Looking back at the LRE Forum 2022

The LRE Foundation’s annual event – the LRE Forum 2022 – took place from 3-6 April. After being held online in 2021, the event finally returned to its in-person format in Normandy, a region rich in WWII history and cultural heritage. The 2022 edition of the LRE Forum, co-organised with Normandy Region and Normandy Tourism, was a multi-day event composed of several activities that brought together an array of international members and partners of the organising institutions and tourism stakeholders from across the World War II remembrance sector.

We are beyond grateful for the heartfelt participation of our network and pleased to see many members and partners together again after two long years marked by the Covid-19 pandemic. Bringing together international stakeholders active in WWII heritage and remembrance is at the core of the LRE Foundation’s work. Seeing this reflected in our annual event makes us proud and even more motivated to fulfil our mission to facilitate international discussion and a multi-perspective approach to WWII history.

The LRE Forum opened its doors with a welcome event at the Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer, a long-time valuable member of the LRE Foundation. Many partners from across Europe and North America had the opportunity to visit the museum’s permanent collection, paying homage to the Canadian forces who served during World War II, and discover the recently inaugurated exhibition ‘From Dieppe to Juno’.

The following day, 4 April, the LRE Forum continued with the Member Seminar. Rémi Praud, the LREF Managing Director, and his team walked the Foundation’s members through the latest updates and plans for the Liberation Route Europe trails, Youth Programme, Europe Remembers, the 80th Anniversary of the end of the war and the Foundation’s Network and Governance. It was then the turn of some members and partners to present their organisations’ best practices and latest updates. Finally, the morning event ended with a thematic session by Catherine Hannequart about the importance of being part of a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe (as Liberation Route Europe has been since 2019).

In the afternoon, the LRE Conference welcomed a large audience of around 220 participants from across Normandy, Europe, and North America. The conference was opened by the keynote speaker Alain Lamassoure, Chairman of the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe of the Council of Europe, who joined the room via video call and talked about the role of teaching and studying history in Europe as an instrument of peace. The conference moved on with the first panel discussion about ‘The echoes of the past and WWII in our present’ with Prof. Denis Peschanski, Prof. Antoon De Baets and Prof. Katja Makhotina. Prof. Peschanski reflected on the evolution of collective memory in history, elaborating on how the memory of various WWII events changed over the decades. Prof. De Baets enlightened the audience with an interesting introduction to human rights and commemorative practice, while Prof. Makhotina walked the public through the different ‘cultures of remembrance’ and the ways WWII memory evolved in Eastern and Western Europe. Prof. Makhotina concluded the first panel with a powerful reflection on the current war in Ukraine:  

“What we are experiencing today, the war, made the universal message ‘Never again’ obsolete and inappropriate. We cannot use this message anymore because of the suffering we are witnessing right now. But we can use it in the sense of ‘We should never again look away’ from the crimes committed today a couple of thousands of kilometers east.”

The LRE Conference was wrapped up by the words of Marie-Agnès Poussier-Winsback, Vice-President of the Regional Council of Normandy in charge of Tourism, who invited the public to join the World Forum for Peace organised by the Normandy Region on 23-24 September, 2022. In the evening, the LRE Gala dinner at the stunning Abbaye aux Dames in Caen has been a delightful occasion to present the LRE Foundation new members, network and enjoy each other’s company in front of delicious French food and a glass of wine.

The LRE Forum 2022 continued on 5 April with the annual thematic trade show, the LREXPO, which allowed numerous travel trade stakeholders, Foundation members, and Normandy partners to connect and showcase their destinations to international tour operators. The morning was followed by a networking lunch, and the first part of the site visits organised in collaboration with Normandy Tourism. On the first day, participants visited the Normandy American Cemetery, the Mulberry Harbour in Arromanches-les-Bains and the new British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer. Much more was left to see on the second day of site visits when the participants had the chance to explore the Utah Beach Museum, hear more about the story of Sainte-Mère-Eglise, and visit La Cambe German Cemetery near Bayeux.

In addition to the site visits, a FAM trip for international tour operators was organised together with the European Travel Commission (co-funded by the European Union). Around ten tour operators from the US and Canada continued the guided tour from Normandy to Belgium (Mons Memorial Museum, Bastogne War Museum, Jack’s Wood) and the Netherlands (Netherlands American Cemetery, War Museum Overloon, Freedom Museum, Fletcher Hotels and the Sunset March in Nijmegen).

In conclusion, we would like to thank all those involved in the organisation of the LRE Forum 2022, the speakers and our audience. Thanks to each of you for making this edition of the Forum a special one. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and came back inspired and enriched with new connections and ideas to develop new WWII remembrance projects and tourism products to make history accessible to a broader audience.

We look forward to meeting you all again at the LRE Forum 2023!

We would like to hear your thoughts and suggestions. If you attended at least one of the events of the LRE Forum 2022, please take a moment to fill in this survey. Your feedback will help us improve our future events.

EASTory through their Eyes youth event in Krakow

On 13 April, the Home Army Museum in Krakow, Poland, was the scene of the first youth event of the EASTory through their Eyes project. The Home Army Museum preserves the memory of the Polish Underground State and resistance movement during WWII. It welcomed high school students from Krakow and representatives of the LRE Foundation and the Bastogne War Museum.

EASTory through their Eyes, funded by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Commission, aims to educate about the various perspectives and experiences of WWII and its consequences in the East and West of Europe. Through the personal stories of people who lived through this period, it highlights the differences and commonalities between young people in different parts of Europe and the complexity of such history. The project is composed of a travelling and online exhibition, and four youth events in the partner cities.

The day started with a workshop titled “Fighting for freedom on many fronts between the West and the East – ways of resisting and finding oneself in the war reality”. The workshop shed light on the Polish Underground State, life under occupation and the contribution of Polish units to the liberation of Western Europe. The following visit to the permanent exhibition allowed students to deepen their knowledge of life during the occupation and reflect on the stories of resistance fighters, thanks to a vast collection of objects and pictures.

Later, a workshop led by the LRE Foundation was the occasion to discuss the multi-perspective approach to history and some of the stories featured in the EASTory through their Eyes travelling and digital exhibition. Students reflected on the multi-faceted experiences of WWII in the East and in the West and the life-changing decisions that young people had to make. Confronting the Polish experience with examples from the Bastogne War Museum allowed students to compare different national approaches to remembrance.

The EASTory through their Eyes exhibition is currently displayed at the Home Army Museum in Krakow. Other youth events and exhibition showcases will take place in Pilsen, Bastogne, and Berlin in the upcoming weeks.

LRE Forum 2022 – Statement from the LRE Foundation’s Supervisory Board on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Today kicks off the 2022 edition of the LRE Forum, the Foundation’s annual event that brings together an array of international members and partners from across the World War II remembrance sector. With this event taking place in such turbulent and uncertain times, the Foundation’s Supervisory Board would like to share a message of solidarity towards Ukraine and join the international calls for a cease of violence and human rights violations.

“We are saddened and deeply appalled by the ongoing war unfolding in Ukraine. We strongly condemn the aggression enforced by the Russian government and its misleading propaganda that tries to justify the war as a means to ‘liberate’ Ukraine from neo-Nazism. This narrative serves a great dishonour to the men and women, including millions of Soviet soldiers, who gave their lives to liberate Europe during World War II, as well as to the victims of the Nazi persecution.

We stand with the Ukrainian people against this unjust attack on their livelihoods, families, and nation and with the many people fleeing this war. We stand with those in Russia who have bravely protested the belligerent actions of their government and those who are unable to act out of terror and repression. We stand for freedom and democracy, two valiant legacies of the end of the Second World War. 

Since its creation, the LRE Foundation has been committed to expanding the knowledge of WWII history, creating a platform of international dialogue, and inviting reflection on the lessons of the past, with the LRE Forum being one of the main expressions of this mission. All this work and effort is meant to promote a peaceful Europe. In these regards, we would like to renew our admiration for the hard work our members and partners put every day into their remembrance projects. The LRE Foundation’s network represents an outstanding example of international cooperation among countries that have been once enemies but found the path of reconciliation and now pursue a shared mission of peace.

Today we believe more than ever in the importance of this mission for education and dialogue to overcome past conflicts and divisions.”

The LRE Foundation’s Supervisory Board

The LRE Forum 2022 opens its doors in Caen, Normandy

From 3-6 April 2022 the LRE Foundation, together with Normandy Tourism and Région Normandie, will host the LRE Forum 2022 in Caen. The LRE Forum is the annual event of the LRE Foundation which brings together an array of international members, partners, and tourism stakeholders from across the World War II remembrance sector, to hear updates from experts, network, and attend specialised travel trade events. 

The LRE Foundation is looking forward to this year’s in-person multi-day event, which features an engaging programme of activities. Beginning the first day is the Member Seminar, where members of the Foundation can meet each other, exchange ideas and best practices, and hear the organisation’s latest updates and plans. 

Following this, the LRE Conference aims to inform and inspire the remembrance sector on its role as a tool for citizenship and impact on today’s world. Opening with the keynote speech Alain Lamassoure, former Minister and Member of the European Parliament, Chairman of the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe (Council of Europe), will discuss ‘Teaching and learning history in Europe: an instrument of Peace?’, which will then be followed by two panel discussions. The topics ‘The echoes of the past and WWII in our present’ and ‘History and remembrance as a tool for civic engagement’ will be considered by a selection of academic speakers and experts in their field, as they contemplate the role of the remembrance sector within modern society and its potential as a tool for education. A Q&A following each of these panels will offer participants the chance to ask any questions and share their ideas on the subjects. In the evening the Gala, a special dining event for members, key partners, and sponsors of both the Foundation and Normandy, will round off the first day of the Forum. 

On April 5, the LREXPO, a thematic trade show, will bring together representatives from remembrance sites, museums, and tourism destinations to network with travel trade stakeholders to offer unique products and form partnerships to reach a broader international audience. 

Finally, to close the LRE Forum 2022 edition, participants will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful landmarks of Normandy through guided site visits of the landing beaches and many of the museums and memorials telling the stories of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Additionally, FAM trips for international tour operators organised in cooperation with the European Travel Commission (co-funded by the European Union), will continue from Normandy to Belgium and the Netherlands to further explore historical sites in the two countries which were key in the liberation of Europe at the end of WWII. 


To read the full programme: www.lre-foundation.org/forum