[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.