November 07, 2014

French Friday: L'Armistice

On Tuesday, November 11th, while Americans honor Veterans Day, the French will observe l'Armistice, the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I.  At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, French Marechal Ferdinand Foch and German Matthias Erzberger met in a railway carriage in the Compiègne Forest in Picardy  to sign the treaty to bring an end to the fighting that claimed nearly twenty million lives in four years.

Since Armistice Day was approved as a federal holiday in several Allied nations  in 1922, it has become  customary for citizens to observe a moment of respectful silence at 11:00 a.m. local time. In France, the solemn day is commemorated with special church services and military parades to war memorials around the country, most notably the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where the tricolor French flag flies in honor of the fallen.

The body of an unidentified soldier from Verdun was buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on November 11, 1920. This fallen hero serves as a symbol of all those who died in World War I, and in more recent years, as a symbol for all French military personnel who have given their lives in service of their country. An eternal flame was lit on the tomb three years later and still burns today.