Friday, January 31, 2014

International conference: 'War and Colonies 1914-1918'

International conference: 'War and Colonies 1914-1918'

Friday, January 17, 2014

Der Spiegel: Lazare Ponticelli, the last poilu

Romain Leick on the differing retrospections between France and Germany on WW1: The Symbolic Power of French Victory
Lazare Ponticelli was France's last surviving WW1 Veteran.  He passed in 2008.

Whenever the topic came up over the course of his biblically long life, Lazare Ponticelli always doggedly rejected the idea of being buried in a state funeral. But shortly before his death, under pressure from both the media and political leaders, he gave his consent for a solemn ceremony, "without much fuss and without a big parade, in the name of all those who died, men and women."
Ponticelli was the last recognized veteran of in France, the last living survivor of the more than 8 million people who were called to arms by the French Republic. Of that number, some 1.4 million did not survive the massive slaughter. When Ponticelli passed away on March 12, 2008, in Le Kremlin-BicĂȘtre near Paris, at the age of 110, his death moved the entire nation.

Der Spiegel: Disaster Centennial: The Disturbing Relevance of World War I

From Der Spiegel's piece on the start of the WW1 Centennial year,

The survivors of World War I included Franz Warremann, a journeyman bricklayer from the northeastern German city of Rostock, whose grandson, Joachim Gauck, is Germany's president today. Warremann brought home a helmet from the front that had been dented when it was grazed by a bullet just above his left temple. He had apparently been extremely lucky.
The dented helmet has since been lost, says Gauck in his office at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, but the sight of it created such a strong impression on him that he could "still draw it" today.
When his grandfather got together with other veterans in the evening and they talked about the war, young Joachim was always surprised at how exuberant they seemed. How could they be so happy after those harrowing experiences?
Only much later did he understand that the men treasured spending time with fellow soldiers who had also looked death in the eye in the trenches. Only they could understand what it meant.
And that was why they were celebrating life.