'Indecent': Outrage in France after children run through WWI graves to mark battle
The Sunday ceremony to mark the centenary of the Battle of Verdun was attended by French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and some 3,400 children from the two countries.
The children ran among the graves of fallen soldiers at Douaumont – the French village where the Battle of Verdun took place in 1916 – to the sound of drumbeats, The Local reported.
The moment, choreographed by German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff, was reportedly aimed at symbolizing the chaos of the battle. However, it instead managed to draw criticism from conservative politicians.
The ceremony has been condemned by members of France's right and far-right parties, with Marine Le Pen – leader of the far-right National Front – calling it “indecent.”
“At Verdun, the 'show' consisted of jogging among the tombs. Indecent, really indecent,” Le Pen tweeted.
Le Pen's niece, an MP for the National Front, echoed her aunt's statement, saying: “[The] honor of our ancestors [has] been violated.” She went on to describe her “immense contempt” for the event's organizers.
Politicians from the center-right Les Republicains party also expressed their disapproval for the Sunday ceremony, speaking of its “indecency,”“bad taste,” and “lack of respect for the heroes of Verdun.”
Meanwhile, both Merkel and Hollande used the event as a call for European unity, 100 years after their countries fought against each other in the fierce battle.
The French president warned against “forces of division,” while the German chancellor stated that nationalism “would throw us backwards.”
À #Verdun, le "spectacle" consiste à faire un jogging au milieu des tombes. Indécent, vraiment indécent. MLP— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) May 29, 2016
"Europe has problems but Europe has also managed to do a lot and it has come a long way. In a world of global challenges it is important to develop Europe further and to push through the changes that are necessary," Merkel said.
The Battle of Verdun was one of the longest of World War I, lasting more than 300 days. A total of 300,000 soldiers were killed in the battle. France won it, eventually regaining nearly all the territory it had lost to the Germans.