One hundred years after the end of the First World War, government leaders from around 70 countries in Paris today commemorate the victims. French President Emmanuel Macron had invited guests, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Austria is represented by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen. As a sign of reconciliation, all top politicians should symbolically put a hand on the shoulder of their neighbors.
At the triumphal arch, a solemn ceremony will take place in the morning. At this time in 1918, the bells rang throughout France to announce the truce. Macron wants to put the 11th of November, which France annually celebrates as the day of victory in the „Great War“, at the service of a committed peace policy. Eight students are read reports of witnesses to the truce between the Allies and the then German Reich. After that, the speech of Macron is scheduled, later the ceremony is to end with a symbolic trumpet signal to stop the hostilities. The Vienna Philharmonic will also be giving a concert in the afternoon at Versailles Palace for the spouses of state and government leaders.
In Paris, the heads of state and government were already invited yesterday for a dinner at the Musee d’Orsay. Merkel and Macron had already recalled the end of the First World War with a symbolic ceremony. Both visited together the forest clearing at Compiegne northeast of Paris, where the Germans signed the truce with the Allies on November 11, 1918, thereby sealing their surrender. It was the first time since the Second World War that a German head of government visited this place.
At the national memorial site near Compiegne, Merkel and Macron laid down a wreath and inaugurated a commemorative plaque honoring the „importance of German-French reconciliation in the service of Europe and peace“. In addition, both contributed to the Golden Book of the memorial. For this they went into a replica of the railway wagon, in which the Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch had brought the Germans peace conditions in 1918.
Merkel and Macron in the replica of the wagon
After the German invasion of France in 1940 Adolf Hitler had the same wagon on the clearing create and dictated the capitulation to the French there personally. The historic railroad car had once been brought to Germany by the Nazis and destroyed in the Second World War. Today, the clearing at Compiegne is a memorial site. There is a replica of the wagon to see.