A hundred years have passed since the guns of the Great War fell silent. Last weekend, my home region of Savoie joined the rest of Europe in mourning those four years of machine-augmented carnage. Once a Franco-Italian Kingdom of the Alps, Savoie was still a newcomer into the French Republic by 1914, yet seemed eager to enlist her youth into the French army. For their familiarity with rough terrain, Savoyard mountaineers were thrown in numbers at German forces dug into the hilly range of the Vosges, where they earned the moniker of (wait for it) blue devils. A full third of them never returned to the Alps, and joined the millions of fallen on the green fields of France.
Nationalism dictates that some nations deserve and ought to dominate others. In 1914, as it inevitably does, this became reason enough to send waves of Savoyards at Bavarian or Saxon trenches. It took half a century for Europe to learn from the sacrifice of the blue devils and their generation, but in time we secured a miraculous peace, and enshrined shared ideals in the common institutions of the EU. At the centennial of the November 1918 Armistice, nationalism rears its head once more as political leaders seek to fan and exploit distrust among nations. From the horror of the trenches, the diaries and letters of blue devils told dreams not of conquest, but of a world at peace; we owe it to their memory to reject the hideous ideology of nationalism, and commit to cooperation among nations.
Epidemiology Ph.D. student