Thursday, November 04, 2010

Franco-Prussian War: The French Never Stopped Mourning the Loss of Their Territory

I have a significant memory from the year 1973, when I was 19 years old.  In the spring of 1973 I was a second year college student at Penn State.  I was taking a course in modern European history (History 19) taught by Claire Hirshfield, Ph.D.

In her lecture on the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, Dr. Hirshfield told the class the following anecdote:

France had been defeated and humiliated by the Prussians, and Paris was occupied by the Germans.  The Germans seized the French territory of Alsace-Lorraine, incorporating it into the newly-created German state.

France wanted Alsace-Lorraine back, especially the city of Strasbourg. France had always considered it their land. The statue representing the town of Strasbourg in the Place de la Concorde in Paris was draped in black as a reminder to Frenchmen of their defeat in the war.  The French government would keep the statue draped in black as long as Alsace Lorraine remained in German hands.  Eventually, France regained the territory some fifty years later in the First World War.  So the statue remained draped in black for almost fifty years, as a permanent reminder of loss.

It's probably significant and revealing that that anecdote made an impression on me at age 19.  Perhaps, when I was terminated from my job as a paralegal by the law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, the attorney who fired me, Dennis Race, should have asked: "Gary, what are your views on the Franco-Prussian War?"