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The Balfour Declaration: An Alternative History

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The Balfour Declaration: An Alternative History

by Simone Zelitch 

balfour2 e1509023617872Left, Arthur Balfour. Right, the letter introducing the Balfour Declaration


As Mike Schuster, the curator for the blog, The Great War Project, explained to WWI Centennial News, on November 2, 1917, headlines featured the announcement of what became known as the Balfour Declaration. It is letter from the British foreign secretary, Lord Balfour, to the British Lord Rothschild, the de facto leader of the Jewish community of Britain, expressing support for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. (Click here for full podcast).

In the wake of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, we return to the Balfour Declaration with one Jewish American writer, Simone Zelitch:

We’re living in an alternative-history moment.   Given the current political and cultural climate,  it’s no coincidence that many of us are in full flight from the present.   Instead, we look over our shoulders, and endlessly revise the past.

Now, after President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, here’s one more revision:   What if there had been no Balfour Declaration?

Read more: The Balfour Declaration: An Alternative History

Soon, All Too Soon

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Soon, All Too Soon: British Musicians Bring Life and Melody to Exhumed Body of Forgotten WWI German Soldier Ernst Brockmann

by Patricia Hammond


When British musicians Patricia Hammond and Matt Redman found and performed German sheet music written by a soldier killed in Verdun, they had no idea the song would also lead to the discovery of the composer's body, which had been buried in an unmarked grave in France's Meuse-Argonne region. 


Aug 29, 2017

Above: A short video describing how Patricia Hammond and Matt Redman found a melody in the grave of an unknown WW1 Soldier

CD CoverCD Cover for Songs of the Great WarDespite the fact that nobody seems to buy or own CDs anymore, I had to make a First World War recording. A hundred years rolls round only the once, and I specialize in singing Edwardian songs. So I collaborated with multi-instrumentalist, arranger and music historian Matt Redman, and made a seventeen-track recording in London, England. We chose many of the most well-known songs, but included all the original verses and only used the instruments of the time: Pack Up Your Troubles, Roses of Picardy, If You Were the Only Girl in the World, Over There…and Irving Berlin’s pacifist Stay Down Here Where You Belong from 1914. And also some that were well known in their day but more or less forgotten now: Somewhere In France, The Rose of No Man’s Land…and Canadian and French songs, and crucially, two songs from the German side.

Read more: Soon, All Too Soon

Forgetting to Remember: Making America's Great War Monumental Again

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Forgetting to Remember: Making America’s Great War Monumental Again
by Sarah Biegelsen


The ground breaks. As the new WWI Memorial materializes in D.C., it's fascinating to take a look at other war memorials and the narrative of their construction. Reading the "story" of the ways memorials are conceived plays an important role in the understanding of public, cultural memory. Delve into the subject this week with WWrite's blog post,"Forgetting to Remember: Making America's Great War Monumental Again," by WW1CC intern, Sarah Biegelsen.


 WWI Monument groundbreaking TVCNewsWWI Monument Groundbreaking Ceremony, Photo courtesy of TVCNews

Ignoring the First World War in the United States has been a century-long tradition that will either be rectified with the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into WWI or will endure through the collective amnesia of American society.For a paper I wrote my senior year of undergraduate college, I examined the memory of World War I in the United States through memorials and museums. I also compared and contrasted formal commemorative events of 1918-1939 with the ways they are commemorated in the twenty-first century. I was motivated to write this paper since I had taken a class my freshman year about British memorialization of the two world wars, a memory that has been flourishing in the past years, unlike in America. As I was curious to find out why Americans today have failed to give World War I its due attention, I decided to explore the emerging and declining American WWI memorialization over the past 100 years. Here in this post, I am going to briefly discuss some findings about the following memorials:

  • The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri
  • The Listening Post in Lynchburg, Virginia
  • The District of Columbia War Memorial on the National Mall
  • The new national memorial at Pershing Park being built in Washington, D.C.

Read more: Forgetting to Remember: Making America's Great War Monumental Again

The October Revolution, Russia Occupation of Persia: WWI Soldier Viktor Shklovsky’s Sentimental Memoirs, by Michael Carson

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The October Revolution, Russia Occupation of Persia: WWI Soldier Viktor Shklovsky’s A Sentimental Journey: Memoirs, 1917-1922

by Michael Carson

 ViktorSbookcoverBook cover art by Dương Tường, Vietnamese writer and artist

 “After the explosion our soldiers, surrounded by enemies, were waiting for a train to come for them; while waiting, they busied themselves by picking and putting together the shattered pieces of their comrades’ bodies.

They picked up pieces for a very long time.

Naturally, some of the pieces got mixed up.

One officer went up to a long row of corpses.

The last body had been put together out of the leftover pieces.

It had the torso of a large man. Someone had added a small head; on the chest were small arms of different sizes, both left.

The officer looked for a rather long time; then he sat on the ground and burst out laughing….laughing….laughing….”

                                                                         ----From Viktor Shklovsky’s A Sentimental Journey: Memoirs, 1917-1922

VSpaintingNewYorkerViktor Shklovsky; portrait by Yury Annenkov, 1919Why read Viktor’s Shklovsky’s Sentimental Journey: Memoirs, 1917-1922 a hundred years after the First World War? Why remember this account of the October Revolution and the Russian occupation of Persia when we have forgotten so many other accounts of the First World War, those charnel-house memories of gallant-British officers at the Somme and Ypres? What does this young Russian commissar have for us today except for yet another account of yet another endless bloody war that few remember now and no one at all will remember in a hundred years?

For one, A Sentimental Journey’s perspective on the First World War is unique—difficult—not simply because of its various, diverse, and relatively obscure (from an Anglo-American perspective) experiences but because of its form. Shklovsky writes in stilted sentences, delays information, mixes up chronology. He claims he only wants to report the facts. He wants to become a primary source. But he insists the facts must be reshuffled, drawn out, ironically juxtaposed, removed from their logical spot in one paragraph and placed at the end of the next. He has a terrible memory. Here is Shklovsky on his brother’s death:

“He cried hard before dying.

Either the Whites or the Reds killed him.

I don’t remember which—I really don’t remember. But the death was unjust.”

Read more: The October Revolution, Russia Occupation of Persia: WWI Soldier Viktor Shklovsky’s Sentimental...

One Year to Go! WWrite Blog Twitter Feed Launched Today

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One Year to Go! WWrite Blog Twitter Feed Launched Today!

La delegation americaine image gaucheAmerican Delegation in Lyon France Today to Commemorate 1917 Entry into WWI

Stay up to date with the latest writerly WWI posts and events!

Today, to mark the final centennial year, WWrite launched its Twitter Feed that will be linked to the blog. These Tweets will replace the weekend updates and will appear regularly. The Twitter account is just getting off the ground and will continue to evolve and improve over the next 12 months. We will also be working to link it to all relavent information on the WWI site. All suggestions welcome at jennifer.orth-veillon@worldwar1centennial.org. Please find us at: WWriteBlog@orthveillon, #WWrite 

Pierre Lemaître's The Great Swindle: A Prize-Winning WWI Novel Hits the Screen During France's Great War Centennial

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Pierre Lemaître's The Great Swindle: A Prize-Winning WWI Novel Hits the Screen During France's Great War Centennial 


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"Those who thought this war would end soon were all long dead. Killed by the war. And so, in October, Albert treated reports of an impending armistice with a healthy dose of scepticism. He gave these rumours no more credit than he had the propaganda at the beginning of the war which claimed that the bullets of the Boche were so soft they burst against  French uniforms like overripe pears, leaving soldiers roaring with laughter. In four years, Albert had seen his fair share of guys who died laughing from a German bullet."
first paragraph of Pierre Lemaître'sThe Great Swindle, translated by Frank Wynne


In the U.S., November 11th is a day for honoring and celebrating military veterans from all wars with parades, church services, and other commemorative gatherings. On this day, while France also acknowledges the sacrifices of military personnel from multiple conflicts, the country devotes most of the national holiday to November 11, 1918, the day warring nations signed the armistice to end the Great War. The numbers are diminishing as years pass, but crowds of French people still turn out for morning gatherings in front of the WWI monuments that take up a central place in every French village, town, and city. After reading the names of the war dead, local government officials place flowers and flags in front of the memorial. Parades, fanfares, children chorales, and, of course, the glass of locally-made wine offered by the mayors follow. In the Commonwealth nations, the poppy appears everywhere as a sign of remembrance, but in France the bleuet, or cornflower, is the flower found in lapels, bouquets, and corsages.


In addition to the rituals, France, especially during this centennial period, marks the date by featuring contemporary WWI-specific literature, art, and cinema.  Pierre Lemaître, renowned for his crime novels, won the Prix Goncourt, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award, for his 2013 novel, Au revoir là-haut, translated as The Great Swindle by Frank Wynne. Just about a week before the beginning of the 2017-2018 centennial year of WWI, French director, Albert Dupontel, released the film adaptation of Lemaître’s pathbreaking book, Au revoir là-haut, translated in English as the film, See You Up There.

Read more: Pierre Lemaître's The Great Swindle: A Prize-Winning WWI Novel Hits the Screen During France's...


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