Liberation Route Europe
Three years ago, the Liberation Route Europe Foundation opened a Europe-wide remembrance trail, taking visitors in the footsteps of the Allied soldiers. On the eve of the 75th anniversary of Liberation, the different partners involved are preparing to receive visitors in their droves.
On 6 June 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, Liberation Route Europe opened in Arromanches. Originally founded in the Netherlands, the aim of the initiative was to put in place a Europe-wide remembrance trail, linking the main areas that were progressively liberated by Allied troops, in 1944 and 1945. The idea was to link all the remembrance sites and put differing viewpoints on the war into perspective. Clearly, the experiences of Germans, French, Poles and Americans were different, and the experience of a soldier was far removed from that of a civilian. This multiple-perspective approach, coupled with experiencing the sites themselves, is at the heart of the project, in place in eight European countries: Great Britain, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Italy. With this initiative, a genuinely transnational remembrance trail has been created, making Europe a real remembrance destination.
To date, over 350 remembrance sites of very different kinds have been linked together by the Liberation Route. Some are general museums, like the Caen Memorial, the Second World War Museum in Gdansk and the Army Museum in Brussels. Others are cultural centres, closely tied to their regions and to events that took place locally, such as the Utah Beach Museum in Normandy, the Airborne Museum Hartenstein near Arnhem and the Bastogne War Museum in the Belgian Ardennes. Lastly, some are institutions that favour a thematic approach, such as the Allied Museum in Berlin, or with a focus on a particular country, for instance the Juno Beach Centre or the Liberation Museum in Zeeland, which present the Canadian role in the war. Added to these are military cemeteries, monuments and memorials, giving the Liberation Route a rich diversity of sites and viewpoints.
The Liberation Route Europe Foundation develops the trail and actively contributes to networking between the sites and partners. All work together towards the same goal: to enable visitors to develop their knowledge of history and discover the sites associated with it. Support tools, such as a digital platform, mobile applications, downloadable guides and the services of specialised tour operators, further enrich the visitor experience. In this way, this international network of Second World War remembrance actors (museums, universities, local authorities, tourist boards, voluntary organisations, etc.) promotes the sharing of experiences and the preparation of joint projects.
The 75th anniversary of the end of the war, in 2019 and 2020, will see the launch of a joint international campaign entitled “Europe remembers”. It will offer visitors throughout the world a single platform bringing together the entire calendar of events (ceremonies, conferences, concerts, etc.) organised as part of the commemorations, as well as tourist information and historical content. A valuable tool which ought to encourage large numbers of people to take part in these events and visit the remembrance sites. In the meantime, the Liberation Route Europe app gives visitors direct access to the historical events and points of interest concerning the sites, as well as their associated biographies.
Author: Rémy Praud, Director, Liberation Route Europe Foundation
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Photo: John Frost Bridge, Arnhem, The Netherlands. One of the 350 remembrance sites that make up Liberation Route Europe. Credit: J. Ooijman