Activities and Discussion Guide
This is the message which The Royal Canadian Legion is directing to young people, because many Canadians need help to remember the war. But even though you can't remember, Remembrance can have a purpose for you.
If you were to visit Europe today you would see part of the Canadian identity on over 100,000 gravestones: a simple maple leaf, telling passers-by that Canadians who fell in battle lie here.
If you visited Belgium, or France, you would find old people who fondly remember the young men who came from across the sea to defend them over half a century ago.
Show these places on a world map as they are mentioned. Show distance from Canada.
In cities such as Dieppe in France, people still cry when they think of Canadians. In Holland, a maple leaf on your car is a passport to incredible hospitality and gratitude. Holland was liberated by the Canadians in World War II, and today even the youth feel an intense sense of gratitude.
I am 17.
I was not born until after the war.
I am able to go to school.
I have a buzz-bike.
I have parents.
I have never gone hungry.
I don't know what war is!
What is hunger?
What is a concentration camp?
What is a razzia?
What is a bomb?
What is fear?
I know we are free!
I know who liberated us!
I know what they sacrificed!
Thanks a million for our freedom!
If you know where to look in Europe, you find other ugly reminders of war. On the beaches of Normandy, massive bunkers are in ruins. The modern faces of old cities tell of fierce bombing. But the most appalling reminder of all is in cemeteries ... where over 100,000 maple leaves are engraved on granite.
Why do the young Dutch people feel grateful towards the Canadians?
Do you think freedom means more to a Dutch student than to a Canadian?
If you were living in 1940, you would have turned on the BBC news each day to see if England had survived the night.
Europe was over-run by the nazis, and over 100 million people sank into slavery.
The war started in 1939, but most people thought it would go away. It didn't. And the graduating class of 1940 was confronted with the decision: to fight or join Europe in slavery.
Let them come to the conclusion that war is evil, but keeping World War II in focus, show them what the choice was then.
The fighting came after many years of desperately hoping for peace, talking about "peace in our time" and appeasement.
But by 1940, all hope of solving problems by peaceful means was dead. It takes two to fight. But it also takes two to agree to peace.
I'd like to give you some idea of what it was like for young Canadians in those days. Sometimes, we hear people say that everybody joined the forces to get a job. That isn't so. There was unemployment in 1939, and perhaps some of the early volunteers had previously been unemployed. But there soon was full employment. The men and women who volunteered did so because they knew they were needed if ever there was to be victory.
So Remembrance can remind you of the need to develop a sense of responsibility. It reminds you to seek changes without destroying the system.
It reminds you that you inherited a rich and beautiful country. It urges you to help mankind; to promote peace; understanding and above all...the dignity of people everywhere.
This is what Remembrance is about. The Canadians who died believed in a better future. It's up to you to work for this future. If you do, you will have remembered. You can walk through any Canadian cemetery in Europe, knowing that their faith in the future wasn't misplaced.
More Background to World War II.
- What would your decision have been in 1940 - to go to war or not?
- How do you think people felt during these years?
Show how this strengthened the allied resolve; suggest strong unity in Canada.
- How would the threat of war affect unity in Canada now?
Today we hear a lot about commitment. The youth of the 40's also had a commitment; over 40,000 gave their lives for it. Very basically, it involved the dignity of man and freedom of choice. Freedom!
- What does the word "Freedom" mean to you?
Many people today think of freedom as a headlong flight from responsibility. They keep demanding more freedom, taking everything out of our system but putting nothing into it.
- The poppy is the symbol of remembrance; but it's also a symbol of peace and the future.