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1ST LEAD German, French presidents inaugurate joint WWI battlefield museum By dpa correspondents

Europe
10.11.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Hartmannswillerkopf, France (dpa) - The presidents of France and Germany on Friday reaffirmed the friendship between the former European rivals as they opened a joint war museum at one of World War I‘s bloodiest battlefields.

About 30,000 soldiers from both countries died fighting over the Hartmannswillerkopf mountain in Alsace, nicknamed the "eater of men."

"Only when France and Germany stand together can Europe truly succeed," German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after a tour of the battlefield and the new museum.

"The mass killings on this site stand for the insanity of war," Steinmeier said.

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the Franco-German alliance that is at the core of the European Union‘s politics as "the brightest example of what our will for peace can accomplish."

"The best answer to this shared memory, to this tragedy, is friendship between Germany and France," Macron said.

Steinmeier also addressed his French counterpart‘s bid to reform European politics, praising his proposals for greater EU integration at a September speech in the Sorbonne university in Paris.

"And I am sure that this momentum that came from the Sorbonne speech will also be taken on board by the new federal government [in Germany]," he said.

Hartmannswillerkopf mountain was coveted by the two rival armies for its strategic position overlooking the plains of Alsace.

But Steinmeier said that the mountain itself did not deserve its nickname: "It is not this mountain that is an eater of men, but rather nationalism is an eater of men," he said.

He took the opportunity to warn against the rise of nationalism in Germany after the far-right AfD party made major gains in recent elections.

Every generation must learn to differentiate between "the idea of the nation and the ideology of nationalism," he said.

"There was no real victor at Hartmannswillerkopf," Macron said. "There were mostly deaths."

The Alsace region was itself a symbolic choice for the site: It was annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 before being returned to France after the German defeat in World War I.

It was also briefly annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

The inauguration comes a day before the anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in World War I on November 11, 1918.

Macron announced that he would be inviting the leaders of all the countries that took part in the war to Paris on November 11 next year to mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice.

 

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