Friday, November 11, 2011

Un musée à Meaux

A museum in Meaux...

...should be an instant must-see for World War I buffs. Reuters takes a look at the reason why.

The museum in Meaux, 40km (25 miles) northeast of Paris, features tens of thousands of objects produced during the war, from rifles to crisply ironed uniforms, from photographs to toothbrushes.

The collection, among Europe's most extensive, was put together by Jean-Pierre Verney, 65, an amateur archeologist who worked for years as a photographer before becoming an archivist at France's Ministry for Veterans.

Verney, who describes himself as a child of World War Two, said he developed a fascination for the war of the trenches as a child when his parents took him on holiday near a battle site in France's Aisne region.

At the age of 15 he hitchhiked to Verdun -- synonymous in French minds with the slaughter that characterized much of the fighting in World War One -- to scour for memorabilia. The collection he built up over years was stored in his home.

While curators from Berlin to Boston had their eyes on the collection, it was the mayor of Meaux, who is also leader of Sarkozy's UMP party, who won the right to make an offer, buying it for 600,000 euros ($815,000).
At least one British newspaper says that while there is much to see at the new museum, there also is a gaping hole.
The museum does contain, understandably, elaborate depictions of the French war effort. There is also an extensive section on the involvement of the Americans. But you will have to look hard to find a proper tribute to the Tommies. British and Commonwealth troops were being blown to pieces for three long years before America joined in. If the reports are correct, it is either a shameful oversight or a snub.
It reminds me of those commemorations of the 65th anniversary of D-Day in 2009 when President Sarkozy invited President Obama to join him on the Normandy beaches. Yet he neglected to invite the only head of state who was in uniform at the time - namely the Queen.
The New York Times examines why the first World War resonates so powerfully in France.
More than 116,500 American troops died in World War I in less than six months, slaughtered in a war that was supposed to end all wars. In this region of France — today a lush, rainy carpet of fields and hills — roughly 300,000 troops were killed or wounded on all sides in the summer of 1918, 70,000 of them American. They were vital to the successful effort to block the Germans from advancing on Paris, about 60 miles away and accessible now by a suburban train.
The battle here is considered to have been crucial, ending a string of German successes and thwarting Germany’s push to achieve victory before the American Army arrived in full strength.
The immaculate American cemetery at Belleau and another one nearby, known as the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and laid out like an open-air cathedral, together contain more than 8,000 American graves. The headstones of white Italian marble are set in ranks, like a parade formation of the dead.

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