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“The shot heard round the world”

By Shirley L. Kearney

“The shot heard round the world” continues the theme of the article on the Great War in the latest print issue of The Basel Journal (No. 14, 2014). It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who first penned the phrase above, in his poem Concord Hymn in connection with the beginning of the American Revolutionary War (1775):

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once embattled farmers stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world.

The second time this phrase was used was in relation to the assassination of the Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo on 28 June, 1914. This added fuel to the existing turbulence in several European countries, and with Austria-Hungary’s attack on Serbia a month later, it proved to be the spark that ignited the war.

As The Basel Journal points out, the Great War literally tore apart the three countries whose borders meet at Basel – one neutral and two warring parties.

In commemoration of its 100th anniversary, over 30 exhibitions are focusing on various aspects of these four years in the Upper Rhine Valley, illustrating the social, political and daily life, the use of propaganda, torment and upheavals, and also reasons for celebrating.

A visit to the three-country museum (Dreiländermuseum) in Lörrach will satisfy the curiosity of local history buffs as to the potent use of propaganda posters, especially when compared to our social media era. A 3D film (3D glasses are provided) takes visitors into the trenches. In another presentation, entitled From Mud to Tears, turning a knob while looking through two openings produces a stereoscopic experience. Documentations, letters, clothing and period maps are on view – images that conjure up the trauma and the stoicism.

After the visit to Lörrach, a trip by car or train to Grellingen in the Laufen Valley offers another angle on the war situation in Switzerland. Approaching the hiking-trail entrance to Kaltbrunnental, one arrives at a rock face covered with colourful drawings, the so-called “Chessiloch” (picture). From the onset of the war until its end, Swiss military were stationed here at Chessiloch in order to protect transport routes. Often bored  from inactivity, the soldiers put their creative talents to work by painting various coats of arms, figures and symbols on the cliff. This unique “rock-face art” is listed as a monument under the Swiss Patrimony. Years of dampness, cold, heat and abundant vegetation resulted in a loss of colour and form. Previous touch-ups could only delay its continuing decay.

The latest restoration using up-to-date materials maintains as far as possible the original soldiers’ work of 100 years ago. The work will be finished in time for the festive reopening of the monument on 30 August.

Note: Until end of August Swiss railway SBB is doing maintenance work along the railway lines to Grellingen and beyond. Visitors to these rock faces are advised to follow the instructions supplied at the start of the hiking trail (near the train station).

www.dreilaendermuseum.eu

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