Desecration of war graves mars Hollande-Merkel meeting
The desecration of dozens of graves of Germans killed in the First World War and buried in a French cemetery clouded a historic meeting yesterday between the leaders of the two nations, who urged Europeans to set aside economic worries and deepen their union.
In the medieval cathedral in Reims, France, a city battered in the two world wars, French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel marked the 50th anniversary of a meeting between France’s Charles de Gaulle and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer that paved the way for decades of cross-border partnership.
The Reims cathedral where the two leaders attended a special mass was where kings of France were long crowned, and was bombed by German planes in the First World War. It was in Reims that Germans signed their surrender to the Allies on 7 May, 1945, heralding the end of the Second World War in Europe.
On 8 July, 1962, Gen De Gaulle and Mr Adenauer shook hands in a symbolic gesture meant to bury generations of enmity between France and Germany. On Sunday, Mrs Merkel and Mr Hollande exchanged kisses.
Mr Hollande insisted that the French could keep some of their cherished national sovereignty. And he denounced vandals who desecrated at least 40 graves of Germans killed in the First World War in a military cemetery in Saint-Etienne-a-Arnes in northern France on the eve of yesterday’s meeting.
“No dark forces, much less foolish acts, can alter the deep movement of Franco-German friendship,” he said.
The reason for the attack, not far from Reims, was unclear.
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