French and German Leaders Mark Armistice Day

The New York Times
November 11, 2009

PARIS — For the first time since the armistice that ended World War I with Germany’s defeat in 1918, a German leader joined French officials Wednesday to mark the moment the guns fell silent on the Western Front after a war that killed or wounded millions.


The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France laid a floral wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the soaring arches of the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris, erected in 1835 to honor the army of Napoléon.

The moment came two days after Mr. Sarkozy traveled to Berlin for ceremonies marking the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago on Nov. 9, 1989. Mr. Sarkozy said Wednesday that remembrance of the past “is also to consolidate the present and prepare the future.”

Across Europe and other parts of the world, people gathered Wednesday to commemorate the end of four years of fighting between 1914 and 1918 in which millions of lives were lost in what are now depicted as strategically ineffective battles of the trenches in which neither side gained significant territory as each lashed the other with artillery fire and often futile infantry charges.

The precise number of dead from both sides in what is known as the Great War — or “the war to end all wars” — has never been precisely known, partly because of poor record-keeping. But most accounts put the number of military deaths at more than 8 million — including 1.4 million French and 2 million from Imperial Germany. Additionally, more than six million civilians were killed, and two million soldiers from all sides were reported missing in action…

…The war pitted empires against one another and destroyed several of them, with forces from Imperial Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire ranged against Allied powers including Britain, France, Russia and the United States, which joined the war in 1917. The United States lost 116,500 soldiers in the conflict….

The complete article is at The New York Times.

Comments are closed.