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The passionate commemoration of World War I is a vital element of France's contemporary national cohesion.But before a momentous turning point in August 1914, the country looked to be on the brink of defeat.The pacification and unification of Europe was based on this common experience, even though it occurred 30 years later in Germany. 11, the day of the armistice of 1918, was the sad counterpart to Bastille Day on July 14, as Patrick Cabanel, a professor of history in Toulouse, put it. It was rather unfair that Germany was treated the way it was. France cannot claim victory in either part of this conflict. The Germans buit much better trenchlines more resistent to shelling. The allies attacked more and attacking meant more casualties. The Germans gave up when the situation reversed to where they [...]A variety of reasons: 1. Try and read "Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler" from 1976. The two dates mark the "death and resurrection of the nation" -- and of Europe. It was rather unfair that Germany was treated the way it was. This time [...]Word War I was the first part of the same conflict. I did not won the first and the second was won thanks to the US. The Germans buit much better trenchlines more resistent to shelling. The allies attacked more and attacking meant more casualties. The Germans gave up when the situation reversed to where they lost the upper hand and would have suffered a lot of casualties. The German generals were better than the likes of Hague who was clueless. Try and read [...]Thank you for a sober treaty on that old and decisive war. He was known as "le dernier poilu" (the last of the hairy ones) or "le der des der" (the last of the last), a popular term for the ordinary soldiers fighting at the front in the "Great War," who held the line in the mud and filth of the trenches, unwashed and unshaven (hence the term of endearment "poilu," or hairy), suffering the greatest of deprivations and ultimately becoming an icon in the mythological imagery of France's collective memory.The funeral mass was broadcast on live television from the Les Invalides complex in Paris, and it was attended by some of the country's highest ranking leaders: then-President Nicolas Sarkozy and his predecessor Jacques Chirac, the presidents of the National Assembly and the senate, the prime minister and key members of the cabinet.The many milestones of Franco-German reconciliation -- Robert Schuman's 1951 plan to create the European Coal and Steel Community, the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the 1963 Elysée Treaty between then-President Charles de Gaulle and then-Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the handshake between later heads of state, François Mitterand and Helmut Kohl in a graveyard near Verdun in 1984, and Sarkozy's invitation to Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Nov. From the French perspective, that war should have been the last, in keeping with the utopia of poet Charles Péguy, who had written to a friend, shortly before he was killed at the front in September 1914: "I am going to battle for general disarmament, and for the last of the wars." Word War I was the first part of the same conflict. Thank you for a sober treaty on that old and decisive war. In these days of polarization, please keep it that way. In these days of polarization, please keep it that way.

Collective Memory as Comfort The memory of the last war of the modern age from which France emerged victorious -- and the invocation of those four years in which a united, heroic and self-sacrificing people (at least in the prevailing self-image) passed a test of global history -- provides contemporary France with an excellent source of meaning.

The French find this difficult to understand, just as German observers have trouble relating to the idea that, especially in the last 10 to 20 years, 14/18 and the cult surrounding the last poilus have developed into a positive original myth for modern France.

"La Grande Guerre," Weinrich notes, "has thus achieved, in the national collection of symbols of the Fifth Republic, an importance readily comparable with the French Revolution of 1789." Accordingly, the French associate the anniversary year with a historic mission that completely lacks an equivalent moral foundation in Berlin. Declarations of commitment to European integration and to the Franco-German friendship have long since acquired the tone of ritual, formulaic prayers on both sides of the Rhine, as if officials there aimed to reestablish the Carolingian Empire.

Eleven French Foreign Legion soldiers carried the coffin.

From Poor Immigrant to National Treasure When Ponticelli, born in Italy in 1897, came to France at the age of nine, he was illiterate and didn't speak a word of French.

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