One of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

Charles de Gaulle in the interior courtyard at Ludwigsburg Palace. Image: Bundesarchiv B 145, image 11789, Simon Müller
A German-French friendship

An address to the German

youth

On September 9, 1962, the French President, Charles de Gaulle, gave his oft-noted "Address to the German Youth" in the main courtyard at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. It was a decisive step towards the German-French treaty of friendship.

North side of the new central building. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende

De Gaulle gave his speech under this balcony.

Giant steps into the future

20,000 people gathered in the interior courtyard at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. They had all come to hear a speech being given by the French president. After a tour through the city in an open car, Charles de Gaulle arrived at the palace. From a raised stage directly below the balcony of the new central building, he gave his speech. Only four months after this speech, de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer met in Paris to sign the Élysée Treaty, a German-French treaty of friendship.

Main courtyard at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Günther Bayerl

An audience of 20,000 found space in the main courtyard.

Moving words

De Gaulle began his speech with the following words, which made a lasting impression on the youths in the audience: "I congratulate you all! First, I congratulate you for being young. One only has to see the fire in your eyes, listen to the force of your demonstrations, witness the personal passion of every one of you and the common upswing of your group to be convinced that this enthusiasm has chosen you to master your life and the future. I further congratulate you on being young Germans, which means you are the children of a great nation. Yes! A great nation that has made some grave mistakes over the course of its history."

Historic footsteps

On September 22, 2012, 50 years after de Gaulle's visit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande met at Ludwigsburg for a ceremony honoring the groundbreaking speech. In her speech, the chancellor also appealed to the youth: "Dear young people, it can be said: Europe's future is in your hands." This gathering was following in historic footsteps. In 1805, long before de Gaulle's visit, Napoleon and Friedrich II negotiated an alliance between Württemberg and France.