France & Germany Show The Power Of Reconciliation


At exactly 11:00 AM, on November 11 1918, Germany capitulated and signed an armistice treaty to end World War I. World War I is called the Great War, and a lot of people who fought in it thought it would be “the war to end all wars”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. The madness did not stop then; we are still living it 81 years later, and paying for the consequences.

One way to understand the violence and slaughter that occurred between 1914 and 1918 is to examine the numbers of deaths from the conflict.

On the side of France & England; Russia lost 1,700,000 soldiers; France lost 1,357,800; England lost 908,371; in comparison the United States only lost 53,513 soldiers in the conflict.

On Germany’s side; 1,773,700 German soldiers were killed; 1,200,200 died for Austria-Hungary; and 325,000 for Turkey.

The conflict affected every single family in Europe personally. In my case, two of my ancestors were killed. One of them was killed 2 days after the end of the war, he was fighting the Turks in a remote area at the current border of Syria and Lebanon, and neither sides knew that the war was over. Among the 4 million French wounded in World War I, 4 of them were my ancestors. All of them were deeply affected for the rest of their life. One of them was the writer Maurice Genevoix, and the author of one of the best personal account of the conflict. In his memoir, “Sous Verdun”, Maurice Genevoix depicted the atrocities of trench warfare, which occurred at the battle of Verdun.

Today, in Paris, 81 years after the end of the gruesome conflict, French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel stood side by side, in a symbol of reconciliation, at the Arc De Triomphe to commemorate the 1918 armistice.

“We are not commemorating the victory of one people over another, but the end of an ordeal that was equally terrible for each side. It is a day of French-German reconciliation in order to build a shared future,” said President Sarkozy.

“We cannot wipe out the past, but there is a force which can help us to bear it: The power of reconciliation. By our two countries central role in the creation of the European Union, we show other countries in the world that it is possible to rise above the pain of the past,” said Chancellor Merkel.

There were no French World War I veteran at today’s commemoration. The last one alive, Lazare Ponticelli, died last year at the age of 110.


You must be logged in to post a comment Login