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89th Anniversary of the of the 1918 Armistice

Published on December 3, 2007
Speech by M. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, (excerpts)

Paris, November 13, 2007
On this 11 November, my thoughts go to the last two [French] survivors of the most terrible of wars. They have lived their whole lives with the memory of those who fell at their side, of bodies blown to pieces by grapeshot, of men buried alive in muddy trenches, of the dead they had to trample over during the assault.

When the battle was over, when silence fell on the land where so many men had fought each other until the final vestiges of their strength were exhausted, those who survived laid down their weapons, left the army and went home. (…)

They didn’t speak to their children of glory and victory. They didn’t tell their children they were heroes. They talked to them of suffering, sacrifice and the horrors of war. They wanted to teach them to hate war and love peace.

They used to say to their children: "Never again, never such horror again".

But war begat war, but murder begat murder. In the hearts of those who had suffered too much, in the hearts of those who had been defeated, was growing a spirit of revenge, a spirit of vengeance, a spirit of hatred, and the madness took hold of Europe again. (…)

And when the new war was over, when the doors of the camps opened, when the effort to dominate and exterminate which had threatened Europe was known to all, everyone was gripped with horror at what had happened, everyone felt guilty at not having done enough to prevent it.

So some people rose up in the name of all those who had perished in these two bloody wars. (…) And they were people of goodwill (…) who extended the hand of friendship across the borders for which so many women and so many men had suffered so much.

And the peoples followed them. No one will forget the pain of the past, no one will forget the deaths, no one will forget the suffering. But no one will ask the other to atone for his faults. Everyone said: let’s be friends, let’s be friends now and forever. And having decided to overcome their injuries by opening their hearts, having decided to counter hatred with love, they built Europe. (…)

On this 11 November, we not only pay tribute on the part of the nation to all those who died on the battlefield, to the heroic soldiers who exhausted the final vestiges of their strength defending the sacred cause of their country. We also remember that from so much blood, from so many tears was born a great dream of peace.

So long as the memory of the twentieth century’s great tragedies remains alive, no one need be fearful for the friendship binding the peoples of Europe together. Now that we are losing the last witnesses, we must go on keeping this memory alive so that our children never forget and, in their turn, our children pass on to their children the memory of these wars.

Today as we remember, we celebrate the future. A future of peace, a future of brotherhood between nations. A future of understanding and solidarity between peoples.

We have given a name to this future: Europe. Let us never forget it./.

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