92nd anniversary of the 1918 Armistice
Paris, November 11 2010
- © Présidence de la République - P. SEGRETTE - C. ALIX
90 years ago, to honour the soldiers of the Great War, the French carried solemnly to the Place de l’Etoile the remains of an anonymous soldier, killed during one of the terrible battles in which over 1.4 million of his brothers in arms perished with him.
Since then, our nation has met every year to pay tribute to the Unknown Soldier and, every evening, under the Arc de Triomphe the flame commemorating the soldiers killed in action in every battle in which France has been engaged is rekindled.
Here, through this symbol, the nation’s flame is kept alive.
Gathered around it on this 11 November, we celebrate the heroism of a generation who endured the worst suffering before snatching peace. We celebrate a France who confronted one of the most terrible ordeals of her history and who prevailed because she found the way to shoulder her responsibilities and unite all her forces to confront the danger.
We must draw from this symbol of 11 November the strength to overcome the difficulties of the present, antagonisms and partisan divisions, to do together, with courage and determination, what our country’s future demands.
The prime example of the commemoration of 11 November sparking this appeal for collective responsibility came at a tragic moment in our history, at a time when France, in the face of the defeat of June 1940 and the Occupation, seemed to be sinking into the abyss.
On 11 November 1940, braving the ban on all patriotic assembly, young women and young men went to the Arc de Triomphe to pay tribute to the Unknown Soldier. The love of France had never to be extinguished: they bore living witness to this.
That day, they said “no” to defeat, “no” to collaboration and “no” to dishonour.
That day, they proved themselves the daughters and sons of the heroic 1914-1918 combatants.
That day, a vanguard of French young people publicly answered the appeal to resistance issued a few months earlier by General de Gaulle.
I wanted the ceremonies of 11 November 2010 to be the opportunity to salute the courage of those young French men and women who showed the example. They remind us that the love of France is a precious asset, which we must cherish, nurture, and defend, whatever the circumstances, whatever our origins and whatever our beliefs. They remind us that our country’s greatness, future and values are in our hands and that we have, together, the power to forge France’s destiny./.