Battle of the Somme



Christian, Muslim and Jewish graves on the Somme.

I spent the first 17 years of my life in a French department called Somme where war memorials and cemeteries were extremely common. As regards World War I, this region is best known by the British who lost thousands of soldiers there during the Battle of the Somme; so many that this battle has been nicknamed by French historians “The Verdun of the English”.

Here is a short summary of this battle:
The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, fought from July to November 1916, was among the largest battles of the First World War. With more than 1.5 million casualties, it is also one of the bloodiest military operations recorded. The Allied forces attempted to break through the German lines along a 12-mile (19 km) front north and south of the River Somme in northern France. One purpose of the battle was to draw German forces away from the Battle of Verdun; however, by its end the losses on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun. By the end of the war the Allied losses proved replaceable, the German losses less so.
Verdun was an icon that would affect the national consciousness of France for generations, and the Somme would have the same effect on generations of British people. The battle is best remembered for its first day, 1 July 1916, on which the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead—the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army

Nowadays it is quite impressive and moving to visit these sites. All the more so as some of these young soldiers were not 18 yet; some of them having lied about their age to join the British army.

Tomorrow we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the armistice treaty between the Allies and Germany which was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest and marked the end of this war.

Another Israeli Film

After Lemon Tree a fortnight ago, Waltz with Bashir is on at our local movie theater.

Twenty-four years after Ari was a soldier in the IDF, he is contacted by a friend who wants to tell him about a recurring dream he has connected with the 1982 Lebanon War. Later that night, Ari himself has a vision about the Sabra and Shatila massacre – a vision he cannot understand. At that point he realizes that he remembers virtually nothing about that event and, following a friend’s advice, sets off on a quest to rebuild his memories.

Thus Ari meets up with former friends and fellow soldiers, but also with a psychologist and the reporter Ron Ben-Yishai so as to understand what happened there and why he can’t remember it.

This film’s format is original in that it is a documentary movie – with real interviews of the people concerned – made by the means of animation. It combines classical music, rock music, realistic graphics and surrealistic scenes together with illustrations similar to graphic novels. From an artistic point of view the film is a tour de force.

What’s more, to quote a famous website, I’d be tempted to say that only in Israel can people try and address their feeling of guilt relatively shortly after the event and in such an honest way.