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January 26, 2008 12:40 PM   Subscribe

With the death of Louis de Cazenave, Lazare Ponticelli is the last surviving French veteran of World War One, and the country has been wondering how to mark the inevitable. By contrast, Germany's response to the recent death of Erich Kaestner has been a more muted affair, indeed, all but unnoted.

Meanwhile, Britain's Henry Allingham and Harry Patch and William Stone just keep on going.

(For those interested, more comprehensive international lists can be found here and here)
posted by IndigoJones (10 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
From the CBC: "In Germany, such an event doesn't have the same kind of significance as it does in other countries," Bernhard Chiari, a spokesman for the Military Research Institute, told Spiegel Online.

Chiari said there's a stigma attached to Germany's track record in the Second World War, and the taint has spread to include the earlier war.

"Any form of commemoration of military events is seen as problematic here," Chiari told Spiegel Online.

"Our veterans only take part in public ceremonies when they are invited abroad to join commemorative events with veterans from other countries. World War I is seen as part of a historical line that led to World War II. You can't equate the two but there is much debate about it."

I wish there was more explicit recognition in the West that World War I was the first Act of World War II, and the western politics leading to, and following from, World War I are in this "historical line" leading to the disasters of the early 1940s. It might lead the west to appreciate the law of unintended consequences. I very much suspect, for example, that history will in de course consider the Gulf War and the Iraq War (with the intervening violent peace and war by proxy embargo) as a tightly linked series of events. Yet in the media, they are treated as essentially distinct events, one a victory, one heading to defeat. Makes no sense.

Here is an interview with John Babcock, Canada's last WWI veteran.
posted by Rumple at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2008

Je me souviens.
posted by furtive at 1:49 PM on January 26, 2008

I was interested to see whether any Indian (then pre-Partition) soldiers were still alive, as I know several thousand men from there fought, but none listed at Wikipedia it seems.
posted by Abiezer at 2:14 PM on January 26, 2008

Je me souviens.

Well, we've got either a centenarian or a qu├ębecois on our hands.
posted by languagehat at 2:30 PM on January 26, 2008

Harry Patch looks damn good for 110. Hell, put him next to me on a "choose an eligible bachelor" panel and I bet I get to spend the night alone.
posted by maxwelton at 2:38 PM on January 26, 2008

Dunno what the big deal is. We still have John McCain.
posted by dhartung at 3:15 PM on January 26, 2008

(No, he died in 1945. Paul Begala notwithstanding.)
posted by IndigoJones at 3:54 PM on January 26, 2008

What a desperate moment it is going to be when the last survivor finally goes.
posted by fire&wings at 4:53 PM on January 26, 2008

Soon no one will answer at all.
posted by maxwelton at 6:28 PM on January 26, 2008

Both veterans have put some emphasis on the fact that every soldier involved in WWI deserved as much honor as them. They have refused to have national ceremonies for their burial. Louis de Cazenave was a pacifist.
posted by nicolin at 1:22 AM on January 27, 2008

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