War spectacle to replay Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig

War spectacle to replay Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig

BERLIN - Thousands of war-gamers will re-enact the "Battle of the Nations" outside the German city of Leipzig on Sunday, 200 years after French emperor Napoleon suffered a critical defeat there.

In front of nearly 30,000 spectators, some 6,000 history buffs from across the continent will act out the battles of October 1813, which were among the bloodiest in 19th century Europe.

At the time, the Prussian monarchy with allies Austria, Russia, Sweden and Britain dealt another major blow to Napoleon's forces, who were already weakened by their disastrous Russian campaign.

Nearly 100,000 soldiers were killed out of the 600,000 who were mobilised for the battle from October 16 to 19 that year.

However, the re-enactment on Sunday is dedicated to the "reconciliation" of people, said Michel Kothe, a member of the Battle of the Nations Association which is organising the event.

"Contrary to what happened at the time, people from 28 nations will peacefully camp together before the battle," he said.

The star of the show will be Frank Samson, a 46-year-old Parisian lawyer who specialises in traffic offences and has already regularly assumed the mantle of the French emperor since 2005.

Like all the extras, this 19th century aficionado is a volunteer.

"It has sometimes been suggested that I get reimbursed, but for me it's a hobby," he told AFP. "In Leipzig I pay for everything."

According to him, the uniform he will wear as Napoleon cost between 1,000 and 1,500 euros (S$1,700-2,300) but some other military outfits are more expensive at around 10,000 euros.

Just like Samson, who takes his wife and two sons to almost all his Napoleonic adventures, many of the rank and file extras have also convinced women and children to participate in the show.

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