Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This is the major War Memorial in Strasbourg. It stands on Place Republique, in front of a Palace built during the occupation to assert the Kaiser's authority over his conquered territories.
Because Alsace was annexed to the Prussian Empire after 1870, men here were required to fight for Germany when the Great War broke out in 1914. Some refused, or fled across the border to fight for France, while others - friends and family - fought under the Kaiser. This statue, erected as new hostilities loomed in the 1930s, captures the particular dynamic of war in Alsace. It shows an Alsatian mother, mourning her two sons, one of whom faces west into France, the other Germany, shorn of the uniforms that marked them as enemies, united in death.
I've always distrusted Remembrance Day, for reasons I won't get into here, not least because I have a truly frightening amount of work to get done today. Nonetheless, I can't help but be moved by this memorial, if only because it reminds us there is no justness in war.