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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 October 2006, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Germany re-enacts Battle of Jena
By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Jena

Re-enactment of Battle of Jena
Around 30,000 soldiers were killed in the real battle in 1806
More than 1,000 people from across Europe have re-enacted one of Napoleon's most famous victories near the German town of Jena.

Many participants saw the event, on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Jena, as a symbol of European unity.

Knocking seven bells out of your opponents on a battlefield is an unusual way to do it.

But that is exactly what happened outside Jena where as many as 50,000 soldiers were killed or injured.

Standing in a field outside Jena it felt as if I had been transported back in time.

I watched Napoleon and his troops advancing on the Prussian army.

There was musket and cannon fire echoing around the valley and smoke everywhere.

'Man of history'

Napoleon's fans came here from 17 countries to take part in the spectacle.

The great French leader himself was played by an American, Mark Schneider.

"It's the greatest honour to me to portray him," he said, "because I find him to be a man of history and he did so much, to include the initial stages of the unification of Europe. That makes him a great man."

Re-enactment of Battle of Jena
The re-enactment was billed a "history lesson"
It may seem strange with all the violence that went on in front of me but the French victory here is being portrayed by the organisers as an early step towards a united Europe, as Napoleon tried to take over the continent.

Unlike 200 years ago when 30,000 people died in the battle, there were no real casualties today.

Participants were not allowed to make contact with their swords or with their guns.

Each soldier was told in advance whether he was allowed to make it through to the end of the battle and survive or whether he had to fall off his horse and pretend to die to make sure that Napoleon won the re-run of the Battle of Jena.

His 1806 victories over the Prussian army at Jena and nearby Auerstedt kept Prussia out of the anti-Napoleonic coalition led by the UK, Austria and Russia until 1813.

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