Blog AnalysisEuropean history

1914-1918 an old story not yet quite common

The two wars of 1914-18 and 1939-1945 contain little-known stories. Here Russian soldiers arrive in Marseille in 1914 (Credit: ECPAD, French Ministry of Defense)

(BRUSSELS2) The Minister Delegate for Defense and Veterans, Kader Arif, was in Brussels yesterday to meet his Belgian counterpart and various personalities, such as the former (socialist) Minister of Defense, A. Flahaut, a convinced European and now president of the Chamber of Deputies.

The French minister is responsible in particular for preparing the anniversary of the centenary of the 1914-1918 war as well as the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. He has started discussions with a number of European partners. Needless to say, the task of uniting such diverse and contradictory stories, even decades later, is not straightforward. Some dates do not have the same meaning everywhere. The end of the 2 war means everywhere the end of the war, defeat and victory, but also sometimes the dismantling of a State, even the end of an era (for Austria), or the creation of others. The events remain painful in people's memories.

The two celebrations do not have the same meaning. The 14-18 war would rather be an opportunity to seal a continent, with different histories, reconciled. “ We are not going to celebrate the declaration of war. But I think that on August 1 we could pay tribute to the first fallen soldiers, Corporal Peugeot (French) and Lieutenant Meyer (German) ". The 1945 celebration is also one of the last moments to collect living testimonies. " We still have a memory of flesh ". At the French level, it is also about celebrating the “ notion of belonging to the nation » and to pay tribute to those who came to lend a helping hand and died on the continent: the New Zealanders, the Australians, the Africans... The minister would thus like to celebrate the liberation of Corsica (between September and October 1943) at the times by the “ Corsican resistance fighters but also by the Moroccan goumiers ».

And why not a European summit in Sarajevo…

For the moment we cannot say that a strong idea is emerging. And yet there would be something. A European summit on June 28, 2014, in Sarajevo for example, 100 years after the assassination of the Archduke which plunged the continent into several wars (because there was not one) without mercy, would have a highly symbolic meaning, 'as much as it would occur at the end of a European electoral campaign, and on the eve of a renewal of all the institutions.

The cross stories

It would also be interesting to remember these intersecting stories, often forgotten on the French side. The French and British then organized the exfiltration of several thousand Polish soldiers – either through the Baltic countries or the Balkans. They were very quickly reincorporated, serving in formed units, from 1940. Some fought in Scandinavia, others in France, even in the Middle East (the Carpathian brigade). On June 17, 1940, when Pétain signed the armistice, General Sikorski refused the orders of his French mentor, General Denain, to withdraw his units to Libourne and ordered the Polish troops present in France to attempt to cross into England to continue the fight. Ditto in the Middle East where General Kopanski refuses General Weygand's disarmament order and crosses into… British Palestine with weapons and baggage.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).