November 11th: Remembrance Day

A book I have never forgotten!  I had to read it when I was about 17  to understand what my grandpa had gone through during WWI. He rarely talked about it, probably because nobody was able to understand what the soldiers had to endure in the trenches.

He fought in terrible places called Le Chemin des Dames and Verdun. He lost two of his 3 brothers  killed at the beginning and in the middle of the war. He was “gassed” and lost one of his eyes. Strangely enough he never said bad words about the German soldiers fighting in the opposite trenches. That was not the case about the Waffen- SS in WWII!

Name of the book: All  quiet on the Western Front by the German writer Erich Maria Remarque.

Much later I was shown a painting which haunts me from time to time.  Once again, it came from a German painter called Otto Dix: the skat players ( Die Skatspieler). That painting deals with WWI soldiers who were disfigured, crippled, physically and psychologically destroyed during that apocalyptic conflict.

les-joueurs-skat-otto-dix

Yesterday I watched a heartbreaking film on TV called the War Horse directed by Spielberg.  Horrific and unbearable scenes on the battle fields of WWI.

Literature, visual arts and cinema are more powerful than any report or account in describing and making you feel the frightful butchery which took place at the opening of last century.  I have always wondered who had benefitted from this sheer madness, certainly not the poor guys sent to the battlefields as mere putrid slaughter meat. I partly got answers but not satisfying enough to my point of view. That conflict had and still has a tremendous effect on the following generations  for worse or  better. No commemoration will ever account for what happened then whatever side you look at the period. 

Do we ever learn?  I’d say “NO”! I’d rather have a more optimistic view on the world as it goes but I can’t.

Greed, Power, Ego, Jealousy,  Absolute Domination by every means, Prejudice, hatred, propaganda,  fanaticism … you name it! Fighting all these evils  is a daunting and essential task to be endlessly carried on.

Every year on november 11th, I keep telling myself I will go to Notre Dame de Lorette, the necropolis dedicated to WWI soldiers and to the Douaumont Ossuary. I will before 2018! Not because they are  official memorial sites  but to keep a promise made long ago to my grandpa! That promise consisting in going to Verdun with him. We haven’t had time! He died when I was 10 !