300 days and 300 nights
There were 300 days and 300 nights of combat without a break, 300,000 dead and missing, 400,000 French and German wounded. The Battle of Verdun in 1916 was a frontal assault, the most murderous in history, between France and Germany. This struggle for annihilation, through an artillery duel without precedent, symbolises and summarises the whole war.
Through the authenticity and richness of its remains, the Battlefield of Verdun constitutes a heritage unique in the world. This vast area situated in the "Red Zone", proposed for UNESCO listing, bears the striking scars of the bitter combats of 1916. It consists of a group of remarkable sites that allow the visitor to understand the stages of the development of national remembrance.
The remarkable sites
- battle sites (where men fought) : PC Driant, the Douaumont and Vaux Forts on the right bank ; Hill 304 and Le Mort-Homme on the left bank...
- cemetery sites (where men are buried): the National Necropolis and the Douaumont Ossuary...
- remembrance sites (where homage is paid to the combattants) : The Mémorial de Verdun, the Tranchée des Baïonnettes, the Monuments to Jews and Muslims who died for France...
- sites of life (where people lived) : the destroyed villages.
Verdun is also the symbol of exemplary reconciliation which is possible between people who were former enemies, across the tombs. Echoing the meeting between De Gaulle and Adenauer in 1958, the handshake between Kohl and Mitterand in 1984, at Douaumont, sealed the rapprochement between France and Germany, the two pillars of the European Union.
Verdun, Capital of the Great War
Verdun, the best-known town in the world after Paris, provides the way in to the battlefields of the Meuse.
The cathedral town was rebuilt after the war. The River Meuse runs through it, together with a network of "Venetian" canals, and today it provides a harmonious, elegantly-refurbished environment.
The memory of the Great War is still present there, particularly through the huge Monument à la Victoire (Monument to Victory) and the Citadelle souterraine (Underground citadel) where the Unknown Soldier was chosen.
The Centre Mondial de la Paix (World Peace Centre) holds a number of cultural events, international conferences and exhibitions that encourage reflection on the history of the conflicts of the 20th century.
Each summer, the Association Connaissance de la Meuse (Know the Meuse Association) organises a Sound and Light Show, one of the finest in France, based around a scenic representation of the Battle of Verdun: "From Flames to the Light".