PARIS – For the first time since World War I, the leaders of Germany and France held a joint ceremony on Wednesday to commemorate the end of the conflict, saying it is now time to celebrate their countries’ reconciliation and friendship.
“French-German friendship is sealed with blood,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said under the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his side.
Together they laid a wreath of flowers at the tomb and symbolically relit the perpetual flame above it to mark the 91st anniversary of the end of World War I.
“This small flame is also … the flame of hope,” Sarkozy said.
The bold departure from traditional Armistice Day commemorations came two days after Sarkozy traveled to Germany to help fete the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“We will never forget to what point the French suffered because of the Germans in the first half of the 20th century,” Merkel said. Still, “One must learn to rise above one’s history” and “there is a force that can help us: the force of reconciliation.”
She noted that France and Germany are now allies that use the same currency, helped create the European Union and now both have troops fighting in the U.S.-led war against Taliban in Afghanistan.