One Hour, Four Minutes and Ninety Years Ago

The guns of Europe fell silent as the Armistice took hold.

Not everywhere, of course. Fighting continued in revolutionary Germany and Russia, in the remains of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, and in other places whose history I don’t know well enough to cite here.

Death and destruction were meted out on a scale that is still difficult to fathom. On the columns of the memorial at Thiepval are carved the names of more than 70,000 Allied soldiers who fell in the area between July and November 1916, and who have no known grave. I was pointed to the photo by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, whose excellent posts on successive Armistice Days are moving, full of informative links and followed by astute commentary.

Though the events themselves are passing from living memory, the world shaped by the war is still all around us.

Update: Two more from TNH, 2002 and 2008.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Culture, Europe and the world, France, Germany, History, Life, Not Europe by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

5 thoughts on “One Hour, Four Minutes and Ninety Years Ago

  1. Yes; and what a stupid clusterfuck the whole thing was. I hope in fifty years’ time people will have stopped thinking of it as something worthwhile.

  2. Do many people think that? The sense I get is more “What a terrible waste,” but then I’ve been a bit of an outsider: observance in the US is different, in Germany not at all, and in Georgia even less than that.

  3. I hadn’t been making mental notes of where and when I saw the attitude, but this strikes me from something Malcolm Gladwell posted today:

    “In 1918, Henry Goldman, one of the senior partners of Goldman Sachs, quit the firm in a dispute over Liberty Bonds. Goldman was a Germanophile, who objected to aiding the Allied war effort. (This is the same Henry Goldman who later bought the twelve-year-old Yehudi Menuhin a Stradivarius and Albert Einstein a yacht.)”

    That clarification is necessary for an audience runing the risk of equating the Nazis and Wilhelmine Germany, and would otherwise be entirely unnecessary. You get that sort of thing quite a bit, probably more in Commonwealth than in US sources, in my experience and opinion.

  4. I’m not quite clear on the connection you’re making here. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had the first caffeine of the morning, but could you spell it out a little for me?

    Ignorance of German history in the general audience; yes, I get that; Nazi Germany as nothing but horror that instantly descended in January 1933 and instantly lifted in early May 1945; I get the problems with that portrayal, too (not that Gladwell is doing that). But how is this quote related to your clusterfuck vs worthwhile position?

  5. Because many people assume that there is a straight line from the unification of Germany to the Third Reich. Thus the problem wasn’t that there was a WWI, but that the Germans weren’t sufficiently punished at the end of it, thereby allowing them to show their true colors.

    This attitude is surprisingly common in Britain, but I think it arises largely from anger at the loss of the Empire, which the British subliminally blame on the Germans and the losses of the World Wars.

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