dimanche 24 mai 2009

Crime de guerre en Normandie

The Guardian de ce matin rend compte de propos polémiques outre-Manche sur la nature des bombardements qui ont oblitéré Caen de la surface de la Terre en 1944. L'auteur Anthony Beevor, qui a publié des récits de grande qualité sur les batailles de Stalingrad et de Berlin, récidive avec cette fois un compte-rendu de la bataille de Normandie qui sort des sentiers battus anglo-saxons.

Il rappelle les erreurs commises tant par les Américains que par les Anglais, ces derniers ayant à se reprocher un bombardement de Caen qui, non seulement a causé beaucoup de morts de civils, mais qui a transformé la ville en forteresse.

Antony Beevor, the bestselling historian, has controversially asserted that the British D-Day bombing of the French town of Caen was "close to a war crime".

The claim, which comes ahead of next week's 65th anniversary of the invasion of France, has been fiercely rejected by experts, who accuse Beevor of seeking publicity for his new book, D-Day: The Battle for Normandy.

Beevor, author of acclaimed histories including Stalingrad and Berlin: The Downfall, says in the first book for 20 years to reassess D-Day that numerous mistakes were made by the Allied forces in the Battle for Normandy.

When asked in the BBC History magazine whether the Allies could have reasonably reduced civilian deaths in Caen during the bombing of the town, Beevor replies: "Yes, I'm afraid they could. The British bombing of Caen beginning on D-Day in particular was stupid, counter-productive and above all very close to a war crime.

"There was an assumption, I think, that Caen must have been evacuated beforehand. That was wishful thinking on the part of the British. There were more than 2,000 casualties there on the first two days and in a way it was miraculous that more people weren't killed when you think of the bombing and the shelling which carried on for days afterwards."

In his new book, Beevor writes: "French civilians, caught in the middle of these battlefields or under Allied bombing, endured terrible suffering. Even the joys of liberation had their darker side. The war in northern France marked not just a generation, but the whole of the postwar world, profoundly influencing relations between America and Europe."

Gary Weight, who runs Pegasus Normandy Tours, which specialises in taking Allied veterans on tours of the D-Day beaches, said he was aware of the mounting controversy over Beevor's new book. "What more is there to say about D-Day? The only way you can see him selling this book is by coming up with controversial claims. I'm a little bit saddened by it."

Weight, who has studied the landings extensively, said Caen was considered so important to the Allies that Sword beach was added to the list of landing sites because of its proximity to the town.

But despite weeks of heavy fighting, the Allies were unable to seize Caen and instead opted to carpet bomb it.

Weight said he knew of no one from Caen who shared Beevor's views. "I don't believe there was another way of doing it," he said. "It was not good what they did, but I don't think by any one's estimation you could come close to branding it a war crime."

Beevor also uses his interview in the magazine to attack Field Marshall Montgomery for his "puerile vanity".

"He had wanted to seize Caen, advance to Falaise and then break through to Paris," Beevor says. "That was always the stated objective and either he didn't really plan to do that or he got it badly wrong. I think he probably got it wrong and couldn't admit that when the British were blocked in by German panzer reinforcements."

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