Today is the 11th of November, the day of St. Martin, Martinus turonensis, patron saint of soldiers, and France.
You may know the famous story about Martin: As Roman soldier he met a beggar who was nearly dying from cold. Martin took his sword, cut his cloak in half and gave the garment to the man.
It’s Day of Rememberence, Veteran’s Day, Day of Armistice, when finally the worst slaughter mankind had inflicted on itself until then was officially ended in that train waggon in Compiègne on 11.11.1918. The 19th century’s fin de siecle longing for “a purifying thunder” (“ein reinigendes Gewitter”) ended in the Flanders trenches, the 20th century started with a massacre which sowed out the seeds for the coming atrocities: The first worldwar is “the great seminal catastrophe of this century” (“die Urkatastrophe des 20. Jahrhunderts”), as George F. Kennan put it.

They signed that paper on the day dedicated to the soldier, who used his weapon to do something good, in a gesture of humanity in a barbarous time, then and now.

15 thoughts on “11.11.

  1. it never ceases to amaze me that we can remember with ceremony those who have fought and fallen, yet when it comes to avoiding war, we rush in without thought for the consequences. today is also my son’s birthday. i remember those not with us because of him and the fact that many other mothers cry out of sadness and loss today. peace.

  2. Even in times of war, there are displays of great humanity and kindness.

    Man is a very fickle species… so adept at rending each other asunder, and yet also so very capable of the most intense tenderness.

    It’s confusing, isn’t it.

  3. Mago, the questions I have in my comment are born out of ignorance so I hope I dont offend. They are genuine questions to you as both a German and a historian.

    I have been doing a lot of research into my ancestry this last year. So at the two minute silence today I was able to name in my mind ancestors who had died in the Great War. In the uk at the moment I think it is in the public consiousness that we are not doing enough for our boys who are dying in Afghanistand and Iraq, or indeed coming back maimed.

    Mago, are their cemetry’s across europe honouring the German dead? Is Armistice thought of in the same way in Germany? I hope so. I didnt do much history in school and have to admit I know nothing about the rights or wrongs of WW1. I am conscious that history is written by the “victors.” I hope you reply that in Germany you honour your dead in WW1 and 2. Because whatever the rights or wrongs of war, we have young men who are honouring and trusting the state that they are doing the right thing.

    Oh and as a historian, have you traced your family ancestry.

    Oh and thanks for your comment on my blog. I was talking nonsense indeed. I shouldnt be so defeatist.


    You are a cool dude!

  4. Savannah
    Peace. Yes, the idea could slowly creep in, that mankind is unable to learn from earlier experiences, forgets experiences … maybe “mankind” as a spiritual learning body does not exist and it is down to the individual only.

    See my comment to Savannah. Ach …

    Basically bipolar maybe.


    A) The snake is a veggie.
    B) The snake waits for winter.
    C) The snake diagnosis the hamster as connatural soul and moves to a higher level.
    D) The hamster is a killer.

  5. Kahless 1
    You do NOT offend me, my dear. There are far too many cemeteries of German soldiers over Europe and other countries, from “Aegypten bis Usbekistan”: It is the German Kriegsgräberfürsorge – loosly: War Grave commission – that takes care. Here on the right side you can choose the country (“Land”) and see what war cemeteries are there. In Great Britain the central place is Cannock Chase, with nearly five thousand dead men from both worldwars, pows, shot down pilots … including the Zeppelin bombers from WWI.
    The 11.11. in Germany is not in the public consciousness as day the First Worldwar ended, I am sorry to have to tell you this. Traditionally it is seen as the beginning of the Carneval-season in Rhineland. The end of WWI in Germany has no special standing, mostly because – well: There was too much going on like revolution, civil war. And what is most important: From the beginning the German High Command and the old Imperial “elites” were telling the “stabbed-from-behind-myth”, the “Dolchstoßlegende” (ger., eng.) to the public, that willingly and happily accepted it.
    It must be a “Verschwörung”, a kind of conspirancy, a “Komplot” that led to the desastrous end of the war – a generation dead, the Kaiser in exile, the old order destroyed, revolution in the streets, all in vain – a culprit must be found. The silly Treaty of Versailles did nothing to ease the situation.
    So this date commonly was seen as the date of the defeat and treason.
    To make it absolutely clear: This is sheer madness and absolutely untrue: There was no conspirancy, nobody did commit treason (Hochverrat).
    We have the “Volkstrauertag” (ger., eng.), which was installed 1919 as Republican Day of Rememberence, and so it was re-established after WWII in the year 1948 – in the western sectors. To brake with the tradition of the Nazis which made the “Vokstrauertag” a “Heldengedenktag”, a hero worshipping affair, the date was shifted from Sunday Reminiscere (sometimes around Easter) to November. It is a central and important affaire in the Bundestag, the German Parliament, the Bundespräsident – the head of state – gives a speech in front of chancellor, cabinet and corps dipolmatique.
    It is dedicated to All victimes of war and terror.

  6. Kahless 2
    What you say about writing history, that the victors would write the (accepted version of) history, is something I can not accept. For philosophical reasons and for practical, as the example of WWI can show.
    Shortly after the end of WWI the really great and large editions of the files (“Kriegsakten”) started, at all sides of participants, English, French, German, Italian – except Russian, but they really had other problems.
    The main idea of the historians in these day, all of them as a generation coined by the history they just had lived through and by the common ideas of historism – THE ruling idea in these days that history would just have to show “how it was” – the main idea they all shared was that one would just have to read the “objective” sources, the files, and – voila – “truth” would pop up like mushrooms after rain (poppies after bloodbath? Sorry.).
    It did not.
    The main argumentation was about the beginning of the war and about who’s guilty? They interpreted their sources for the coming years and no result was found – and just twenty (20 !) years after the end of the first slaughter the second begun, only 14 years after 11.11.18 the Fuehrer took over and there was no more idea of an “objective” history based on files. In Germany the discussion was over, or it never had taken place.
    So my point is, that not the victors wrote the history of August 1914 (at least until the 1960s), because they would have wanted to produce their idea of truth and history, BUT because the defeated did not take part in the common effort to write and to discuss – au contraire: A part of the society, and a very powerful one, invented it’s own version of history and reality and took this as a rule of action, the above mentioned “stab-dagger”-version of history, German edition.
    Philosophically I dissent with only the victors writing, because always everybody involved – victor or whatever – writes or invents his own history: It is impossible today to create the “one-for-all-version”, there is no universal truth in manmade history.
    Truth can be “seen” and understood and what a historian does is to deal with human lifes – but there one reaches another dimension of perception and speaking as historian has to end there.
    As historian I can only try to repeat, to understand another man’s truth that made him do and act the way he did, must be limited to a subjective truth. In there lies the difficulty of writing cultural history.

  7. Sadly history seems to be re-written by advertisers and TV producers these days. Lazy people, in many nations, who never cared much for history or we’re lied to from the beginning, seem to just accept these new versions as fact.

    It is frustrating, but I shall not digress any further.

  8. Hello Mago! What an apt piece for the occasion. I maintain honor and respect for the soldiers. However difficult it is to reconcile that respect with the reality of the wars which call them to duty. And of course reality seems to have become subjective. So I am never sure of anything but that the truth is good at evading our history books. I suppose I am still making my shift from idealist to realist.

    Thanks for popping by. I have been recovering from that piggy flu, and while I am even more behind than usual (!) I was very happy to hear from you.

    I hope you’re doing well:)

  9. Nimh
    Just wonder!

    Hey, lady! This is a fine surprise, good to hear from you: The piggy flue – ay Caramba. Hope the children did evade it or at least did not suffer too much from it! I got an injection against the normal flue last week and since then I feel pretty awful, but now it’s better, no more headaches. Around here nothing has changed (still?) and I have to collect myself for the coming nightshift.

    Thank you for coming by my dear! I hope we’ll meet now and then in the web. Let me squeeze you: {Portia}

  10. Yes, I meant to mention that. The kids got sick but were spared the worst, which was a huge relief as they were the main concern. I hope your shot will do the trick and you will not have to deal with it. A big hug to you, Mago! I hope the nights pass quickly, or are interesting:)

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