Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Not a War Memorial

I've always thought the French take second place to no one when it comes to the prickly bellicosity of their war memorials. But here's an exception: the Monument aux Morts at Strasbourg. That's Strasbourg yes, not Salzbourg not Stuttgart, but Strasbourg, on the Franco-German border in Alsace, long the political football of Franco-German political contention.

Start with the text: you probably can't read it in the picture but the it does not say "Pour La Patrie"--for the fatherland; rather "Pour Nos Morts"--for our dead. The Alsatians lost plenty on both sides of the Franco-Prussian War, World War I and World War II. I haven't any idea what their attitudes may have been at the beginning but by 1945 it seems they had lost all taste for the lies and pretensions of the conflict between nation states. The pietà-like figures are a woman (a mother?) and two young men (her sons?). The young men are dead, or dying; they have grasped hands. Carved in below the inscription of dates for the two world wars, there are additional dates memorializing the French colonial wars in Algiers and Vietnam. Helpfully, the sculptor has left additional space for several more wars as they may occur.

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