War museum to rework controversial bomber panel
Bowing to pressure from the country's war veterans, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawahas agreed to change a panel about the bombing of Germany during the Second World War, a museum spokesperson says.
The panel, Strategic Bombing: An Enduring Controversy, questions the value and morality of Allied raids that killed 600,000 Germans and left another five million homeless.
Canadian veterans objected, saying the tone of the exhibit depicted them unfairly. A Senate committee, which reviewed the issue, recommended in June that the panel be changed.
Although the museum still believes the information is historically accurate, spokeswoman Christina Selin said Tuesday that after weighing the various points of view it has decided to change the wording.
Don Elliott, who was a navigator on a Lancaster bomber during the Second World War, said the original wording on the exhibit makes his fellow airmen look like war criminals for bombing civilians in German cities.
"I was upset by it; I thought that it was unbalanced. One of the fellows said he thought it was an apology to the Germans," said Elliott, who is now 90 years old.
"We're a group that hasn't much longer to live," Elliott said, adding he hoped the museum would take that into account in reviewing the wording of the exhibit.
'Very difficult to satisfy people'
The contentious display describes the bombing of major German cities, including Dresden, Hamburg and Cologne. More than 40,000 Germans died in firestorms in Dresden alone.
One panel, entitled Enduring Controversy, says the value and morality of the bombing offensive "remains bitterly contested."
Mark O'Neill, vice-president of public affairs for the museum, saidchanging the wording will be a tricky task.
"It's going to be very, very difficult to satisfy people," he said. "What we have to do is try to remain historically accurate and as comprehensive as possible, but do so in a balanced way."
Some historians have denounced the move.
Historian Margaret MacMillan called it "a sad day for museums." The current display is accurate, she said, and the museum should not have to change a word.
Canada appears 'cowardly and afraid'
"I don't think museums should have to give in to this sort of pressure, and I really regret that it's happened," said MacMillan, a well-respected author and former provost at the University of Toronto's Trinity College. "I think it makes Canada as a whole look cowardly and afraid."
The group of veterans who objected to the original wording has proposed its own version. In part, it says: "Thousands perished in the raids, and millions were left homeless. While these numbers are very large, they pale in comparison to the genocide perpetrated … by the Germans and their proxies."
Museum officials hope to have a new version of the exhibit on display within the next two months. Althoughthe museum will consult with veterans,it has saidit will have the final word on the changes.