Exhibition "Letters & Artworks From War – Renefer: 1914-18"- National WWI Museum
Remarks by Consul General of France Vincent Floreani on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition "Letters & Artworks From War – Renefer: 1914-18" at the National WWI Museum in Kansas City (MO).
(October 27, 2014)
Dear Matthew Naylor,
I am very honored to be with you, in this magnificent national museum dedicated to the First World War, for a special commemorative event.
The First World War – the “Great War”, as we call it - represents an unprecedented event in the history of humanity. Throughout the world, it caused political, social, economic, and cultural upheavals.
The United States of America played a major role in this conflict. Its engagement started well before 1917. American volunteers were present in France as early as 1914. The US mobilized more than 4 million soldiers and a financial aid that would represent today 500 billion dollars. It helped secure the victory of the Allies.
The long-standing French-American friendship was strengthened even further through this conflict.
A century after the outbreak of the war, France wishes to honor the American engagement.
The French Consulate in Chicago made this commemoration one of our priorities.
With American partners, we are organizing a number of events this fall and will continue until 2017: exhibitions, conferences, film screenings and educational tools for schools from kindergartens to universities.
Our aim is to inform the general public of the major consequences of WWI. We want to focus in particular on the transmission of common values, across the last century, from one generation to another, in France as in America.
The importance of the National World War 1 Museum of Kansas City is recognized in the United States and in the world. Its influence is not only national but extends to other continents. It is at the heart of a network that we wish to reinforce.
Since 2006, this museum has played a central role in keeping the memories of World War I alive, paying tribute to the soldiers, transmitting essential human values to new generations.
Through your impressive permanent collection, your temporary thematic exhibitions, your educational activities, and your conferences, you are the living memory of the First World War in the United States.
Thank you for hosting an exhibition dedicated to the artist-soldier, Renefer. The works of Renefer are displayed with their historical and social background.
Renefer was mobilized with the first regiment of engineers in 1914. He was 35. He left behind his wife and his eight-year old daughter, Raymonde, who he affectionately nicknamed Belle Petite Monde - Beautiful Little World.
He told her the daily life, in the trenches, of the “poilus” - the unshaven. He did it through a series of drawings and simple but moving texts.
Doing so, he succeeded in describing the war, while hiding for his young daughter the most terrible events.
Later - at 7 pm – I encourage you to attend a conference with Marc Crépon. Professor Crépon is chair of philosophy at the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris.
He is the author of sixteen books in French, including “The Thought of Death” and “the Memory of War”.
He will give a lecture on “The Love of the Homeland, a Controversial Notion”. Drawing from texts by renowned French authors, he will talk in particular about the link between homeland and patriotism, how these notions can sometimes be manipulated by war mongers. He will likely refer also to the notion of hatred.
I’m really grateful to the National World War I Museum of Kansas City for these two events: Renefer exhibition and Marc Crépon’s conference.
I want to thank Matthew Naylor, director of the museum, all the volunteers who have contributed to this event, especially Linda Trout, for their investment in this project.
For me, these events tonight are the beginning, I hope, of a long collaboration between France and you in the coming years.
Contacts have been made with the Historial de Péronne in France, your French counterpart.
Our objective is to develop common projects, for example: traveling exhibitions or complementary information on both websites.
Thank you very much./.