How France and Germany now view the Franco-Prussian War, 150 years on


The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 was a dramatic event in both French and German history. In France it led to regime change and, some argue, created a thirst for revenge among some French people in the lead up to World War I. Meanwhile the Prussian-led victory was accompanied by the unification of Germany, which was officially proclaimed on French soil in January 1871. Here Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis examines first how France has chosen to commemorate the 150th anniversary of this deeply-destructive war, and then interviews a German academic about how the conflict has been largely ignored on the other side of the River Rhine.

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The war veterans portfolio is not the most coveted job in any French government. Spending one's days commemorating the past and the dead is certainly not the dream of most politicians. It was Geneviève Darrieussecq who took on this thankless junior ministerial role under President Emmanuel Macron in 2017. But she cannot have anticipated that the position would also involve commemorating the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 which ended 150 years ago this January.