Events by the German Embassy: Remembrance Day & Lessons for a peaceful Europe 100 years after World War I

German Ambassador at wreath laying in Glencree

German Ambassador at wreath laying in Glencree, © German Embassy Dublin


The German Embassy has marked the centenary of the end of WWI and German Remembrance Day with two major events. The goal of the events had been to put the commemorations into a recent political context and to discuss what we can actually learn from the end of WWI for peace and reconciliation.

Lessons for a peaceful Europe 100 years after World War I


Prof. Dr. Robert Gerwarth at the Seminar in UCD
Prof. Dr. Robert Gerwarth at the Seminar in UCD © German Embassy Dublin

On Saturday 17 November, the embassy hosted a conference on “Lessons for a Peaceful Europe 100 years after World War I” together with the UCD Centre for War Studies, the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, the Goethe Institut and the Lutheran Church in Ireland. Up to 110 guests ranging from academics, students, journalists, members of the diplomatic corps, and civil servants attended the event.
Prof. Dr. Robert Gerwarth, Director of the UCD Centre for War Studies, opened the conference with a keynote on “When did the First World War end?” to highlight that in many regions World War I lasted longer than until 11 November 1918 and that peace was far from being stable in the following years. He also described where we can still observe legacies of World War I in today’s political maps and conflicts. His two colleagues Dr. Conor Mulvagh, Lecturer in Irish History, and Dr. Jennifer Wellington, Lecturer in Modern Global History, complemented the keynote by providing more background in the historical developments of the time in Ireland and beyond. 
Afterwards, Barbara Walshe, Chair of the Board of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation moderated a panel on “Using shared stories from the past to build relationships for the future”. While David O’Brien spoke about his work a Cross Border Facilitator in Ireland, Sjoerd Ewals introduced the work of the German War Graves Commission. Working at the Educational Meeting Centre at the German War Cemetery in Ysselsteyn (Netherlands), where 32.000 German soldiers are buried, Mr. Ewals described his work with young people and how he uses individual stories from fallen soldiers to make the horrors of war more tangible.

The second keynote of the conference was delivered by Dr. Almut Wieland-Karimi, Executive Director of the Centre for International Peace Operations in Berlin. Arguing that Europe does indeed also have a responsibility for peace worldwide, Dr. Wieland-Karimi described the involvement of Germany and the EU in international peace operations and how her organization prepares civilian experts for those missions. In a passionate speech, she reminded the audience of the fact that the peace we enjoy in Europe is a peace many regions of the world are longing for. In a discussion with the audience and Dr. Kieran Doyle, Assistant Director of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention, she described what scenarios she sees for the future of Europe and the world and how everybody can contribute his share to a peaceful future.

The event concluded with a panel discussion on the future of Europe with the German Ambassador to Ireland, Deike Potzel, and the Executive Director of the European Movement Ireland, Noelle O’Connell. Moderated by Hannah Deasy, Communications Director at Dublin’s Institute for International and European Affairs, they described how the people in Germany and Ireland see the future of Europe and what policy fields matter most to them, highlighting for example social and economic issues. Both described how the current internal and external challenges to the European Union have led to a widespread discussion on the future of Europe and how citizens can and should get involved in that debate.

IC strings, a musical duo from Germany, accompanied the conference with a marvelous performance of music fitting with the theme of the conference. Amongst others, they played “La Chanson de Craonne”, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  

Circle Discussion, Ecumenical Service and a Wreath-laying-ceremony in Glencree, 18 November 2018

Circle Discussion at Glencree
Circle Discussion at Glencree © German Embassy Dublin

On Sunday 18 November, German Remembrance Day, the annual commemorations in Glencree took place. The Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation hosted a circle discussion on questions around peace and reconciliation which was attended by more than 100 guests. Amongst others, French Ambassador Stéphane Crouzat, Belgian Ambassador Pierre-Emmanuel de Bauw and German Ambassador Deike Potzel where asked by Barbara Walshe to share their personal reflections on the topic. Ambassador Crouzat highlighted the importance of symbolism in reconciliation between France and Germany, giving as an example the moment when François Mitterrand reached his hand to Helmut Kohl in Verdun in 1984. Ambassador de Bauw added how important the idea and the project of the European Union had figured in his family and his own career. When discussing how peace and reconciliation can be protected in the future, Ambassador Potzel stressed the need to leave ones “echo chamber” and the need to also seek the exchange with people who do not share ones view in the future of the European Union. All agreed that what we have reached in the European Union was too precious to not protect it and work for it.

Pastor Stephan Arras from the German-speaking Lutheran Church in Ireland
Pastor Stephan Arras from the German-speaking Lutheran Church in Ireland © German Embassy Dublin

During an ecumenical service conducted by Pastor Stephan Arras from the German-speaking Lutheran Church in Ireland, pupils of St. Kilians German School Dublin presented the stories behind the lives of six German soldiers buried at the German War Cemetery Glencree. They described how difficult it had been to find out about their lives and how different their individual background had been.

Cpl K O'Brien, Piper of the Irish Air Corps
Cpl K O'Brien, Piper of the Irish Air Corps © German Embassy Dublin

The wreath-laying ceremony was accompanied by a piper and by a trumpet player. Several representatives, amongst other the French and German Ambassador, the Royal British Legion and the Irish Military, also attended the event and laid down a wreath. In her speech, Ambassador Potzel reminded that: “Each and every one of those who died in these wars left behind loved ones, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends. So many families, so many hopes destroyed, so many lives not lived.” 

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