The DGHU e.V. was again, as in 2016, invited to the centennial celebrations in Verdun. On all 3 days we had the task, together with French actors to represent German soldiers at the Fort Froideterre, in addition, there were several major events. On friday evening to commemorate the Ossuaire, the large Gebeinhaus on the former Battlefield, whose huge tower reminds of a grenade.
On Saturday morning, the author ordered a wreath for the 34th Infantry Division (Metz) at the Thiaumont intercession, which had been deployed there from late August to 24 October 1916, to which the 4th Rheinische Infanterieregiment Graf Werder Nr. 30 belonged since 1876 lay until the March 1914 in garrison in Saarlouis, which has also been the birth and garrison town of the author. In the afternoon we had a tour through Verdun and a graduation ceremony at the Center Mondiale de la Paix. The parade was certainly visited by 5,000 to 10,000 people applauding on the right and left of the streets, shaking hands and exchanging warm words.
On Sunday morning, a large memorial celebration was held at the devastated and never rebuilt village of Fleury devant Douaumont, which was also very well attended. The exclusively positive experiences continued, which we also know from Paris 2014, Verdun 2016 and many other smaller events in France. The French, but certainly many tourists and tourists, were not only friendly, they welcomed all the performers, gave a lot of praise or wished ‘Bonjour’. Everywhere nice people who marveled at us on the Meuse, at the forts themselves, in the barracks or in the restaurant, many raised thumbs, smile, nodding, obvious joy, talking about this and that or why you do that, where you’re from.
On Friday evening when we marched around the large cemetery on the Ossuaire and took the small slope at the Ouvrage de Thiaumont, people cheered and applauded for us, the same happened during the march through the city. Also at the departure of Fleury as we marched up the small slope to the street, after we sang together with Romanian actors ‘I had a comrade’ in German following the official part of the event. Also at the wreath-laying a few got teary-eyed, it was a lot of emotionality, especially among the performers, who knew what was happening there 100 years ago. Quite a few people have after all lost a part of their ancestors there; the war itself ultimately led to an at least as monstrous second such war, which ate even more hearts and sowed hatred. It took a long time to transform this hatred into friendship and passion, and we performers now often experience first-hand, that this is not a phrasing, but is lived in everyday life and especially on such events, even by the benevolent Politics on the French side. Again and again, the author has experienced big emotions and gratitude, especially with the regional politicians. There was an incredible amount of emotion to feel and see towards us Germans, which was always honest and never feigned.
After all, one can really say that Germans and French have become real friends, that they need each other and that they like to be together with the other “field post number” and celebrate together. I will never forget these positive experiences, and I am very grateful to have been there to live and experience friendship, where others often talk about it without personal commitment. Thank you very much, dear people on the other side of the Rhine, thank you, friends, whom I know, appreciate and even love, thank you very much brothers and sisters in blue and white and red!!!
On eternal friendship, on eternal brotherhood, on eternal peace between our peoples.
Au revoir, a bientôt!
Author: Herbert W. Theisen, Diplom-Verwaltungswirt, Oberleutnant i.Tr.
Infanterieregiment Graf Werder (4. Rhein.) Nr. 30, Saarlouis
1. Lothringisches Pionierbataillon Nr. 16, Metz
photos: Friedrich Wein, Luc Pottiez, Andreas Springer