Two-hundred years ago, on October 16–19, 1813, in and around the city of Leipzig a battle took place that was later called the Battle of the Nations. During the four days of battle and in its aftermath, ca. 120.000 people perished in utter distress. Some of them may have believed to die in an effort to improve the world as they knew it.

Countless deaths, devastation and famine were results of this largest of all Napoleonic field battles. Many soldiers who had volunteered to   rid Europe of Napoleonic rule as well as of political oppression were disappointed in their hopes. The soldiers’ and volunteers’ selfsacrifice were abused by the old European monarchies to enhance their power. After Napoleon’s downfall the old order was restored. Especially the liberals in the minor German states felt this to be a tragedy. This is why ‘Wars of Liberation’, the name later given to the anti-Napoleonic campaigns of 1813–1815, is a sort of a misnomer. The French Revolution had brought some administrative and judicative improvements to the German states, but in the end, the enforcement of large war contributions and conscription made many Germans oppose to Napoleonic France.

200 years later, efforts are made to re-define the monstrous and nationalist Monument of the Battle of the Nations, built in 1913, declaring it a ‘European Peace Monument’. This is strange, to say the least, taking into account Germany’s efforts to gain a hegemonial position and all sorts of national advantages within the European Union. What is actually meant when in October 2013, next to the giant monument    recently   restored for 20 million euros, and during re-enactments of scenes from the battle, hymns will be sung to the amity of peoples? It is commonly thought that today’s inhabitants of Leipzig ‘identify’ with ‘their monument’. But what are Leipzigers really supposed to identify with? With a monstrous city mascot or with the principles of a free and brotherly world that have never been realised? Not all demands of the freedom fighters of 1813 may be acceptable today. But then we have to ask what became of these claims and the goals of the French Revolution, what Europeans actually do on their continent and in the rest of the world today (e.g. start price wars against so-called ‘low-wage countries’, raw supply wars to the detriment of local populations, foster wars by supplying arms), all this has to be asked. Alas, such questions seem to be inappropriate when people are celebrating the cherished peace.