Ils sont réunis dans la mort
Unissons-nous dans la paix
Sie sind im tode vereint lässt
Uns auch im frieden einig sein
They are together in death
Let us unite in peace
La Croix du Paix
The memorial was built on the site of the old mill at Jebsheim, Alsace. The mill and the village were destroyed during the battle which raged from 02.30h on 25th January to 19.30h on 30th January, 1945, when the Americans pushed the German troops back towards the Rhine. In that time, in inhumane and bitter winter conditions, 1034 men were killed and more 2000 wounded. That is one death every fifteen minutes.
As time has passed, there has been a spirit of reconciliation between the former adversaries and the memorial recognises the dead of all three armies: French, American and German. The three facets of the cross represent the three nations and the elegant, peaceful inscription is written in three languages. The armies and units who fought here are listed on bronze plaques, but these are only brought out for official ceremonies, as the first versions were stolen.
The monument was the concept of an American and two French men who fought at Jebsheim and it was inaugurated in June 1988. One aspiration is to bring the message of peace to young people and future generations.
Le mur du souvenir
There is also a wall in memory of Alsaciens and Mosellans who were victims of war in violation of their international rights: those interned, those deported, those who were incorporated into the enemy army, those who were prisoners of war, those who were injured or permanently disabled, the fighters in the Resistance in Alsace and in the Free French Army. It recalls people’s long journey of suffering and sacrifices beginning in 1940 and leading to their tragic destiny.
Battleground to place of peace
This was the battleground in January 1945. In the top picture below, I am standing facing the Vosges and the Rhine is behind me. You can just see a road sign at the right of the picture: this was roughly the position of the front line at the beginning of the battle, and where I am standing in the second picture (I’m by the millrace) is the point of progress made by the end.
This is a very peaceful location, disturbed only by the occasional passing cyclist or tractor and one can sit on the old stones by the former millrace, thinking of the family who made their living here and the dreadful destruction which was the cost of liberation. It seemed strangely beautiful and appropriate that the mill site, now a place for peace and reflection, is now colonised by these stunning, iridescent damselflies.