In the bookshop, an old bloke had bought something about WW2. For minute or two he reminisced about Churchill and Stalin and victory in Europe. The bookseller, a woman perhaps in her late 30s or 40s, nodded, being polite, fairly obviously not understanding the significance of the events he was describing.
When I was born it was 25 years after WW2 finished. Many veterans still lived among us. It was still there, prominent in people’s minds — you can see it today in episodes of Fawlty Towers made back then, or other writing of the time. My mother used to ponder what life would have been like if the Germans had won. The owner of the shop where I had a part time job in my teens had fought in WW2, on the Kokoda Trail.
This year it’ll be 62 years since WW2 finished. It’s further in the past than WW1 was when I was born. There are fewer veterans left, with them the memories of (almost) an entire planet at war are fading. Soon all will be left is SBS’s weekly Hitler documentary.
Of course there are those who have since fought in smaller conflicts, but it seems the firsthand experience of wartime is no longer part of the common collective consciousness.
Not that that’s entirely a bad thing, of course.