Address by Canadian Ambassador to Germany at the Remembrance Day Ceremony 2019
Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Stéphane Dion, Ambassador to Germany and Special Envoy to the European Union and Europe
Representatives of Commonwealth Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs, Meine sehr geehrten Damen und Herren,
We have made the choice to stand together, this morning, in solemnity and dignity, at the Remembrance Day Ceremony, in the Berlin Commonwealth Cemetery, as it is happening across the world at memorial sites, as it has been repeated every year for more than a century, and as it should be repeated year, after year, after year.
We made the choice to stand together this morning. It is a choice. The right choice, for two fundamental reasons: to remember, and to hope. Pour nous souvenir et pour espérer. Um zu gedenken und zu hoffen.
To remember, both the horror of war and the courage of the brave servicemen and women who fought with the hope that it would be the war to end all wars, “la Der des Ders”.
To remember the trauma of war and pay tribute, right here, where are interred the remains of soldiers, sailors and air crews from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the then undivided India and Poland.
To honour and commemorate their memory and to remember that there is no greater sacrifice than someone giving their life for others.
Maybe it is not possible for most of us to fully measure this sacrifice in all its magnitude, those of us, whom have had the rare good fortune to have never been sent to the frontline of war.
By the end of the First World War, more than 620,000 women and men from Canada and Newfoundland had served; an incredible contribution for a nation of eight million people. Over 66,000 sacrificed their lives and more than 172,000 were wounded, horrendous statistics that do not even take into account all of those who were psychologically wounded, long after the guns fell silent.
More than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served during the Second World War, while Canada had a population of only eleven million. We, Canadians of today, who are living in peace and security, cannot fathom such a mountain of sacrifice, but we have a duty to remember.
During these Remembrance Day ceremonies, often we feel a bit pinched by the cold, whipped by the wind, wet by the rain. Perhaps these minor discomforts can help us to feel in our flesh, in our heart, the immense gratitude we owe to those who lie under our feet.
Will we ever be able to conceive the sum of courage and suffering that our brave faced, as they advanced across treacherous lands, amid heavy machine gun and artillery fire, wading through mud up to their knees – if not up to their waist – with little cover from the hail of bullets and shrapnel, and pushing past countless shell holes filled with cold, filthy water and, all too often, the remains of fallen fellow soldiers?
It took all these horrors, all these nightmares, countless lives broken, stolen, mowed down, for European nations, after having slaughtered each other for centuries, to finally understand that life in peace, concord and harmony among neighbours and friends, was the best and most inspiring example, the most beautiful gift they could have given to a humanity that needed so much hope.
It is this hope of peace that we owe as the legacy of those who have valiantly fought, so that we may live in peace. We express our gratitude and admiration for those who still stand tall today, deployed in missions in difficult regions around the globe, to counter terrorism and act as a force for peace and security, ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice for Canada, for our countries, for peace, democracy, justice, and universal rights.
We must never lose hope for a peaceful world. Humankind may indeed improve itself, may well understand the bitter lessons of history and learn from its tragic errors. Anyone who doubts this must come to Germany, the terrible enemy of the past, now an ally, a friend whom we embrace and an admirable country that we cherish.
What really matters is that we make the choice to remember and to hold onto hope. Ce qui compte vraiment, c’est que nous fassions le choix de nous souvenir et de toujours garder espoir. Was wirklich zählt, ist, dass wir die Wahl treffen, uns zu erinnern und immer die Hoffnung zu behalten.
Lest we forget.
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