It’s been 100 years since the Battle of Verdun, the longest battle in World War One, and one of the most demanding of any military conflict, in which 300,000 soldiers were killed in 300 days and nights of unbroken fighting from February until the end of 1916.
A ceremony commemorating the centenary was held on May 29 in the pouring rain in north-eastern France. As reported by BBC News, French President François Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel “used Verdun as a symbol of both reconciliation between their nations and of EU integration.”
In a powerful moment, Hollande and Merkel jointly lit a flame in the Douaumont Ossuary, which contains the bones of the fallen.
Standing side by side, the two leaders called on Europe to show “solidarity and responsibility.”
This year, a new Memorial Museum has opened at Verdun, after more than two years of extensions and renovations. Visitors are brought face to face with history as they follow in the footsteps of a French soldier heading for the front. Read our full review of the new museum experience here.
In the summer months, there is a powerful sound and light show in Verdun called “From flames to light.” It features 250 actors on stage, 900 costumes, 1,000 projectors, and special effects to illuminate the circumstances of this horrific battle of the Great War.
For more information about the year-long programme of commemorations, visit www.verdun2016.org