Message from the President of the French Republic For the centenary of the 1918 Armistice 11 November 2018 [fr]
"We know the strength with which nationalism and totalitarianism can undermine democracies and threaten the very concept of civilization."
It has been one century.
One century since the Armistice of 11 November 1918 put a stop to the fratricidal combats of the First World War.
One century since it put a stop to the interminable conflicts pitting nation against nation, and people against people. To the trenches full of mud, blood and tears. To the storm of fire and steel that defied weather and tore apart the clearest sky. To the bloody battlefields and omnipresence of death.
On 11 November 1918, France breathed a sigh of relief, which spread from Compiègne, where the Armistice was signed at dawn, to the battlefields.
Finally, after four interminable years of sound and fury, of night and terror, the guns fell silent on the Western Front.
Finally, the ominous sound of cannon fire gave way to a joyful clamour of bells and bugles which sounded out everywhere, from city esplanades to village squares.
Everywhere the victory of France and its allies was celebrated with pride. Our soldiers had not fought for nothing; their deaths were not in vain. Our homeland had been saved, and peace was finally here.
But also visible everywhere was a terrible waste, which compounded our suffering: sons mourned their fathers, fathers mourned their sons and widows mourned their husbands. Everywhere were groups of crippled and disfigured soldiers.
Today, French people from all generations and backgrounds are standing together in each French city, town and village to honour the date of 11 November.
To commemorate victory, but also to celebrate peace.
We have gathered at war memorials in communities to pay tribute and express our gratitude to all those who have defended us in the past, and all those who defend us today, to the point of sacrificing their lives.
We remember our soldiers who died for France; our many civilians who also lost their lives; our veterans whose bodies and minds would never be the same; our villages and towns that were destroyed.
We also remember the suffering and honour of all those who left their homelands in Africa, the Pacific and America to fight in France – a country they had never set foot in but nevertheless defended valiantly.
We remember the suffering and honour of the 10 million soldiers who were sent from around the world to fight in these terrible combats.
The French people are also standing together today to acknowledge our history and prevent it from being repeated.
Because the century that separates us from the terrible sacrifices made by the men and women of 1914-1918 has taught us that peace is precarious.
We know the strength with which nationalism and totalitarianism can undermine democracies and threaten the very concept of civilization.
We know the speed with which the multilateral order can collapse.
We know that the unity of Europe, built around the reconciliation of France and Germany, is more fragile than ever.
We must be vigilant. This is the message that the memory of the terrifying slaughter of the Great War must inspire in us.
So let us be worthy of the memory of all those who, one hundred years ago, lost their lives. Let us be worthy of the sacrifices made by those who ensured we could stand together today as one and at peace.
Long live peace in Europe.
Long live the Republic.
Long live France!