• History's Bricks

D-Day - yes we remember our own way!

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

The fightings in Normandy were one of the most intense of the entire war. Why do we use LEGO bricks to commemorate them at all? And why this is absolutely right.

On 6 June 1944, 154,000 Allied soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy [1]. Among them 83,115 British and Canadians who entered the sector Gold, Juno and Sword (with French troops). The GIs arrived at Utah and the "bloody Omaha Beach" in the Colleville-sur mer region.

The Heavy costs of the landings

D-Day was pricy for the Allieds. At Omaha Beach the allied forces suffered their heaviest losses. The Omaha Beach section was best constructed by the Germans. In this longest landing section the Americans faced 8 German infantry companies, 85 machine guns, 28 mortars, 20 field guns, 15 anti-tank guns and a number of deep concrete bunkers. Thus, 2374 losses were reported in this area alone [2].

Notorious is the incessant crackling of MG fire at US troops as they tried to enter the beach. We know this scene from one of the most famous war movie of all times "Saving Private Ryan". That scenery is actually quite true. For example, the MG gunner Heinrich Severloh, on the German side, fired relentlessly for hours at the young landing troops, killing hundreds of people in the process. It must have been true horror.

Altogether the landing cost the allies around 9,000 troops all alone on D-Day. About half of them had fallen [3].

lego dday normandy ww2 history landung débarquement US soldiers utah beach

GIs taking cover at the Utah Beach. A wonderful picture which is kindly provided by tvbrick.

Bloody, bloody Normandy

Not only the landings cost many people their lives. The fighting in Normandy, which lasted for weeks, were very intensive.

For weeks troops of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS stood against the British and Canadians in the Caen area. The Americans, who at first advanced towards Cherbourg, were faced with such fierce resistance from the SS and Wehrmacht. Also, what is often forgotten, Poles, New Zealanders and French units fought also in Normandy.

The historian Peter Lieb considers the fighting in Normandy for the German troops during this period to be more intense than these on the Eastern Front [4].

This is not surprising, considering that the Americans together fired 2 million artillery shells of various types in June and July alone. More than 35,000 shells per day were fired on the German positions [5].

So he sees those fights as more intense on the individual soldier than on other fronts. To the Germans, the supply of ammunition that the Allies had at their disposal seemed endless. The heavy continuous attacks caused enormous psychological damage to the soldiers [6]. Constant skirmishes and the close combat caused by the terrain did the rest.

A number of war crimes also occurred in Normandy. Already in the first days units of the 12th SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend" shot at least 187 prisoners of war of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division [7].

In Graignes, the 17th SS-Panzer-Division "Götz von Berlichingen" killed about 20 wounded US paratroopers, two French clergymen and two girls and then burned down the whole place as reprisal because the residents helped the paratroopers [8].

The Allies also shot prisoners of war several times. However, the dimensions were probably much smaller. What we know is that mostly no prisoners were taken on the landing sections on D-Day [9].

Until 24.7 the allied side had to face 122,000 dead, wounded or prisoners. On the German side there were a total of 114,000, of which 41,000 went into captivity [10].

Yes we remember that with LEGO!

No medium can even come close to adequately depicting the horror of these fights and because of the fact that it is quasi unpresentable it can be portrayed very well. Because if we did not, a considerable part of our culture of memory would be lost.

It all sounds so horrible, so we have to ask ourselves, why do we remind people of this with LEGO bricks at all? Yeah, how can we even think that would be appropriate?

It is appropriate. We just have to reflect on how we do it.

It's no secret that people have a massive interest in recreating the events of World War II with LEGO and have been doing so for over 15 years. At first, it may seem daunting that someone represents that horrible time with LEGO bricks, but in the end it is only consistent.

Every day we are confronted in various ways with the events of the Second World War and the memory of it. We only have to look at the TV program or, more up-to-date, the various offers on Netflix for this. 

Then it is quite clear that people try to communicate their experiences and their impressions. Because in the end that's exactly what the LEGO models represent. Communication offers.

lego dday normandy ww2 history landung débarquement US soldiers wehrmacht utah beach

Another communication offer by tvbrick showing a German position on Utah Beach.

The general argument I hear from non-knowing people again and again is that these representations would be war glorifying or trivializing. I would like to resolutely oppose this.

No medium can even come close to adequately depicting the horror of these fights and because of the fact that it is quasi unpresentable it can be portrayed very well. Because if we did not, a considerable part of our culture of memory would be lost. This memory culture is gradually based only on media. Since 75 years after the end of the war contemporary witnesses are becoming very rare

If we want to keep the memory of the events alive, we have to present it in our well-known and beloved media. From a scientific point of view, pop culture is often seen as subordinate or even pejorative. Yet it is the one that shows us day after day how people actually deal with history. It is the main practice of historical narratives.That is why it is not only okay to depict events like the Second World War in comics, films, series, model building and of course primarily in LEGO models, but necessary.

Of course we should always reflect on how we do that. I have no difficulty in believing that most of you people do. So remember!



[1] Roberts, Andrew: Feuersturm. Eine Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkriegs, 1. Ed., Munich 2019, p. 606.

[2] Doyle, Peter: Der Zweite Weltkrieg in Zahlen, Munich 2015, p. 88.

[3] Roberts, Andrew: Feuersturm, p. 623.

[4] Lieb, Peter: Unternehmen Overlord: Die Invasion in der Normandie und die Befreiung Westeuropas, Munich 2014, p.129.

[5] Ebd., p. 109.

[6] Ebd., p. 130.

[7] Bremm, Klaus-Jürgen: Die Waffen-SS. Hitlers überschätzte Prätorianer, Darmstadt 2018, p. 208.

[8] Ebd., p. 204f.

[9] Lieb, Peter: Unternehmen Overlord, p. 141f.

[10] Roberts, Andrew: Feuersturm, p. 633f.

About the Author:

Benjamin is currently studying History BoA with Soiology in Munich. He runs his website History's Bricks which concentrates on the representation, discussion and analyzing of historical elements in LEGO bricks models.

Soon he is starting his first big project which concentrates on the interplay of German and Canadian soldiers in Normandy from June/July 1944.

Follow him on Instagram, Flickr, Youtube and Twitter!

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