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Europe Marks Centennial of WWI

  • Left to right, Great Britain Prince William, his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, French President Francois Hollande, Belgian Queen Mathilde and King Philippe, German President Joachim Gauck, Spanish King Felipe and Luxembourg Hereditary Grand-Duke Prince Guillaume attend a ceremony at the Cointe Inter-allied Memorial, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I (WWI) in Liege, Belgium, Aug. 4, 2014.
  • French President Francois Hollande (left) and German President Joachim Gauck pay their respects during a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, at the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkop, in Wattwiller, eastern France, Aug. 3, 2014.
  • The hands of French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck are seen during a stone-laying ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the100th anniversary of World War I, at the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkopf, in Wattwiller, eastern France, August 3, 2014.
  • French President Francois Hollande shakes the hand of a man wearing a World War I uniform after a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, at the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkop, in Wattwiller, eastern France, Aug. 3, 2014.
  • French President Francois Hollande (left) and German President Joachim Gauck attend a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the100th anniversary of World War I, at the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkopf, in Wattwiller, eastern France, Aug. 3, 2014.
French, German Presidents Mark World War I Anniversary
VOA NewsLisa Bryant

Former foes have gathered in the Belgium city of Liege to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, one of the grimmest episodes of Europe's history that laid the groundwork of World War I.

The ceremony in Liege gathered heads of state and royalty from across Europe who paid homage to the nearly 17 million soldiers and civilians who died during the war. They placed white roses on a wreath at the Allied Memorial. On August 4, 1914, Germany invaded neutral Belgium to gain access to France. Britain declared war on Germany the same day, unleashing four years of bloodshed that would forever mark Europe.

Britain's Prince William, his wife Catherine, French President Hollande, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, King Philippe of Belgium and German President Joachim Gauck attend a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI in Liege, Aug. 4, 2014.Britain's Prince William, his wife Catherine, French President Hollande, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, King Philippe of Belgium and German President Joachim Gauck attend a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI in Liege, Aug. 4, 2014.
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Britain's Prince William, his wife Catherine, French President Hollande, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, King Philippe of Belgium and German President Joachim Gauck attend a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI in Liege, Aug. 4, 2014.
Britain's Prince William, his wife Catherine, French President Hollande, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, King Philippe of Belgium and German President Joachim Gauck attend a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI in Liege, Aug. 4, 2014.

In speeches, many like King Philippe of Belgium applied lessons of the Great War to events today.

King Philippe said the anniversary was a time to reflect on the responsibility of leaders to preserve peace and bring unity, which remains a major challenge.

Those attending the ceremony included French President Francois Hollande and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck. On Sunday, the French and Germany presidents were in Alsace to mark the centenary of Germany's declaration of war on France.

France's President Francois Hollande stands with German President Joachim Gauck in the crypt of the the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkop, in Wattwiller, eastern France, Aug. 3, 2014.France's President Francois Hollande stands with German President Joachim Gauck in the crypt of the the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkop, in Wattwiller, eastern France, Aug. 3, 2014.
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France's President Francois Hollande stands with German President Joachim Gauck in the crypt of the the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkop, in Wattwiller, eastern France, Aug. 3, 2014.
France's President Francois Hollande stands with German President Joachim Gauck in the crypt of the the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkop, in Wattwiller, eastern France, Aug. 3, 2014.

Once again, Hollande used the occasion to call for action against current bloodshed. He said it was impossible to remain neutral faced with events like the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine, and conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Gaza.

Britain's Prince William recalled how European beachgoers in Belgium found their summer holiday shattered by the outbreak of the Great War.

"During four terrible years, those same Europeans were engulfed by killing and destruction. Among the very first victims were the people of Belgium, whose resistance was gallant as their suffering was great," he said.

The war hit Liege early and hard. The city sustained two days of heavy shelling. On August 22, 1914, 70,000 soldiers were killed in a single day of fighting.

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Comments
     
by: Nilremo from: Kissimmee, Florida
August 04, 2014 7:11 PM
My only comment is to quote part of this poem, written by a Canadian officer who fought in this war, this in my opinion, says everything about that horrible carnage:

"In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
between the crosses, row and row,
that marks our place and in the sky,
the larks still bravely singing fly
scarcely heard amid the guns below

We are the dead, short days ago
we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
loved and were loved
and now we lie in Flanders fields"

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