Submitted by Hannah Paxton on the 2016 winter session program in Leipzig, Germany sponsored by the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures…
The city of Leipzig continues to grow more and more interesting every day! While having plenty of relevance regarding the end of the Cold War and German reunification, I had no idea that a massive battle was conducted in the southern portion of Leipzig that drove Napoleon and his conquest out of Europe.
My group and I visited a monument, called the Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Volkershlactdenkmal). This monument was incredibly large and impressive, and climbing to the top afforded incredible panoramic views of the city. Plenty of symbolism was built into the monument as well, which caused me to reflect on the nature of war in society and how we choose to commemorate it.
This experience shows me that societies really seek to commemorate war in a way that respects it, while also honoring the fallen. The intricate and incredibly large stone carvings on the façade of the structure, and the statues inside, communicate martial pride in a very striking way. Men with large beards and strong muscular bodies guard one of the main entrances, and four additional men inside represent values that the German people wished to commemorate after the defeat of Napoleon.
Although on different continents, I felt that this monument and tribute could be seen in the United States as well, showing me that our societies are not so different from each other at all. Traveling, while showing differences between nations, also yields a lot of similarities, which is important when we consider the amount of conflict worldwide.