The Souvenir Français
The Souvenir Français was established to maintain the memory of those who, whether French or Foreigner, died fighting for French liberty and order.
Our mission is to honour the courage and loyalty of all those men and women who died on the battlefield, by preserving their memory through commemorative events, and the maintenance of their graves and memorials.
Xavier NIESSEN created the Souvenir Français in 1872 in Alsace and Lorraine, which were occupied by the enemy at that time, and in 1906 the Souvenir Français was officially recognised. The association has the highest support: it enjoys the patronage of the President of the French Republic, and was honoured by the French Academy in 1975, and by the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1978.
The Souvenir Français has 200,000 members and affiliates: men and women of any age and social background. It is represented in every French department and colony, and in 69 countries all over the world.
- 96 general delegations
- 1600 committees
- 62 representatives in foreign countries
Without any party political connection, and free from any religious or philosophical influence, the Souvenir Français is open to anyone, French or foreign, who values and shares France’s ideal of liberty, for which our veterans have sacrificed themselves since the French Revolution.
The Souvenir Français depends on volunteers to enable it to function, since it receives only twenty per cent of its annual expenses.
Maintenance and preservation
Throughout the year, the Souvenir Français maintains and restores more than 130,000 graves and 200 memorials; last year it erected around 40 headstones and memorials.
Organised by volunteers around metropolitan France and overseas, this work is challenging and not always recognised.
Nevertheless it is essential, both to honour all those who, known or unknown, died for France and its values, and to ensure that the next generation will remember them.
The Souvenir Français
- maintains 130,000 graves a year
- repairs damaged headstones
- creates mass graves
- restores tens of memorials each year (headstones, monuments, memorials)
By participating in the work of remembrance, we honour those who left a mark on our history by sacrificing their lives for our homeland.
Throughout the year, the Souvenir Français takes part in many commemorations, national and local, in France and abroad.
Since 1923, the Souvenir Français has been represented by an everlasting flame to honour the ‘Unknown Soldier’. It is situated underneath the French Arc-de-Triomphe, and the flame brightens every evening at 6.30pm.
The Souvenir Français is also in charge of sourcing a variety of objects needed for ceremonies and commemorations such as torches, palms and flagpoles.
The next generation
Passing the torch of remembrance to the next generation has been the aim and work of this association since it began. In maintaining the remembrance of past sacrifice, young people will gradually acquire a sense of duty, love for their homeland and respect for those values.
Thanks to the devotion shown by volunteers, the Souvenir Français has organised:
- 40,000 teaching sessions for thousands of school children to raise awareness of commemorative sites
- 150 school trips
- oral testimonies in schools
- teaching venues
In addition, the association publishes many documents for young people, and those who help them including
- three-monthly reviews
- brochures, comic books, booklets
Shortly, the Souvenir Français website will provide a pedagogical space dedicated to teachers and students who want to gather information on our work of remembrance.
Source: Souvenir Français French Web site (link).