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  • Commemoration of armistice of November 11th, 1918, in Paris

    Commemoration of armistice of November 11th, 1918, in Paris

    French republican guards stand next to the statue of Georges Clemenceau. © AFP

  • Signature of the armistice

    Signature of the armistice

    On November 11th, 1918, signature of the armistice in the railway carriage, in the forest of Compiègne © RMN-Grand Palais / BPK

The armistice of 11 November 1918 marked Germany's surrender and the end of the First World War. The 11th of November became a day of remembrance to pay tribute to the soldiers.

The First World War was of a scale and intensity unknown until then. It involved more soldiers and caused more deaths and material destruction than any war that came before it. During the war, about 10 million people died, mostly in Europe, and another 20 million became invalids. France alone, with 39.6 million citizens, lost 1.4 million soldiers and 300,000 civilians, and had 4,266,000 military wounded. For those who fought in the trenches, the famous French “Poilus”, who suffered from the horrors of war, it was to be the “war to end wars”.

11 November 1920, the first tribute to the unknown soldier

On 11 November 1920, France paid tribute for the first time to an unknown soldier who died during the First World War, an anonymous representative of the heroic French soldiers.

Throughout the year 1922, the veterans insisted that the Parliament declare 11 November a national holiday, which was enacted by the law of 24 October 1922. This law set the rules for all of the initial celebrations of 11 November: no military parade, flags at half mast, solidarity with the dead whose names appear on the monuments to the deceased, the minute of silence and the bells. These elements became the standard features of the 11 November celebrations.