An April Fool joke gone viral has rattled the cages of a few French genealogists. As explained on the FranceGenWeb blog, the blogger of Fromageplus posted (two years ago, mind you, which is a long time for anything to go viral) that the government had decided to remove the thousands of monuments aux morts, which commemorate those who died in World War I. Some of the reasons given were that the French no longer liked the monuments, that the monuments were a blot on the current France-Germany friendship and that new citizens did not understand them. The announcement was attributed to the government's anti-discrimination office, HALDE.
The monuments are everywhere. The one at the top is in the Paris Métro station of Strasbourg-Saint-Denis and lists all of the employees who died during the Great War. (We have uploaded a very large image for you to click on and read all of the names.) Many of them are in the art déco style and are quite striking. Many others, like the one above, are simple steles in villages and towns throughout the country. All are quite beloved, in fact, and it is unlikely that they will be removed any time soon, certainly not before the 100th anniversary of the war, coming up in 2014 to 2018. The folks at HALDE finally published a rather strange refutation that goes on to ramble about military pensions.
Whether in reaction to this false report or to challenge France's law forbidding photography in cemeteries or for their own cheerful reasons, the team at Geneanet have launched a collaborative programme urging users to upload photographs of all monuments, with lists of the names. They have named this category Monuments commémoratifs and they have, to date, a little over six thousand images of monuments and graves.
As a way to search for France's war dead, the Ministry of Defense's Mémoire des Hommes website is much better, for it is complete and will show the death record of the person. However, to then be able to see the monument in the home town or place of work of the person, via Geneanet's new service, is a nice little illustrative addition to online resources.
©2011 Anne Morddel