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Centenary of World War I Battle of Verdun a day for symbolic gesture

May 29, 2016 - FRANCE

President François Hollande leads the international centenary remembrance for one of the longest and bloodiest campaigns of World War I, the Battle of Verdun.

Foreign leaders are certain to include German Chancellor Angela Merkel as France and Germany use World War I and II milestones to stress the reconciliation of their two countries. More than 300,000 French and German soldiers died in the nine-month campaign, which started on Feb 21.

General Charles de Gaulle, who was taken prisoner as a junior officer at Verdun, led the 50th anniversary commemorations on May 29, 1966. In the aftermath of the war, he had helped build the Douaumont Ossuary, which holds the skeletal remains of 130,000 of Verdun's war dead. The Mémorial de Verdun, one of the main European museums dedicated to the Great War, is situated at the heart of the battlefield.

Hollande and his German counterpart, Joachim Gauck, embraced at a remembrance service in Alsace in 2014 on the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.

Similarly, on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict, President François Mitterrand and the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl took part in a memorial service at Verdun, joining hands in front of the Douaumont Ossuary.

Battle of Verdun (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Verdun Centenary (French Gov.)

Date written/update: 2015-11-17