Video: Pondering War and Peace at Alsace’s German Cemetery

I always wonder if politicians who talk loosely about going to war have given much thought to the human cost of war. I’m sure they’ve traveled. But country clubs and golf courses don’t expose you to lessons of history like actually “traveling on purpose” to places that know the heartache of war.

Most visit France’s Alsace for its charming towns and delightful vineyards. I also visit Alsace to remember World War I and World War II, because this is where what I think of as the “cultural tectonic plates” of Germany and France rub up against each other. And I take every chance I can to splice a little reality between the cute stuff.

Here, a 10-minute walk above the sleepy town of Bergheim, is a German war cemetery with the remains of thousands of young Germans. They weren’t necessarily ideological Nazis. These men — actually boys, as most of them were in their teens or early twenties — just had the misfortune of living in a country ruled by a madman.