War and Memory in the Twentieth Century

By Martin Evans; Ken Lunn | Go to book overview

9
Memory, Memorials and Commemoration
of War Memorials in Lorraine, 1908-1988

William Kidd

This chapter has two main objectives: to identify ideological and historical factors which influenced and to a significant extent determined the nature of sculptural representation and commemoration of war in Lorraine, and to illustrate these in a sample of memorials presented in what is both a chronological and typological perspective. 1 For reasons that will be obvious, these factors applied also to Alsace, but the study focuses on one of the pair, and indeed on one département, the Moselle, with a couple of examples from Alsace and the adjacent Meurthe-et-Moselle to support its general thesis. That thesis is not original, but precisely because of its familiarity, war memorial iconography in Alsace-Lorraine has attracted little attention from scholars. 2 The chosen starting point -- 1908 -- saw the inauguration of the Souvenir Français memorial at Noisseville. The year 1988 is a provisional terminus, although the symmetry suggested in the title is not wholly arbitrary. President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's controversial proposal in 1975 to discontinue France's 8 May (VE-Day) celebrations provoked a national debate on memory and commemoration and in Lorraine gave fresh impetus to the construction of Second World War and Resistance memorials.


1870-1914

From Gambetta's famous Saint-Quentin speech in November 1871, with its resonant 'n'en parlons jamais, pensons-y toujours', 3 through the creation of Le Souvenir Français by Xavier Niessen in 1887, to the entry of victorious French troops into Metz on 26 November 1918, the problem of memory -- its expression or repression -- was inseparable from the legacy of defeat and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. The desire to recapture the 'lost provinces', symbolized in the black-draped statue of Strasbourg on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, was part of the continuing political agenda of the Third Republic, sometimes invisibly present and unspoken,

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