Call it a Remembrance Day story that a leading genealogy website would rather not remember.
To honour the memory of the Canadian soldiers who died in the First World War, Ancestry.ca was offering, until the end of the month, a free Web search of military databases that contained the records of this country's soldiers.
A half-page ad that ran in a Toronto newspaper on Sunday, adorned with a large red poppy, was titled "My Grandfather. My Hero," with details of how to do the search.
But the colour ad featured a photograph of a German, not an Allied soldier, a blunder that angered some veterans and historians.
The above story shows the ad with the blunder.
I saw the headline, skimmed a paragraph or two, thought "Oops," and moved on. So I didn't realize that veterans and others quoted in news stories were saying things like, "It's an outrage to the memory of those who died fighting for this country."
No, it's not an outrage.
Today, the Globe and Mail ran two letters with a more enlightened perspective.
More than a few Germans have emigrated to Canada since 1918, many with ancestors who fought in the First World War.
Although Ancestry.ca accidentally used a picture of a German soldier in an ad honouring the memory of Canadian soldiers, the controversy speaks to the ambiguous nature of wars waged long ago. The German soldiers whom Canadians so bravely fought in the Great War were not monsters. They were young men, much the same as their enemies.
Should any Canadian with a German First World War vet as an ancestor be ashamed of that fact?
Julian Reid, Ottawa
I was disappointed to read this story just a day after the country commemorated the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day. The website made a very unfortunate mistake, but the rhetoric in response - calling a photo of a German soldier "an outrage" - was all out of proportion.
Don't German soldiers who died also deserve our respect and remembrance? Or are we now blaming young conscripts for the crimes of their leaders?
Nov. 11 has never been about celebrating only the winners, but remembering all the lives lost in war.
These letters point to the fallacy of Remembrance Day. If we honour veterans only from our own country, with no reminder of how completely useless and insane war is, no reminder of all of war's victims, military and civilian, then it's all just so much flag-waving. No matter what the official spin, at bottom it's just another glorification of war.
It's horribly sad to think that in the 21st Century, some Canadians could still think of any soldiers as "the enemy". They should be required to read All Quiet on the Western Front.
The enemy is war and the governments who prosecute it, spending other people's lives for their own gain. Everyone forced to partake in it, no matter where they were born, is a victim.