French, German leaders pay tribute to WWI fallen soldiers
French President Francois Hollande and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck paid emotional tributes on Sunday to the millions of soldiers who died during World War I, exactly 100 years after Germany declared hostilities against France.
The two leaders gathered at Hartmannswillerkopf to remember the 30,000 soldiers who lost their lives in fierce battles around the rocky peak known as the ‘maneater’ in France’s Alsace region near the border between the two countries. ‘France and Germany, beyond their suffering and bereavements, had the courage to make up,’ Hollande said. ‘It was the best way to honour the dead and provide a guarantee of peace to the living,’ he added in a speech where he also remembered the conflicts still raging around the world, including the confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that has claimed over 1,700 lives.
‘All efforts must be made to impose, on Sunday more than ever, a ceasefire in Gaza and end the suffering of civilian populations,’ he said.
Standing near the bucolic peak of Hartmannswillerkopf, Gauck reminded onlookers that the site ‘symbolizes the absurdity and horror of those years’.
‘We commemorate the dead, the missing, the injured on both sides, and we honour their memory. They are not forgotten,’ he said. The symbolism of the event was all the stronger as August 3, 1914 ‘opened a period of 30 years of conflicts, bitterness, massacres and barbarity between France and Germany,’ the French presidency said in a statement.