Toespraak onthulling Christmas Truce monument
We will be celebrating Christmas in just three days from now. A hundred years ago, the warring parties were also rejoicing in this celebration of light and peace on the frontline.
“One human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of the war”, is how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described the Christmas truce of 1914.
Diaries of other soldiers show that similar events took place at many other places along the frontline. British soldier Albert Moren, who was stationed just outside la Chapelle d’Armentières, says:
“It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground. About seven or eight in the evening there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and there were these lights. I don’t know what they were. And then they sang ‘Stille Nacht’ – ‘Silent Night’.
I shall never forget it.”
I would like to thank the town of Mesen and the other initiators, including British artist Andrew Edwards as well as fundraisers Chris Butler and Tom Calderbank and congratulate them on this impressive statue.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Heritage plays an important part in our remembrance project, all the more so now that we no longer have any living witnesses. Military cemeteries, bunkers, shelters, battlegrounds, lines of defence and landscapes strewn with relics are the tangible traces of the Great War. This heritage is the last bridge between past and present.
A memorial such as the one we are inaugurating today also has its place in this. It not only symbolises the events of a century ago but also embodies a contemporary message: a message of humanity, of reconciliation and of peace.
Values that are under attack today and which we need to cherish now more than ever.
Geert Bourgeois, Minister-president van de Vlaamse Regering en Vlaams minister van Buitenlands Beleid en Onroerend Erfgoed