Leaders of France And Germany In Poignant Show Of Unity 100 Years After WWI

It was a stirring moment summed up by one word: "Unis."

One hundred years after the guns of World War One fell silent, the leaders of France and Germany held hands and rested their heads against one another in a poignant ceremony to mark the signing of the Armistice peace agreement.

President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspected troops from a joint Franco-German Brigade before unveiling a plaque paying tribute to the reconciliation and renewed friendship between the foes of two world wars.

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More than 3 million French and German troops were among an estimated 10 million soldiers who died in the Great War of 1914-1918. Much of the heaviest fighting was in trenches in northern France and Belgium.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a ceremony at the glaze of the Forest of Rethondes in Compiegne, France. Photo: AAP

A German delegation signed the Armistice before sunrise on Nov 11, 1918, in a private train belonging to the commander of French forces, Ferdinand Foch, parked on rail track running through the Compiegne Forest. Hours later, at 11.00 a.m., the war ended.

“Europe has been at peace for 73 years. It is at peace because we want it to be, because Germany and France want peace,” Macron told several youngsters, with Merkel at his side, referring to the peace since the end of World War Two in 1945.

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“And so the message, if we want to live up to the sacrifice of those soldiers who said ‘Never again!’, is to never yield to our weakest instincts, nor to efforts to divide us.”

Merkel said she was moved by the ceremony and described Macron’s invitation as a “very symbolic gesture.”

Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel sign a guest book inside a replica of the wagon where the Armistice was signed in 1918. Photo: Reuters.

In a powerful show of unity, Macron and Merkel sat inside the reconstructed teak-lined rail wagon in which the peace charter was signed and looked through a book of remembrance. After each signed the book, they held hands a second time.

Afterwards, Macron shared a photo of the ceremony on Twitter, with just word: "unis", meaning "united".

Lead photo: Reuters.