A photo diary by Katrin Schönig:
Between the 16th and the 19th October 1813 the allied armies of Prussia, Russia and Austria convened on the battlefields just outside Leipzig to defeat Napoleon’s army in what was the biggest mass battle of the century. There were over half a million soldiers fighting on those days, and one in five never made it home. The villages and the landscape were left in ruin, but the Battle of the Nations would prove to be decisive. A year later and the coalition forces invaded France. Napoleon was forced to abdicate, and though he would return to power, it proved to be only in order to suffer a final defeat at Waterloo and exile for the remainder of his life on St Helena.
If you go to Koblenz to see the Deutsches Eck, or to Thuringen to check out the monumental Kyffhäuser monument, then you will already have seen the work of Bruno Schmitz who also designed and financed the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Monument to the Battle of the Nations) in Leipzig. Even on a grey and drizzly March day, and with scaffolding here and there, it remains an impressive sight, both inside and out. It took fifteen years to build, and was opened in 1913, less than a year before Europe was plunged once more into a war that would dwarf in its scale and violence the battles that the Völkerschlachtdenkmal was erected to remember.
Pictures: Katrin Schönig
Words: Paul Scraton