Three armies, one battle, one cross: le Croix du Moulin, Jebsheim.

Together in death
United in peace

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

Croix du Moulin

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 roughly every fifteen minutes.

Croix du Moulin close upAs 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.

Croix du Moulin bw

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.

Croix du Moulin victims panel

Croix du Moulin wall

 

Battleground to place of peace

This was part of the battleground in January 1945. In the top picture below, I am standing on the bridge taking the D3 over the millrace facing the Vosges and the Rhine is a few kilometres behind me. If you look closely, you can just see the white and yellow of road signs at the right of the picture, to the right of the bush: 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 still by the millrace) is the point of progress made by the end.

Croix du Moulin view to front line    Croix du Moulin battleground

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.

Croix du Moulin damselfly

Croix du Moulin bridge    Croix du Moulin bridge close up

 

Source for dates and figures: interpretation boards for Sentier de la Paix, le Croix du Moulin, Jebsheim

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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