DThe French village of Morhange, 40 kilometers from the German border, tells the whole story of Franco-German enmity. The place became French in 1680, went to Lorraine in 1747, was annexed by France in 1792, incorporated into the German Reich in 1871, returned to France in 1918, again German in 1940 and again French in 1944. Morhange forces you to think to war and peace. Beyond the borders, the nations and Europe.
None of the lateral changes of Morhange was more bloody than 100 years ago, when one of the first great battles of the First World War took place in the summer of 1914. The sixth army of the crown prince Ruprecht of Bavaria had their guns placed on the Kahlenberg and fired closer to the French units. Within a few days, 40,000 people died.
The earth here spews the dead today and what remains of them. bone of the hip. Shins. Kiefer. Even in the great ossuary of Verdun, they are confused. There are so many bones and skulls that, as a visitor, at some point you think you recognize faces. Then a deep sense of pain begins, followed by the awareness that remembering wars in Europe must not become an empty ritual.
That's why French President Emmanuel Macron knows this, so he embarked on a seven-day memorial tour along the front line of the First World War that began in Morhange. He led through the historic war zone along the Franco-German border. Last Saturday, it also led to a clearing near Compiègne, about 100 kilometers northeast of Paris, where a cease-fire was signed 100 years ago, which concluded "the Great Wars".
Macron was there along with Chancellor Angela Merkel, to clarify that Franco-German enmity became a friendship, because at the latest after the horror of World War II, both countries no longer believed in nationalist absurdities of hereditary historical hostility.
Unthinkable even years ago, that here plays the German national anthem. It happened twice Saturday, played by the Franco-German body, sung by the body of the Republican Guard. "The place of revenge has become the place of definitive reconciliation," commented a French historian.
The ancient inscription, which recalls the "victory over German arrogance", was supplemented by an addition in German and French that the president and the chancellor here "reaffirmed the importance of reconciliation Franco-German at the service of Europe and peace ".
The gesture of Macron and Merkel joins a chain of symbolic actions that support the peaceful Franco-German relationship. The accompanying images, initially in black and white, show Chancellor Adenauer and President De Gaulle together on a red carpet, show Helmut Schmidt and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing as friends of men.
They show Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand hand in hand in a Verdun cemetery. Now there is also a picture with Merkel and Macron. However, one senses that this new production of Franco-German friendship no longer concerns only thoughts about the past, but about the present discomfort in Europe.
Macron had already made clear during his trip yesterday that it was at least for today. He said that nationalism was like a looming "leprosy", and he said explicitly in terms of the current conditions and activities in some European countries.
At the same time, Macron wanted to show that the peace that is taken for granted in Europe today is not an effortless result for all time. In many European countries political groups are growing that no longer fear nationalism but celebrate it.
Groups across the continent have emerged that punctuate nationalist slogans. In many places, in many parliaments, the connection between the former war graves and the peace project of the European Union seems torn.
France does not want to accept it. For this Sunday, Macron invited more than 70 heads of state under the triumphal arch of Paris to commemorate the end of the war one hundred years ago. It is no longer about the longest time to celebrate a victory, but to solicit peace. The associated "Paris Forum for Peace" lasts a total of three days. Macron wants to affirm it as a "Davos of Peace", like a think tank that will collect material against the dangers of nationalist constriction.
Thinking about it will not be easier, you can also perceive it in the current Franco-German relationship. The temporal distance of wars changes the urgencies. For Macron's predecessor, François Mitterrand, who himself was wounded in the war in 1940, including Helmut Kohl, whose uncle fell in the First and his brother in World War II, peace was not just a word in formal speeches. This is probably the reason why both have made European interests more determined. At that time, Germany and France were considered the strong engine of Europe. Almost no one talks about it anymore.
The political duo Merkozy, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, who still had the courage to discuss the main European issues on walks on the beach, did not follow a new duo called Mercron, at least not very successful. Merkel and Macron meet eleven times, but not much has come out.
Just when an assertive politician took power in France with Macron, Regent Merkel's power crumbled to the right of the Rhine. Presumably one day there will be historical essays on what opportunities were lost in 2017 and 2018, because a strong Frenchman met with a weakened German government.
Most of Macron's big plans failed. Europe will not adopt a common budget for the foreseeable future, there will not be a joint finance minister – two of Macron's demands that have vanished. Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU), who calls himself a Francophile, said that Macron found an inspiring language to speak about Europe. Unfortunately, it was understood by the least.
With Merkel's departure as the leader of the CDU party and its foreseeable end as chancellor, Macron is now threatening the total European political loss. Merkel may not have done much for him, but he did nothing for his plans. He has always accompanied initiatives from France with benevolence. This could change with a more conservative CDU. The beautiful speeches of Macron would be even less heard.
That's why they put their ears on Elisha. They are pleased to know that Friedrich Merz, a promising candidate for Merkel's succession, is engaged in the European project. And they are confused when Merz himself distances himself from the signatures for pro-European resolutions. The stable colossus of Germany is no longer so peaceful. It moves. And when that happens, since then the walls in Europe have fluctuated.
In France, the evil memories are present: the 1940 blitzkrieg, the terrible defeat, the occupation by the Germans, the massacres in the villages and the death squads against the Resistance. This is present in the collective consciousness, no one should be deceived about it. The First World War is more vividly remembered than in Germany.
In Morhange, the village of Lorraine, Macron lived it directly. There, Robert Munier was standing on a trellis for his president, he had infected this important one-day medal and wore a red cap. In his hands, eighty-three had a faded picture of his father; he showed a young man in uniform, with blue eyes and mustache.
Munier's father was a "poilu", a "haired man". This is what they call the soldiers of the First World War in France, because there was no shaving in the trenches. Moreover, Munier's father was forcibly German from the Alsace-Lorraine occupation. And so he would have to fight for the Germans. He abandoned, however, and fought in the foreign legion for France. He survived the First World War and died in the first days of the second, October 3, 1939. His son Robert was then three years old.
Robert Munier is the Franco-German story. Macron listened to such stories for a week. Presumably he will have told her to Merkel of Compiegne and will probably tell you of the 70 heads of state who will meet in Paris this Sunday. He will tell you that we all live in a dangerous moment. In the worst case, it's just another time between two wars, when the lessons of history are forgotten.