World leaders, civilians and World War Two veterans have been commemorating the 70th anniversary of the start of the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. Ceremonies were held where the historic allied landings took place in Normandy on June 6, 1944.
It proved to be a time out from today’s tensions between east and west, with presidents on their best behaviour.
Heads of state and government gathered from almost two dozen countries.
A brief meeting between Russia and Ukraine’s leaders was brought about through Franco-German diplomacy.
The leaders had an opportunity to touch on possible ways to end a months-long conflict. On the margins of paying collective homage to the honourable sacrifices of the past, private talks focused on the most serious security crisis in Europe for more than two decades: Ukraine.
The host, President François Hollande, said: “We still have our duty to do, preserving the legacy bequeathed to us, the duty to move the peoples of Europe forward, to reinforce the role of the United Nations, to defend human rights, everywhere.”
In broad daylight on one of the Normandy beaches where Europe’s liberating forces began to come ashore, a multi-media dance performance re-enacted the major phases of the Second World War, in passionate strokes. Former enemies embraced.
The veterans of armies that fought tooth and nail when they were young also mixed with children taking part in remembering democracy’s famous D-Day.
Our correspondent Laurence Alexandrowicz said: “The stage spectacle brought home how much this place, these beaches reshaped Europe. The community of Ouistreham today was the centre of the world with the 19 leaders here, an exceptional 70th anniversary stressing how we must pass things on; it could be the last time that many of those who fought will be able to attend such an event.”