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Leipzig memorial 200 years after Napoleon defeat in Battle of Leipzig

Three days of fighting in 1813 ended in Napoleon Bonaparte's first major military defeat, in a clash that was among the bloodiest the world had ever witnessed. Leipzig has marked 200 years since its most famous battle.

Ceremonies honoring the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig or Battle of Nations in the city in Saxony peaked on Friday. European Parliament President Martin Schulz was among the honored guests who used the occasion to appeal for peace and continental unity.

"It is with great concern that I have observed the continued spread of a 'renationalization' in Europe," Schulz said, speaking at a monument completed 100 years after the conflict - and months before the outbreak of World War I.

The monument to the 'Völkerschlacht' (Battle of Leipzig/Battle of Nations) in Leipzig, pictured at night while illuminated. © Sandor Jackal - Fotolia.com

The monument to the Battle of Leipzig was erected where the most soldiers are thought to have fallen

Schulz said that Europe's debt difficulties and problems like the treatment of Sinti and Roma populations showed how easily old continental grudges could be reawakened.

"We must all do our part to prevent the return of old ways of thinking that have only ever brought misery to Europe's people," Schulz said. Former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg issued a similar note of caution, asking: "Can we be so certain that our children are wiser than our grandparents were?"

The three-day Battle of Leipizig (known as the "Völkerschlacht" or "Battle of Peoples" in German) marked the beginning of the end for French leader Napoleon Bonaparte. Coalition armies from Austria, Russia, Sweden and Prussia joined forces to push Napoleon's forces out of the eastern German city.

Roughly 600,000 troops were involved in the battle; estimates on the death toll tend to range from 80,000 to 110,000. Less than a year after his defeat in Leipzig, with coalition forces on French soil by that time, Napoleon abdicated and was exiled.

Memorial services in Leipzig continue over the weekend. Events include a mock re-enactment of the battle involving around 6,000 people.

msh/av (dpa, epd)