A few years ago my wife and I stayed in an apartment in the Alsace region of France for a couple weeks. What a beautiful area, with its small villages, each with at least one winery and bakery, bright flowers below the windowsills, and gushing mountain streams running through many of the towns. However, we happened one day to visit a town named Siglosheim that sat beneath a big hill. On the top of the hill was a cemetery that held the bodies of 1,400 of the Allied troops killed in one of the bloodiest engagements of World War II, The Battle of the Colmar Pocket, beginning late 1944 and ending three months later. It was difficult to escape the tragic mood of the place, so quiet up there on a sparkling autumn day. But something that caught my eye resonated with me after hearing of the attacks on Paris earlier this year. I think that the Iglosheim cemetery reveals something about why Paris is so troubled today.
From Colmar to Paris
In the Battle of the Colmar Pocket
American G.I.’s, and
Moroccan Mountain Troops fought
three months in bitter cold to
cleanse France of the Nazis,
drive them across the Rhine.
All this unimaginable now, looking down
from the Siglosheim cemetery
toward Colmar and other towns, with their
schools, churches and bakeries bordered by
golden vineyards glowing in autumn sun.
Yet these vineyards were planted in soil
darkened by the blood of thousands.
The French, ever seeking symmetry of design,
segregated even the graves: in the middle,
headstones of Christians and a few Jews,
flanked by two sections, just for Muslims.
Still in Paris:
the Christians, the Jews,
the Muslims, the Nazis,
in Paris still…