Fleury-devant-Douaumont is located in Lorraine, near the sadly infamous city of Verdun; locals know it as the “village that died for France.” Though easy to miss on the road to the Verdun Battlefield, Fleury remains a vivid reminder of the damages caused by World War I in provincial France. This portion of Lorraine was badly hit by the war, ravaged in such a way that the land was deemed uninhabitable, the area surrounding the commune being littered with explosives, corpses and poisonous gas – effectively ruining Fleury’s chances of being rebuilt into the thriving agricultural town it once was, as it would be difficult for farmers to work on such contaminated grounds. During the Battle of Verdun alone, Germans and the French successively captured the commune 16 times.
Along with several other villages in Lorraine, Fleury has since been unoccupied, with the official population being a heart-wrenching zero. Visitors can, however, visit the town, which is now more of a large wooded area, a veritable testimony to the First World War. The site is close to the Verdun memorial, and signs point to where streets and houses once sat. Only a small chapel from the 1930s remains on the exact spot where the town’s church once stood. Access is free and self-guided.
Fleury-devant-Douaumont is 7.5 kilometers east of Verdun and can be reached by car via road D112 in 15 minutes.