Croatia Marks 100 Years of End of WWI

By 11 November 2018

ZAGREB, November 11, 2018 - In marking the centenary of the end of World War I, we remember one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of humankind which claimed the lives of ten million soldiers and eight million civilians and whose far-reaching and fatal consequences deeply defined the 20th century, leaving an indelible mark on the collective conscience of preset-day Europe, built on commitment to lasting peace and cooperation between once warring European nations, the government said on Sunday in a statement on the WWI end anniversary.

As a watershed event in modern European history, the armistice reached on 11 November 1918 marked the end of the Great War and terrible human suffering as well as paving the way to a number of peace agreements which changed the political order of the then world as well as the geopolitical picture of a large part of Europe, the government said.

The painful memories of the 20th century which brought Europe two and Croatia, unfortunately, three big wars should first and foremost serve as a lesson to the international community to be more responsible and more active in strengthening global security and peace as well as in preventing conflicts and wars between peoples, so that such human suffering never happens again, the government said.

As a member of the European Union and NATO which responsibly and equally participates in the resolution of numerous global issues and challenges, Croatia is committed to multilateralism and respect for international law, which is the foundation of lasting peace and stability in the world, the government said.

Joining an international initiative of countries which were hit the hardest by WWI, the government coordinated projects commemorating the centenary of its end, honouring all the victims from Croatia as well as all those killed here.

Over the past four years, scientific and cultural institutions, associations, libraries, museums, schools, towns and municipalities around Croatia participated in marking the centenary. Around Europe, Croatian embassies participated in events commemorating Croatian troops killed in countries hit by WWI. Croatian scientists also took part in seminars on WWI held abroad.

The marking of the end of World War I brought together in Zagreb on Sunday representatives of the winners and the losers, who said reconciliation between former enemies was possible and warned that millions of victims were a reminder that peace and freedom should never be taken for granted.

Diplomats from Great Britain, France, Canada and Germany attended mass at Zagreb Cathedral.

The German ambassador's charge d'affaires, Herald Seibel, said they came to the cathedral to pray for peace and that the end of WWI was a day which acted both as a reminder and a warning. "We wish to show the world that not only peace, but reconciliation too, is possible. That's why we are here with our former enemies and today friends," he told Hina.

Remembering the millions of casualties, French Ambassador Corrine Meunier said working on peace was a "constant job." "There are many places in the world where people must start to work on true reconciliation, just as Germany and France did. Today we are together with the British, Canadian and French ambassadors to show that nothing is impossible when it comes to peace and reconciliation."

British Ambassador Andrew Dalgliesh said one must never forget how horrible war was. War is the last means, when all other steps fail. After all, that's why we have professional armies. But the message of WWI is: Don't forget how much you will pay for that and how many people will be killed, he added.

Canadian Ambassador Daniel Maksymiuk said those killed in WWI were a reminder that peace and freedom should never be taken for granted. We must be grateful that today we are friends and allies. We are here to say: Never again to the tragedy and disaster we saw 100 years ago, he added.

A series of events commemorating the end of WWI ends in Paris today, with 80 heads of state and government attending, including Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron. In the afternoon they will take part in the Paris Peace Forum.

Mass was also attended by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and representatives of parliament and the president's office.

Cathedral rector Josip Kuhtić said in his sermon that peace-building unconditionally required the firm will to respect other people and nations and their dignity. He said all victims deserved respect, without selective approaches, and asked those attending to pray for all those killed in WWI and all wars around the world.

After the service, Prime Minister Plenković told reporters they came to pay their respects to all the victims and to once again remember what was most important - peace, solidarity and international cooperation as the backbone of the international order and stable relations in the world. "Today marks 100 years of the November 11 when an armistice was signed in Compiegne, marking the end of WWI, the Great War, which claimed more than 18 million victims," he said and added "that end and the peace agreements that followed completely changed the map of this part of Europe, but also defined the world's future."

For more on Croatian history, click here.