The Hell of Verdun! The most terrible battle of the 20th Century lasted 300 days and nights. The culmination of total and industrial war, the battle of Verdun was agony for French and German soldiers alike - bombardment of unprecedented intensity, poisonous gas, thirst, mud, cold, lice. For the soldier of Verdun existence was merely physical suffering and an ever-present fear of death.
Verdun: a unique battlefield. ln the Red Zone, the tortured landscape still bears the scars of the terrible fighting in 1916: shell holes, destroyed villages, the remains of forts and fieldworks which played a decisive role throughout the battle.
Verdun: a focal point of European memory and a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation through death. A large number of monuments, of which the most famous is the Ossuary at Douaumont, recall the sacrifice of a whole generation that lived through events which they had no words to describe.
The Verdun Memorial at Fleury: the Great War Memorial Museum founded by Maurice Genevoix, member of the Académie Française. Presentation of the Battle of Verdun through a rich collection of artifacts, vehicles, weapons, uniforms, posters, photographs, and videos, along with the reconstruction of a small sector of the battlefield, and the sale of books and souvenirs.
Douaumont Fort OR Vaux Fort: two famous Verdun forts at the center of desperate fighting.
Douaumont Fort, the most powerful fort in the ring around Verdun, fell into German hands on 25th February, 1916. It was only retaken at the cost of great French losses on 24th October 1916.
Vaux Fort was the scene of desperate and hopeless resistance by a handful of men who held out under the orders of Commdt. Raynal, despite being isolated, shelled and gassed. Defeated in the end by thirst, they surrendered after sending out their last carrier pigeon.
The Douaumont Ossuary: inaugurated in 1932 at the heart of the battlefield, the Ossuary receives the remains of unidentified soldiers in tombs placed along a central gallery 137 meters long. At the foot of this massive war memorial lies the biggest military cemetery in France, containing the graves of 15,000 French soldiers of the Great War. Regularly visited by Heads of State, the Ossuary was the scene of a symbolic meeting in 1984 between President Mitterrand and Chancellor Kohl. Standing hand in hand, deeply moved, the two men expressed the wish to work for the future together. “We have become reconciled, we have reached understanding, and we have become friends”.
The Bayonet Trench: where legend merges with history….. Built with the aid of an American benefactor, this monument perpetuates the memory of all those who were buried alive by the shelling during this terrible battle.