This day, 70 years ago, when France liberated my hometown for a second time…

Strasbourg, November 23 1944. We can see the General Charles De Gaulle standing in the middle of the street, likely Rue Des Grandes Arcades near Place Kleber.

[UPDATE: The town of Strasbourg put some pictures on the 70th Anniversary on their Facebook page.]

70 years ago. November 23rd 1944 began the takeover of Strasbourg from German Nazi forces by Allied forces. Almost day for a day, in 1918, France took over Strasbourg from the Army of Kaiser Wilhelm II. This day reminds of my grandmothers stories of the war. Scraps of history, jigsaw puzzles that you only assemble if you dive into History.
Strasbourg, my hometown, and Alsace, my province is unique in many ways….Firstly founded by Romans as the “Argentoratum” garrison town, the city became famous for its unique one-arrow gothic cathedral. The region was until the end of the 17th Century mostly German, with the unique German dialect (Elsasserdeutsch). Louis XIV purchased the province at the end of the 17 century and became part of the French Kingdom.
Two hundreds years later, after a humiliating defeat in 1870 of the French Republic by the Prussian Empire (military led by Otto Von Bismarck), France seceded back Alsace and the Moselle department and here this is how Alsace became German again. The German annexation lasted for 38 years until France claimed it back from Germany on November 23 1918. This recovery resulted in a massive French language implementation and a banishment of German including its dialectal form.
It remained French until the end of 1940 in which German Nazi Reich annexed it back to Germany. Again, language were switched back to German. But this time it lasted four years until its second liberation in 1944. And again back to French. This succession of swing between French and German cultures had profound scars on the region but it is also a moment to sit down and think.
70 years later, France & Germany are the powerhouse of the EU. Strasbourg is home of the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice. We have no more custom borders between France and Germany. What were standing the remains of the Maginot line (an ill-concieved military strategy that was an iteration of the trench warfare of WWI) and that fascinated me as a kid (walking in the forest and spotting these concrete bunkers) are long gone and now stands a beautiful pedestrian bridging France and Germany over the Rhine river.
If I have to learn something from History, even the worst enemies may one day sit down and accept the stupidity of war and the millions of lives lost in futile argument. I wish that others learnt this as well.


At the 11th day of the 11th month, at 11:11AM….the day that cannons stood still

Signature on cease-fire in the Compiegne forest (France), November 11th 1918

After four years of fierce battles, millions of casualties, hundreds of villages destroyed, thousands of kilometer squares maimed by continous bombing and shelling, finally the sound of cannon stopped. “La Der Des Der”, “La Grande Guerre”, “La Premiere Guerre Mondiale” ended. It started with the assassination of the archduke Franz Ferdinand four years earlier, it ended up as the “Ragnarok” for the Old World Order.

One victor, one defeated. Gains? Not much except for France that took back the Alsace and Lorraine from the Kaiser (I am trying to imagine a parallel timeline in which these regions would have stayed German, I would be speaking German…). Losses? Yes, a huge loss of generation, a loss of innocence gone. The victor will impose huge humiliation to the defeated with outrageous conditions during the Versailles treaty in 1919 that only seeded the seed of wrath that will bloom twenty-years later.

The trench warfare proved to be a monster that would only swallow human lives during senseless and meaningless assault to take over hundred yards. The usage of modern warfare (aviation, chemical warfare) brought a unique level of violence to the battlefield. The military establishment literally playing chess with the opponent, only with flesh and bones pawns on the grid.

The old World Order (UK, France, Germany, Ottoman Empire) that held over one half of the world in their colonial possessions will only see crumble into fragments. Europe ends up broken into pieces following aspirations through ethnics fault lines. The “Grand Homme Malade” (aka the Turkish Ottoman Empire) is definitely unplugged and let it die. France and UK quickly shares the lion’s share of the Middle-East, settings borders without considering the ethnic mosaic underneath it. We pay the price of it one years later.

The first massive genocide occurred. The Armenian Genocide occurred and it will be part of my genome. The first organized and industrial-size genocide that hit Armenians and other minorities protected until now by the “Miliet”, as a purge to contain the angry mob and try to preserve the old ruling class. An horrific disaster still unrecognized by many until now.

To close this post, I thought to share Metallica’s “One” inspired by “Tommy has a gun” novel and movie. It matches perfectly this day.

[Metal Review] In This Moment’s Black Widow

In This Moment Black Widow album cover

In this Moment’s latest album “Black Widow” is not yet here on sale (you can pre-order it on iTunes though) but at three songs out (“Sick Like Me”; “Big Bad Wolf” and “Sex Metal Barbie”), my review is here and sharp: it sucks!
What happened to the band’s mind? What happened to Maria’s beautiful voice and song writing? If you want to see where the band came from, you should dive to their three albums “Beautiful Tragedy”, “The Dream” and “A Star-Crossed Wasteland”. These were certainly their best albums lineup and showed a crescendo increase in Maria Brink talent and the potential of the band as metal/hard rock band. I discovered the band during their fourth album “Blood” with their songs “Blood” and “Adrenalize Me”. It was powerful, schizophrenic (as Maria’s ability to alternate her angelic voice and her primal scream) and nervous. “Sick Like Me” was going into this direction but also something was telling me things will turn sour. And God it turned sour….
To understand the disappointment in the band, just listen to some gems of the group “A Star Crossed Wasteland” or “The Dream”. Maria has the vocal potential and I believe that if a band sustain the “acoustic” challenge then they have the potential. Now the band are on the brink of their existence: either the just let it go to become a vanilla alternative rock with Maria posing as a Lady Gaga on Xanax or they set their scores and get back to their winning formula. Other groups came back from abyssmal depths (like Sirenia or Rhapsody of Fire). I got fooled one (pre-ordered the album on iTunes), shame on you but I will not get fooled twice and I will just ignore their concert tour in Lubbock next month.