Château-Thierry American Monument

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The summer holiday is a perfect time to explore one’s area and discover new places. As this region is famous for the numerous and significant battles that were fought during World war One, a number of memorials have been erected as a tribute to the soldiers who crossed seas and oceans to fight for our freedom.

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The American Memorial in Château-Thierry is an impressive monument situated upon a hill near the town of Château-Thierry. It offers a wide view of the valley of the Marne River and is located about 54 miles (87 km) east of Paris. It was designed by Paul Philippe Cret and built in the 1930s. It is managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

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It commemorates the achievements of the United States forces that fought in the region during World War One when in 1918, the 2nd and 3rd United States Infantry Divisions took part in heavy fighting around the area during the Second Battle of the Marne. The monument consists of an impressive double colonnade rising above a long terrace.

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On its east facade, you can see the Great Eagle above a map showing American military operations in this region, an orientation table pointing out the significant battle sites as well as the names of the troops involved.

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On its west facade are heroic sculptured figures representing the United States and France. Can you tell which is which?

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Royallieu-Compiègne Internment Camp

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I had intended to write about a different subject altogether before I realised that today is Yom HaShoah – or rather Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; ‘Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day’) as it is officially called. To mark this day, I have chosen to write about one of the numerous French internment camps, one that is situated only an hour’s drive from where I live.

The Royallieu-Compiègne camp was an internment and deportation camp in Compiègne, France where French resistance fighters and Jews were imprisoned between June 1941 and August 1944.

About 40,000 people were deported from the Royallieu-Compiègne camp to Auschwitz and other camps in German-occupied territory. It was one of the biggest transit camps in France, from which the Germans deported political prisoners, many of whom were civilian Jewish communists. It was from the camp at Royallieu that the very first deportation train was to leave French soil on March 27th, 1942. It took over a thousand Jews to Auschwitz, as did the next one on June 5th.

The internment and deportation memorial opened on February 23, 2008. There one can learn about life in the Royallieu camp through a historic walk which leads to two of the remaining buildings. As they walk through a dozen of rooms and two corridors, visitors learn about the historical context in France and other European countries, life in the camp, deportation and extermination by the Nazis. After the barracks, one can visit the chapel, see the beginning of the escape tunnel, contemplate the wall of names and walk through the memorial garden.

One of the things that surprised and impressed me most when I visited this camp with a group of French and Swedish students last spring was how the inmates had organized cultural life in the camp. Conferences on English, Esperanto, political philosophy, history, the humanities, science and much more were given in the barracks (as is shown in the schedule above).

I can only guess but I assume that they saw intellectual improvement as a means to keep hope alive even when there was very little reason for feeling optimistic about the future. This is a message in itself. Even in dark moments, we ought never to lose hope that there will be better times.

What we are remembering today should never happen again – not to us and not to anyone else.

Never Forget!

Arras: the Squares

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Arras is an attractive town in the North of France. The town’s two great squares are stunning providing a collection of 155 unique facades of Flemish baroque architecture. In 1492 Arras had become part of the Spanish Netherlands and this explains the style of the architecture.

In Northern Europe these large town squares were originally designed to accommodate large markets which in different periods contributed largely to the prosperity of those cities.

I had been in Arras before but never for a whole day. On Sunday we walked round the town which is probably the best way to discover the cobblestoned town center and visited the museum.

Yom HaShoah

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Last year, I wrote a post about the Jewish community in my hometown during WWII and especially about a whole family who had been deported and slaughtered in the death camps.

I had shown the photographs of the memorial to a colleague who teaches History and she had started working with a class on what archives she could find to retrace as many personal histories as possible. Thus I hoped to be able to write a post about the students’ findings today to commemorate Yom HaShoah.

Unfortunately my colleague is on early maternity leave due to complications in her pregnancy and the task is far from being completed. However I hope to be able to share more when she gets back.

Leora provides a comprehensive list of links to various blogs. Take the time to check them as they are all insightful.

Nature Notes: Ethymology In My Garden

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With a little help from Wikipedia.

This week I had too little time to venture to the park or canal for real Nature photos, so I went back to my garden and spotted what had changed in two weeks.

The first photo shows a forsythia, named after William Forsyth (1737 – 1804) a Scottish botanist. He was a royal head gardener and a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society. A genus of flowering plants, Forsythia, is named in his honor.

The second shot features primula. The word primula is the Latin feminine diminutive of primus, meaning first (prime), applied to flowers that are among the first to open in spring.

In the last picture one can see pulmonaria or lungworts. The scientific name Pulmonaria is derived from Latin pulmo (the lung). In the times of sympathetic magic, the spotted oval leaves of P. officinalis were thought to symbolize diseased, ulcerated lungs, and so were used to treat pulmonary infections. The common name in many languages also refers to lungs, as in English “lungwort” and German “Lungenkraut”.
Michelle of Rambling Woods started a new meme called “Nature Notes.” This is my firs contribution. Have a look at her blog for more “Nature Notes”.

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Nature Notes: By The Canal

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A favorite Sunday walk in my area is along a canal which joins two rivers: the Somme and the Scheldt. As the weather was bright and sunny last week, we went walking there and I took a few photos.

Has your area changed? How do you feel the awakening of spring?

Michelle of Rambling Woods started a new meme called “Nature Notes.” This is my firs contribution. Have a look at her blog for more “Nature Notes”.

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An Inland Voyage

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Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson was born in 1850. He was a sickly child who was often confined to his bedroom. As a result he longed to travel and as a young man made frequent visits to France.

In 1876 he undertook a voyage along the Oise River from Belgium through France with his friend Walter Grindlay Simpson. Each man had a wooden canoe rigged with a sail, comparable in style to a modern kayak. The canoes were narrow, decked, and paddled with double-bladed paddles – similar in fact to the photo above.

In 1873 Stevenson published An Inland Voyage a travelogue about his canoeing trip. It was in fact his first published work.

This voyage is still remembered today in the region in a tiny museum near my hometown. This museum opened last summer and mainly contains one person’s collection. Marie-Jeanne Delville was born between the two world wars. Over the years, the former seamstress has collected thousands of every day life objects such as irons, washing machines, sewing machines, children’s toys, postcards and clothes. Recently she gifted her collection to her village and a museum was opened to host it.

Because Stevenson traveled in the area, the people who set up the musem decided to include his voyage in the building. I haven’t read An Inland Voyage, although I would love to now, but I enjoyed Stevenson’s novels when I read them. My favorite is The Master of Ballantrae. What is yours?

For those who wonder why the spelling of Stevenson’s name at the beginning of the post is different from what they read on book covers, here is the explanation: at about 18, Stevenson changed the spelling of ‘Lewis’ to ‘Louis’, and in 1873 he dropped ‘Balfour’. (Wikipedia)