Snowflakes dance in the light of the street lamps. The station square glitters a wintry white. The few passengers from the high-speed train who get off in Sedan trudge away in a hurry. The silence that spreads is almost solemn. For minutes there is not a soul in sight – no cars, no buses, no taxis.

Sedan wasn’t always such a quiet town. In the 1870-71 war Bismarck's troops overran the supposed French bastion of Sedan for the first time. Emperor Napoleon III, who had fled into the castle, hoisted the white flag. From that day on, the Germans celebrated 2 September as “Sedan Day”. During World War II, in May 1940, Hitler's armoured columns surprised the town from the north, and a month later France itself fell. Have the wounds of that era healed – now that France and Germany are celebrating 50 years of the Élysée Treaty, and 50 years of friendship? Is the city joining in the celebrations?

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