016, Europe | No Comments

When we visited Fort des Dunes in France, I had my view of reverence and how one should be reverent challenged. It was pretty great. Fort des Dunes in summary is a WWII fort on the English Channel that was crucial to the British operation Dynamo and the end of WWII. Anyhow when I explored the bunkers on the beach I found them covered in peace graffiti, the tops of the bunkers were covered in smashed alcohol bottles. Now one might be outraged at how disrespectful it is to paint and smash glass on something so historically significant and more importantly in a place of reverence. However I disagree, I do not think that it is because the people that did those things do not care; rather quite the contrary. I think that this is their way of engaging with the site because as a North American I do not live with my beach being a D-Day landing spot. Life has to go on; if you want to go to the beach you do not want to see bunkers reminding you that this is a place of death.  I believe that the people were trying to spread their message of peace through art and that they wanted to engage the site in their own way; trying to show reverence by having drinks and painting peace on the buildings that were symbols of death; now I ask to you as the reader a question I asked myself on that beach. “What would a WWII survivor do?” There is a memorial at the entrance to Fort des Dunes, I think that keeping the site as it originally was back in WWII is important but we also need to heal and have a modern engagement with history or else what was the point of all of those men fighting for freedom? We need to allow people to engage with history in their own way, now I am not saying let the sites be run over with graffiti everywhere; but it can be appropriate in certain instances. I know pausing and engaging with the worldview on the beach helped shape the way that I viewed this potentially ‘disrespectful and ignorant behavior’. I think if we try to control how people want to engage with history then it starts to sound like what all of the young men were fighting against.