STUTTGART, Germany – It was 75 years ago this May that the guns fell silent across Europe. The continent had been embroiled in a conflict unlike any before. The toll on all sides was extreme, and the five and a half years of devastation in both human and physical terms were horrific. Echoes of the war’s scope are memorialized in our shared lexicon in terms like “blitzkrieg,” “D-Day,” “Holocaust” and finally “liberation.” Battlefields like Dunkirk, Stalingrad, Anzio, Normandy, and Bastogne resonate with profound meaning, yet only hint at war’s totality. As the generation that lived through and fought in the war passes on, there is no question that World War II forged the world we live in today and still provides us lessons to learn from.
When the conflict in Europe came to an end on May 8, 1945, millions of people around the globe rejoiced in the Allied victory, and the arduous transition to recovery began. Although the war in the Pacific raged on, Victory in Europe (V-E) Day was an occasion for celebration. Church bells rang out, evening lights flooded the night sky once again, and crowds gathered together in both sorrow and joy. Even for the great many who were not celebrating, there was relief that the ordeal would finally be over.
So why should V-E Day still matter for us today? Why should we pause to reflect on events that seem ever further in the past? For one, as our greatest generation passes into history, this 75th anniversary is a last chance to look back together and thank them. As we live through the challenges of our time, reflecting on the deeds of those who fought for liberty and freedom 75 years ago provides a model for courage and endurance.