Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Old Hartmann

When you plan to visit the war memorial of the Hartmannsweilerkopf in the south of Alsace, beware. You will only find road signs in French to Le vieil Armand (The old Hartmann).

The day before yesterday Red Baron went with the Feierabend crowd to visit the site of the Hartmannsweilerkopf where particularly in the beginning of the Great War the fight for the strategic height between the French and the Germans took a high death toll. Later the war on the Vosges developed into a trench warfare as everywhere on the western front.

The entrance to the war memorial is protected by two guardian angels.

Deep underground the chapel contains three altars, a Catholic altar in the middle,

Queen of the martyrs, console the afflicted
a Protestant on the left hand side,

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live,
even though they die (John 11:25).
The swastika were explained being a Lutheran symbol?? 
and a Jewish altar on the right.

Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain,
that they may live (Ezekiel 37: 5,9)

Here is a color photo taken of the Hartmannsweilerkopf in 1915! on the German side:

All the trees are annihilated
The soldiers lived in bunkers,


fought in trenches,


and some survived in holes.

Later Mother Nature covered the graves of those killed with fresh green,

An early color photo
until much later those corpses identified were reburied and lined up in rows. The unidentified rest (about 15,000  men) was placed in a common grave below the memorial.

View from the memorial into the Rhine valley
Walking up the hill to the memorial

After the Wehrmacht had occupied the Alsace in 1940 Nazi governor Robert Wagner ordered the war memorial to be dynamited. When a mayor from a nearby village informed the Gauleiter that possibly also bones of German soldiers repose in the common grave below the monument Wagner rushed to the Hartmannsweilerkopf making it just in time. The sappers had already placed dynamite into the bore holes. Disappointed the troops found some consolation in destroying the Jewish altar.

Hollande and Gauck on top of the monument (©Merkur)
Last month French president François Hollande and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck met at the Hartmannsweilerkopf. In the past Gauck had frequently asked for a common remembrance of both nations, a proposal Hollande had refused because for him La Grand Guerre is a French affair. Eventually François gave in and the two presidents laid the corner stone for a French-German museum commemorating the First World War together.

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