The peak of Hartmannswillerkopf in the Vosges was the stage of some of the most brutal clashes between German and French forces during WWI, earning it the grisly moniker of ‘man-eating mountain’. The summit changed hands eight times between 1914 and 1916, while 30,000 soldiers perished as futile attempts were made to drive the opponent from the rocky spur.
Due to its strategic position at an altitude of 956 m, Hartmannswillerkopf was the scene of furious battles which raged from 26 December 1914 to 9 January 1916. As one of the four national monuments to the Great War, the Crypt has undergone major restoration work and the battlefield can today be rediscovered thanks to the displays.
The new Franco-German historical centre and memorial pay homage to the men who lost their lives at Hartmannswillerkopf, recounting the cruel episode from both sides of the conflict. While the exhibits chart the horrific ‘static’ battle of a century ago, the focus is firmly on the friendship between France and Germany as leading European nations.
Featuring a highly original design the building merges seamlessly with its wooded environment. A symbol of peace and reconciliation, this “historial” carries a moving message for us all and for future generations. It is at the same time a historical, educational and emotional vessel. Not only does it provide ways to understand more about the Great War with maps and information, the regional hotspots, mountain warfare, and the daily life of a typical soldier, but it also tells the stories of the civilians behind the front and how their lives were affected by the ongoing conflict on both sides.
Historial du Hartmannswillerkpopf
1, rue Schlumberger -Colmar
Admission: € 5
Tel: +33 3 89 20 10 68
From France Today magazine
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