Today’s entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers is just a few of the photos I collected around Europe showing the numbers of people who died in the two world wars.
In Britain, every town, every village, every city has its war memorial. It is a constructed object, such as a sculpture or a stone alcove, which serves to remind us of the people who never came home from World War I and World War II.
I once had the fortune to actually visit the war graveyard in Huddersfield. It’s not for the faint hearted and I remember trying to read every single headstone, the name of every single person interred there.
The number of people who died on both sides in World War I and II is staggering. When reading/experiencing that aspect of history, it tends to make me have a panic attack; the sheer inescapability of death was a daily reality for most of these people. Having PTSD, I find this immensely triggering and tend to suppress the anxiety, leading to the delayed reactions I keep getting told are really unhealthy – the migraines, the vomiting, feeling angry (because I’m feeling so shaken) for hours, sometimes days afterwards. I hate thinking about these wars, but I feel like I should, because they happened, and these people’s lives are over as a result, and the world would be very different if they had not happened.
I wasn’t born then, so of course I never asked them to go to war for me, to ensure my future survival, but they did anyway. Whichever side these soldiers were on, they were treated like millions of expendable ants at the beck and call of their country. For that, for the fact that they were put in this shitty impossible situation with no real chance of surviving it, we should be fucking grateful to them. We should have some empathy. It makes me angry to think that some people pretend these wars never happened, people pretend that the Holocaust never happened, how can anyone really believe that? I think in their hearts they know it to be true.
I’ve talked before about the memorials in the photos above in Impressions of Salzburg. What I’ve never talked about was my experience in Salzburg Museum, because it set off my PTSD and made me sickened and pretty depressed. The Salzburg Museum’s exhibition of the First World War was a particular eye opener. The Austrian point of view is that they were defending their assassinated archduke. The exhibit explained an awful lot about World War I that we in England tend to not get told, and English speaking resources tend to follow suit.
I would strongly urge anyone with an interest in the history of the Great War to research original non-British primary sources as well as the English sources we’re used to seeing, to get a more balanced view of the First World War, who was actually fighting it, and how it caused the second. I’m not taking sides here, but it’s damn scary to see how Britain actually contributed to the rise of Fascism and Nazism, and I think there’s a lot of lessons we aren’t learning while we pretend our government wasn’t part of the problem in that first war. The individual soldiers, of course, had no idea of this. The only people who should have been involved in that war were Austria and Serbia, and as a result of ridiculously convoluted diplomatic ties, millions upon millions of lives were lost for no reason on all sides. Many were aged 16-18.
We need to remember them, otherwise we could *be* them.