Verdun 1916 – “Places that Died For France”

It was at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month 1918, that the Armistice was signed at Compiégne in France and with it came a fervent hope that the “War to end all Wars” would bring lasting peace to Europe.

Armistice Day 1918 – the end of the Great War and today across France (and in many other countries around the world) people in towns and villages paused for a minute’s silence in memory of their dead.

The First World War left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing nearly a million or more lives. In addition, at least five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure.”

As one among many ways of honouring and remembering their dead the French under the “Places that Died For France” initiative have preserved the space where nine villages destroyed during the battle of Verdun in 1916 once stood.

In this film, CRIC researcher Dr Paola Filippucci discusses a unique type of commemoration that takes place on the Verdun battlefield, remembering the nine destroyed villages that were never reconstructed but remain ‘alive’.

(CRIC – Cultural Heritage and the Reconstruction of Identities after Conflict — is a multi-disciplinary project with one foot in Cambridge University UK and the other at Université Paris Sorbonne – Paris IV. It investigates the relationship between cultural heritage, conflict and identity. )

In 1919 the nine villages were declared ‘dead for France’ [mortise pour la France] , awarded medals, and retained a mayor and municipal councils named by the state.

Each municipal commission holds an annual ceremony to commemorate the village’s ‘sacrifice’ for the nation. However new forms of commemoration have also emerged by which descendants of the former inhabitants remember the lost village: heritage trails, excavations of the village remains, searches for archival documents, genealogies and photographs of the pre-war village, some of which are exhibited at the village site.
This case study highlights the extent of civilian losses in the Great War, and shows that not only people but also places can die in war, with an equally painful impact on communities and individuals.

This second clip focuses on how the memorial has evolved over time:
“The Cemetery of France”
“The title of this film cites the words used by French President Michel Lebrun in 1932 to describe the battlefield of Verdun, site in 1916 of one of the most brutal battles of the Great War. The CRIC Research Project has studied the post-war reconstruction of the battlefield and in this film, researcher Dr Paola Filippucci from Cambridge University’s McDonald Institute discusses some of the findings of the project. As she explains, partly because of the extent of destruction the battlefield was declared off-limits for ordinary settlement and turned into a forest, containing only burials, memorial monuments and vestiges of the battlefield”:

For further research information on CRIC’s case study in France: War, Landscape and Identity, see here

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