Thieves steal 4m WWI statue

1.6-tonne bronze statue reported missing from historic wartime site in Aisne department on Tuesday

13 August 2014

THIEVES have stolen a 1.6-tonne bronze sculpture dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died in the three battles during the First World War.

A tourist reported the 4m statue missing by a tourist at 5pm on Tuesday, police said. It was removed from its base at Plateau de Californie, Craonne and taken away in a large truck, they say.

The dramatic sculpture by Haim Kern, entitled They Did Not Choose Their Graves, was unveiled by then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in November 1998, to mark the 80th anniversary of the end of the conflict.

It was commissioned to honour those who died during the three major Battles of the Aisne, in 1914, 1917 and 1918, along the Chemin des Dames, a 30km stretch of the modern D18 in the department.

The prefecture condemned the crime in a statement: “The theft and degradation of the work of Mr Kern at this time of the beginning of the centenary of the outbreak of war is an intolerable act and prejudicial to the memory of all who have suffered in this place.”

Regional newspaper L’Union has reported that the historic sites of World War I have been subject to widespread looting in recent months.

The Chemin des Dames earned its name in the 18th century, as it was part of the route between Paris and Château de Boves, near Vauclair, and was regularly travelled by the two daughters of Louis XV, Adélaïde and Victoire. The chateau was owned by Françoise de Châlus, Countess of Narbonne-Lara, a former mistress of the king, and a confidante of the princesses.

Photo: Velvet / Wikipedia Commons

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