The cemetery at Hartmannswillerkopf in Alsace

French and German Presidents to mark Centenary in Alsace on August 3 2014

Posted on centenarynews.com on 19 January 2014
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Centenary News has learned that Germany's President, Joachim Gauck, and President François Hollande will mark the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in Alsace, the eastern border region of France which was once bitterly contested by the two countries.

A brief statement from President Gauck's spokesman in Berlin said the two heads of state would travel to a memorial in the Vosges Mountains on 3rd August 2014, the one hundredth anniversary of Germany declaring war on France.

They will meet at Hartmannswillerkopf, where almost 30,000 soldiers from both sides died in a series of battles for control of a strategic promontory overlooking the Alsatian Plain and the Rhine Valley. Known to French soldiers of the Great War as the Vieil Armand battlefield, the area was declared a historic monument in 1921, and now serves as a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation.

President Hollande announced in November 2013 that President Gauck had accepted an invitation to take part in France's Centenary commemorations. 

International brotherhood

Describing the declaration of war in 1914 as a tragedy for both countries, the French leader said the Centenary would be a time for "international brotherhood."

The ceremony at Hartmannswillerkopf sets the scene for two consecutive days of events attended by international leaders in France, Belgium and the UK, remembering those who fought and died in the opening battles on the Western Front. 

More than fifty heads of state are being invited to the city of Liège on August 4th 2014 for the start of Belgium's commemorations.

The UK begins its four-year programme of Centenary remembrance the same day with a service for Commonwealth leaders at Glasgow Cathedral, followed by a wreath laying service at the city's Cenotaph.

The focus then shifts to the Belgian city of Mons where an event will be held to remember the British and German war dead who're buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's St. Symphorien military cemetery. 

The evening of August 4th closes in London with a candle-lit vigil of prayer and penitence at Westminster Abbey finishing at 11pm, marking the moment when Britain declared war following the German invasion of Belgium.

Sources:  Bundespräsidialamt, Berlin; Elysée PalaceProvince de Liège website; UK Government website

Images in the public domain

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News