France seeks personal accounts of liberation from the Nazis, 80 years after the D-Day landings

FILE - U.S. veteran Andrew Negra poses for a photo after the commemoration organized by the Best Defense Foundation at Utah Beach near Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy, France, Sunday, June 4, 2023, ahead of the D-Day Anniversary. French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday March 6, 2024 called on the public to collect photos, films, personal journals and testimony from witnesses to liberation at the end of World War Two, as the country prepares to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings which heralded the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla, File)

FILE – U.S. veteran Andrew Negra poses for a photo after the commemoration organized by the Best Defense Foundation at Utah Beach near Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy, France, Sunday, June 4, 2023, ahead of the D-Day Anniversary. French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday March 6, 2024 called on the public to collect photos, films, personal journals and testimony from witnesses to liberation at the end of World War Two, as the country prepares to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings which heralded the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla, File)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called on the public to collect photos, films, personal journals and testimony from witnesses to liberation at the end of World War Two, as the country prepares to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings which heralded the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.

“Let’s share and inscribe our families’ memories in our nation’s history,” Macron said in a video message posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Let’s honor our liberators and let the young generation carry our memories into the future.”

In June, France plans to show its gratitude towards World War II veterans with a ceremony at Omaha Beach to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when 160,000 troops from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other nations landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Many veterans are expected to return to Normandy beaches, some after a long trans-Atlantic journey, despite advanced age, fatigue and physical difficulties.

Macron specifically called on schoolchildren and teachers around the country to help research heroes from Africa, the Pacific, and elsewhere in the world, who helped liberate France. He emphasized the importance of linking the last witnesses of the war and those who sacrificed for freedom and liberty, enjoyed by the today’s youth.

“These young women and young men, like young people today, had their dreams and their plans for the future,” Macron said. “They had the courage to fight for freedom, against the Nazi barbarity, and often paid the price with their lives.”

A ceremony at Omaha Beach, with many heads of state expected to be present, will honor the contribution of the Allied troops. Over the coming months, France will also pay tribute to Resistance fighters from France and abroad, to soldiers recruited in its colonies in Africa, and to the civilians who suffered during the war.

In the past couple of years, commemorations in Normandy also have taken on extra significance as war returned to Europe with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

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