Discours de l’Ambassadeur à l’occasion du centenaire de l’Armistice [tr]
A century has passed since the Armistice of 11 November 1918 put an end to the fratricidal fighting of World War I. To this confrontation of nations against nations, peoples against peoples. With its trenches filled with mud, blood and tears. Its fire and steel thunderstorms that rumbled in all weathers and tore up the most tranquil of skies. Its battlegrounds ripped open. And death, ubiquitous.
On 11 November 1918, a great sigh of relief runs across France. From Compiègne where the Armistice was signed at dusk, it spreads all the way to the battlegrounds.
The Armistice, finally ! After four endless years of noise and fury, of night and terror, the weapons fall silent on the Western Front. Everywhere, the fateful tumult of the canons gives way to the jaunty clamour that arises from bell towers in the form of bugle calls, from city esplanades to village squares. The homeland is rescued. Peace, at last, shall return.
But at the same time we can see the waste of war everywhere and the grief is even more painful. Here, a son mourns his father ; there, a father mourns his son. Here, as elsewhere, a widow mourns her husband. And everywhere, we see processions of maimed and broken faces.
Dear friends, dear Martin, as we commemorate the centenary of the Armistice, we have gathered to pay tribute to our dead, civilians and soldiers, to remind ourselves of the suffering of the millions of fighters from all countries who were sent to those awful battles and to voice our recognition to all those who, willing to sacrifice their lives, commit to defending us today.
The century that separates us from the terrible sacrifices of the women and men of 1914-18 taught us how fragile peace is. Our presence this morning in this Istanbul cemetery reminds us that many of our soldiers have continued to fight and die far from their homes, well after the Armistice of 11 November 1918. We ought not to forget these ones either.
This morning, in Istanbul, as in Compiègne where President Macron and Chancellor Merkel have commemorated the Armistice together yesterday, we wish, above all else, to celebrate Peace and to place our memoriam under the auspices of reconciliation and of the Franco-German friendship.
Because our two peoples know too well the force with which nationalism and totalitarianism can take over democracies and jeopardise the very idea of civilisation. We know with which swiftness the multilateral order can suddenly crumble. We know that a united Europe, built upon Franco-German reconciliation, is a blessing that is frailer than ever.
In this context, our gaze and projects must be forward-looking. The memory of the dreadful slaughter that was the Great War calls for vigilance as well as common thinking in order for Peace to gain ground every day. It is the meaning of the Peace Forum that opens today in Paris and that will be inaugurated by more than 80 heads of states and governments, flanked by the international organisations and civil society representatives. [alternative : It is the meaning of the Peace Forum that opens today in Paris and to which more than 80 heads of states and governments, flanked by the international organisations and civil society representatives, have been invited]
With the passing of World War I’s last witnesses, it is up to us to safeguard their legacy. Let this 11 November 2018 invite us to reflect on our history and to transmit those memories of war to the youth and to future generations, so that we shall never forget the value of brotherhood and the cost of hate.
Only then shall we be worthy of the memory of those who fell, a century ago. Only then shall we be worthy of the sacrifice of those who, today, allow us to be here, united, as a free people.
Long live the Franco-German friendship ! Long live peace in Europe !