22 Friday Aug 2014
A very nice article in the NY Times. Nicole Clark, who reports for the Times from Paris, recently retrieved her grandfather’s diary which he kept as a 17 year old German soldier, crossing in to France in August, 100 years ago. As she searched for information about him and the areas in France he had been she came across a French man who had similarly been researching the same events. They met.
Over tea, we pored over old maps and photos. As we wandered the dimly lit rooms, he stopped to show me two portraits hanging in a book-lined study. The paintings, of his great-great grandparents, had each been pierced repeatedly by the bayonets of soldiers from a German infantry regiment that had entered Mercy-le-Haut the night of Aug. 22. (My grandfather’s unit had camped in the fields until the next morning.)
I spent a long moment contemplating the names of Léon Mandy and the other civilian victims of Aug. 22, 1914, that are etched in the polished granite of Mercy’s “monument aux morts” — one of nearly 40,000 such memorials across France. They had been old men and women, mostly. One family lost members from three generations, including a 3-year-old girl.
She doesn’t know, or doesn’t say, what her grandfather’s hand might have had to do with the deaths. We know enough of course to recognize the irony of so many deaths, and so many of them against non-combatants, am0ng people who now share so much. How can we get from A to Z without passing through War? We don’t know yet….