Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking at the King Albert Monument, Nieuwpoort (Photo: © Chancellery of the Prime Minister - Belgium)

German Chancellor pays Centenary tribute in Belgium

Posted on on 29 October 2014
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The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has paid tribute to all victims of the First World War at international commemorations in Belgium marking the 100th anniversary of the First Battle of Ypres and the flooding of the coastal plains.

Mrs Merkel condemned the 'soul-less military logic' which had driven the German imperial government and generals in 1914 during a speech at the monument to Belgium's wartime leader, King Albert I, in Nieuwpoort.

It was here on the North Sea coast that the King ordered the sluices to be opened to halt the German advance during the Battle of the Yser.

Chancellor Merkel said the first ever use of chemical weapons by German troops at the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915 'passed a new threshold of cruelty.'

She continued: "When today we commemorate these terrible events here on Flanders Fields, we cannot be thankful enough for how much has changed since then.

"It is very fitting that Brussels is today the seat of the European Union. It stands for freedom, democratic values and respect for international law."

 King Philippe at the Menin Gate

Representatives from 54 countries - including France, the UK, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Algeria and Morocco - took part in the ceremonies in Flanders on October 28th 2014.

The commemorations, led by King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium, were organised as part of the Belgian Federal Government's Centenary programme. 

In Ypres, leaders attended the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, the memorial to more than 54,000 Commonwealth servicemen who have no known grave.

Belgium's new Prime Minister, Charles Michel, declared that all those who suffered and died for freedom 100 years ago should never be forgotten.

In October 1914, Ypres was at the centre of heavy fighting as the opposing Allied and German armies tried to break the deadlock which was to become the defining feature of the Western Front for more than three years.

The full text of Chancellor Merkel's speech can be read here.

Sources: German Federal Chancellery; Chancellery of the Prime Minister - Belgium.

Images: © Chancellery of the Prime Minister - Belgium

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News