The Blue Line – the Vosges frontier 1871 to 1914

The frontier separating Alsace from France before the Great War

Bitter grief: allegorical women on war memorials in Alsace. A post for Remembrance

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Nancy    Le Souvenir, Nancy

Le Souvenir in plas Maginot, Nancy is a bronze sculpture commemorating the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany in 1871 . It was created by Paul Dubois and erected in 1910 after his death. The two women wear the coiffes of their respective regions and Alsace, on the right, stares with bleak unseeing eyes into the mid-distance. Lorraine is so preoccupied with grief that she rests her head on her companion’s shoulder, while the two embrace.

As a consequence of the time in which Alsace and Lorraine were part of Germany, Great War memorials in Alsace tend to be different from those elsewhere. They were built at a time when Alsace had been returned to France, but during the 1914-1918 war, many local men had been fighting as German soldiers. An image of a German soldier was unlikely to be palatable, so a device often used is a bereaved woman. She represents mothers, wives and daughters and may be carrying children. She is often dressed in Alsacien costume so that she is an allegory for Alsace mourning her lost sons, which takes on another layer of meaning if you choose to think of Alsace lost to France for nearly five decades.

Bennwihr’s memorial is called Fidelité, depicting the loyalty of Alsace (with the large coiffe: bow) and Lorraine (with the soft cap) to France. It was erected in 1925 and remained in place during the Second World War. The scars and marks on the memorial testify to the violence of the battle for the Liberation in December 1944: the village was almost entirely obliterated, as my postcard shows.

Bennwihr Fidelité            Bennwihr monument and church Bennwihr

Bennwihr Ste-Odile  Ste-Odile, part of Bennwihr’s Peace memorial

The grieving woman below is the figure on Illhausern’s memorial to the dead of both wars, though she was part of the original Great War memorial. Civilian deaths are listed on brass plaques on the wall of the church. Occupied by the Germans from 1940 onwards, my postcard shows that the village and original church were almost obliterated in the combats of December 1944.

Illhausern memorial 2     Illhausern

Illhausern memorial 1          Illhausern église sinistrée

Memorials showing bereaved women with their fatherless children include Kintzheim [below]

Kintzheim         Kintzheim scene

and Zellenberg [below].

Zellenberg

Sometimes a women is shown alone, distraught with grief.

Westhalten         Westhalten 2    Westhalten

And sometimes all she has is a corpse.

Thanenkirch A nos morts Thannenkirch

All photos and postcards my own.

Author: Gwyneth Roberts, mightygwyn

History amateur with a fountain pen and a camera. In 'The Blue Line Frontier', I dip into scenes of life in Alsace and the Vosges during the period before the Great War. My 'Shot Silk' blog is more random: it looks this way and that.

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