LRE Conference 2023 – Resistance: WWII Memory on the Edge

The LRE Conference, which this year will take place on March 1 in Florence, is one of the key learning events of the LRE Forum, the Foundation’s annual multi-day event that brings together members, partners, and tourism stakeholders to hear updates from experts, network, and attend specialised travel trade events.

The British historian and author Keith Lowe has been appointed curator of this year’s Conference and will serve as moderator throughout the event.

In a video interview, we asked him about the programme and the central focus of this year’s LRE Conference.

All of the conference speeches and debates will revolve around one major concept: we are living in a time of social, political, and technological changes with an outstanding impact on the way we deal with remembrance. During the conference, academics and museum professionals from across Europe will explore the consequences of all these changes, and the threats that they pose to our communal understanding of the Second World War. Can nuanced history survive in the age of Twitter and Facebook? Does our compulsive memorialising of the war promote reconciliation or merely create more division? Are there parallels between today’s populism and the populism of the 1930s and 40s? Will the passing of the wartime generation open up new possibilities for debate, or merely shut them down? 

In summary, should we resist the changing landscape of memory, or should we embrace it? 

The LRE Conference 2023 programme 

In the first part of the conference, Ukrainian historian and university professor Georgiy Kasianov (Head of the Laboratory of International Memory
Studies at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University
) will deliver a keynote address on the use and abuse of WWII memory in Ukraine’s ongoing war.

Kasianov’s speech will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Hungarian historian Áron Máthé (Committee of National Remembrance, Hungary), researcher Jade McGlynn (Department of War Studies, Kings College, London) and historic professor Kees Ribbens (Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam) on the impact of present-day nationalism on WWII memory and heritage.

In the third part of the conference, another panel discussion will take place, this time between German historian and cultural manager Gundula Bavendamm (Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion and Reconciliation, Berlin), Polish historian and professor Paweł Machcewicz (Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw), and Slovenian historian, museologist, and politician Kaja Širok (School of Humanities, University of Nova Gorica). During the panel, the three current and former museum directors will discuss the intense pressures they have faced to tell the story of the war in particular ways.

The conference will eventually conclude with an interview with German author and political scientist Katrin Himmler about the importance of confronting the past and WWII history honestly. 

Check out the video and let Keith Lowe’s words and thoughts guide you through a sneak peek of the LRE Conference 2023

The LRE Foundation kicks off its new project funded by the European Union: “Resistance through their EYES” 

The LRE Foundation invited its project partners to Brussels on January 12 and 13 to officially kick off the new project “Resistance through their Eyes,” which is a part of the successful “Through their Eyes” series.  

The LRE Foundation is collaborating with the Resistance Museum in the Netherlands, the Home Army Museum in Poland, the White Rose Foundation in Germany, the City of Milan in Italy, and the Ferruccio Parri National Institute in Italy to organise a project that uses a multi-national, multi-perspective approach to illustrate the international dimension of the history of the resistance in Europe during the Second World War.  

This project, “Resistance through their Eyes” realised nearly 80 years after the end of the Second World War, aims to publicise the diverse experiences of those in the resistance, including women, students, and minorities, as well as to emphasize the importance of protecting human rights and to reject all forms of discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, identity, and sexual orientation. The project, funded by the European Union as part of the Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values programme, will also promote youth education through first-hand visits to historical sites of remembrance and international dialogue that addresses the three aforementioned goals.

To fully realise this aim, the project partners will organise a series of events addressed to students from the participating countries, teachers, education officers, guides, WWII educators, and stakeholders.

During this meeting, the participants discussed the various stages of the project, including subsequent events such as WWII international workshops, the creation of historical content, travelling exhibitions in different language formats, four youth events, and one online exhibition with the purpose of reaching a wider audience. These events will demonstrate various balancing perspectives of resistance forms along with their consequences.  

Rémi Praud, Managing Director of the LRE Foundation: “It was an absolute pleasure to welcome some of the partner representatives to our office in Brussels for what turned out to be an insightful kick-off meeting. We are happy to work with such outstanding cultural institutions on this project that aims to encourage the younger generations to learn more about WWII resistance movements through a selection of engaging and fascinating stories and events. I am sure this collaboration will result in a various number of excellent events offering the younger generation a multi-perspective and comprehensive view of such an important part of European history.” 

LRE UK hosts first outreach event in Portsmouth: an opportunity to involve local stakeholders in the UK section of the LRE Hiking Trails network 

On Wednesday 18 January the UK branch of the LRE Foundation held its first UK outreach event in Portsmouth, southern England. This was an exciting opportunity to present the UK section of the Liberation Route Europe Hiking Trails project to local stakeholders and potential members, and to hear their feedback. It is the first of three outreach events in the UK this year, with two more taking place in Lincoln and London in the coming months. 

The event was hosted by Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and organised by Ben Mayne, Director of LRE UK, and Emme Johnson, Project Officer, LRE Foundation. BBC Broadcaster and Speaker, Dave Sharpe, was MC of the event, and together they presented the LRE Foundation, its partners, work and projects in an interactive and informative session. A key focus was the LRE Hiking Trails project, and after highlighting the progress so far in the trails network being developed in the county of Hampshire, they invited stakeholders to ask questions and discuss how they can be involved.

Following this, a panel discussion between four panellists, each representing a different sector, discussed the benefits of the project, how it can support the local area, and the impact it could have. Sharing their insights and specialist knowledge with the audience, they demonstrated the multidiscipline approach of the Foundation and project, and the variety of interests and backgrounds of those involved. The panellists included: 

  • Caroline Barrie-Smith, Head of Audience Engagement at Museum of London Archaeology & involved in CITiZAN project on coastal erosion 
  • Dr Victoria Humphreys, Author & Battlefield Guide 
  • Ross Fairbrother, General Manager at The D-Day Story Museum, and LRE UK member 
  • Robert James, Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Social History, University of Portsmouth 

The UK section of the LRE Hiking Trails project is still in its initial phases, however the network will cover the North, East and West of Hampshire, and is simultaneously being developed in Lincolnshire. Another outreach event will be held at the International Bomber Command Centre (an LRE UK member) in Lincoln in February, with a third taking place at the Churchill War Rooms in London in March. 

“The UK has a lot to offer the Liberation Route Europe Hiking Trail project, and the new routes will enable many people to explore the stunning countryside, fascinating stories, and unique historical sites and museums.”, said Ben Mayne, LRE UK Director, “Designed as a sustainable tourism product, the network aims to help drive positive tourism across multiple counties and contribute to the local economy. We are excited to be progressing with the route and look forward to the exciting developments to come!” 

LRE Foundation presents a new project with the support of the vfonds: the Liberation Route Cycling Routes

2023 kicks off with more great news: thanks to financial support from the vfonds, the Dutch Fund for Peace, Freedom and Veteran Care, the LRE Foundation presents a new development of the Liberation Route Europe project, the Liberation Route Cycling Routes! The new cycling route planner will enable even more people across Europe to actively participate in the commemoration and remembrance of World War II, reflecting on the value of freedom, democracy, and peace, while enjoying some active time outdoors. The LRE Foundation team is at work to make the first cycling routes available by Spring 2023. 

Since 2021, the LRE Foundation has been working on the Liberation Route Europe hiking trails, a sustainable tourism project linking places and stories related to the liberation of Europe at the end of WWII. The trail system consists of many different walking routes, from long hikes to one-day or half-day itineraries, all of which can be planned on or the Liberation Route mobile app. Along the way, walkers can find many remembrance sites and museums, and read or listen to stories from the final stages of WWII. Around 200 points of interest along the route have already been marked with trail markers called ‘Vectors of Memory’, designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind

“Following in the footsteps of the Polish Liberators” Cycling Route 

This year thanks to vfund the LRE Foundation will add the first cycling route to Liberation Route Europe. “Following in the footsteps of the Polish Liberators” will be a unique cycling route through the Netherlands, commemorating the Polish troops’ efforts during the country’s liberation. Indeed, although the role of Polish forces during the War is often downplayed or ignored, the First Polish Armored Division of General Maczek and the First Independent Parachute Brigade of General Sosabowski played a crucial role in the liberation of the Netherlands.

The Polish liberators symbolize the suffering inflicted by war on ordinary civilians. In 1942, the 1st Polish Armored Division was formed in Britain from the children of immigrants, labour camp refugees, escaped prisoners of war, and soldiers who managed to flee Poland after its downfall. The Polish people hoped to liberate their homeland; however, their deployment was limited to Western Europe, and many could not return to Poland after the war because of the new communist regime. In this light, the new cycling route, which will be built around stories like these, will aim to show the huge impact that war has on the lives of ordinary citizens.

Since the new route’s impending launch, the LRE Foundation is seeking cooperation with, among others, the Polish Embassy in The Hague, the Maczek Memorial, the Driel-Polen Foundation, and Brabant Remembers

Photo by Jonathan-Andrew

LRE France is the new operational branch of the LRE Foundation

After months of work, we are happy to announce that LRE Foundation has a new operational branch: LRE France! 

Following the founding of LRE Italy and LRE UK, the establishment of LRE France is an important step forward for the LRE Foundation, which aims to expand its network and connect the various WWII memorial sites in Europe through a wide range of projects, including Liberation Route Europe, the Certified Cultural Route following the advance of the Allies during WWII, and Europe Remembers, the online portal for European remembrance events and historical sites. 

I am delighted that the LRE France organization is now up and running. It will play an invaluable role in the development of our activities in France and the growth of our network.”, said Rémi Praud, LRE Foundation Managing Director. 

The historian and remembrance tourism expert Isabelle Lebreton has been named director of LRE France, where she will assist the LRE Foundation in developing new projects in the country. “I am really happy to join the LRE project.”, Isabelle Lebreton sayd. “I wish to contribute to the development of meaningful remembrance projects in France. Through the “Route de la Liberation” in particular and with the help of partners that I am eager to meet.” 

The major goal of LRE France is to support the dissemination of WWII memory in France by developing the “Route de la Libération,” a cultural and memorial route that connects the regions liberated from Nazi occupation between 1944 and 1945. The aim is to extend the existing Liberation Route Europe hiking path, totaling 1500 kilometers of trails and developing themed routes and historical content. The Fédération Française de Randonnées, the French hiking federation, is one of LRE France’s key partners and will help in this mission. 

2023 will be an important and productive year for the new LRE branch and will kick off with the organization of numerous outreach events. The first one is scheduled for March and will take place in northern France. These occasions will be ideal for introducing LRE France’s projects and objectives in order to attract new members and partners.