The Home Army Museum in Krakow joins the LRE Foundation Network

The LRE Foundation is delighted to announce that the Home Army Museum in Krakow (Muzeum Armii Krajowej) has joined its network. With the signature of the membership agreement, the Home Army Museum becomes the second Polish member, following the Museum of Gdańsk which joined in February 2022.

The Museum of the Home Army, located in Krakow, is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Polish Underground State and the Home Army established in Poland, as the largest resistance group in occupied Europe during the Second World War. The museum is a cultural institution with a large collection of historical artefacts and is operated by the City of Krakow and the Lesser Poland Province.

Rémi Praud, Managing Director of the LRE Foundation: “We are happy that the Home Army Museum decided to join the Foundation as a member. This new partnership offers us the possibility to further explore the heritage of the Polish Underground State and Home Army and to include the related remembrance sites and stories in our initiatives. Their participation will enrich our network, bringing to the table a new valuable Polish perspective on the Second World War, and we hope that their example will inspire other parties in Poland to join our mission.” 

As the Home Army Museum, we are honored to be a new member of the LRE Foundation and have the opportunity to expand our educational activities to the European level. We see great potential in this cooperation, for dialogue with other countries and exchange experiences, especially at a time when there is war going on beyond our eastern border. In this way, we hope to constantly keep history in mind and commemorate the past events, including the fate of the Home Army soldiers – the largest resistance movement during World War II.” tells Dr. Marek Lasota – Director of the Home Army Museum.

New Liberation Route Europe theme routes in Limburg explore the liberation of the province

The Dutch province of Limburg becomes part of the international Liberation Route Europe hiking trails system with unique themed routes dedicated to its liberation. The itinerary runs for more than 300 kilometers from Mesch to Mook, through the whole region, and includes over 100 sites and stories linked to the final phases of the Second World War.

In September 2022, the trails will be presented in Mesch, where American troops crossed the Belgian-Dutch border for the first time in 1944. Meanwhile, the routes through Limburg and more than 100 stories can be explored on the Liberation Route Europe website. Besides two main itineraries connecting sites in Limburg, Liberation Route Europe also introduced four shorter hikes to explore the history in the region of South-Limburg and the towns of Gennep, Venlo and Nederweert. The website and newly launched Liberation Route mobile app allow visitors to easily plan their walks along the new theme routes and discover the rich WWII history of the province of Limburg.

The LRE Foundation, initiator of the Liberation Route Europe, has been working closely with Limburg Marketing, Routebureau Noord- en Midden-Limburg, Routepunt Visit Zuid-Limburg and historian Fred Cammaert on these walking routes about the Liberation of Limburg. This innovative sustainable project has been funded by the Province of Limburg, all municipalities in Limburg, Ons WCL Midden-Limburg and the vfonds (National Fund for Peace, Freedom and Veteran Care).

The Liberation of Limburg
As early as 12 September 1944, the villages of Mesch, Mheer and Noorbeek in the south of Limburg were liberated. At that time, nobody thought that the liberation of the rest of the province would take another six months and would entail brutal fights. Whereas the largest part of southern Limburg did not suffer significant damage due to the lack of Nazi resistance, a fierce battle soon broke out in the central and northern parts of the province. Thousands of soldiers and civilians lost their lives. Artillery shelling, bombardments, looting, raids, deportations and forced evacuations determined everyday life for months. Places like Venlo, Venray and Gennep changed into a wasteland of rubble.

Only on 3 March 1945 did the Allied troops arrive in the villages of Arcen, Velden and Bergen, and Well in North Limburg. Their arrival marked the end of the Nazi occupation in the entire province. The price of freedom had been immense and had left an indelible sign. Today, hundreds of monuments, museums and memorials keep this painful yet crucial memory alive.   

To follow in the footsteps of history in Limburg and discover more locations along the Liberation Route Europe, visit the website or download the new Liberation Route Europe mobile app here. 

The LRE Foundation’s Historical Advisory Board welcomes three new members

The LRE Foundation is delighted to introduce three new members to its Historical Advisory Board: Prof. Katja Makhotina, Prof. Kees Ribbens, and Dr. Benoît Niederkorn. The three new historians from different countries and backgrounds, share distinguished careers in WWII memory transmission and remembrance.

The Historical Advisory Board, comprised of leading historians, works to define the Foundation’s historical scope and supervises the content and research development. Together with the International Supervisory Board, which oversees the organisation’s administration, this body holds a crucial role in the LRE Foundation and its doing.

Prof. Katja Makhotina is a Professor of History at the Department of Eastern European History at the University of Bonn (Germany). Her main research areas are remembrance culture of WWII and Stalinism in Russia, Central and Eastern Europe and Lithuania. Prof. Makhotina is a member of several advisory boards of memorials in Germany and a founding member of a working group to establish a new Documentation Centre about the German occupation in Europe (to be located in Berlin by the German Historical Museum). About her new role as part of the Historical Advisory Board, Prof. Makhotina said: “The LRE Foundation keeps the civic spark of memory alive – an important prerequisite for a critical view of the past and the present. I am pleased to be able to accompany this concern as part of the advisory board.”

Prof. Kees Ribbens is a Senior Researcher at NIOD (Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies) and Professor of ‘Popular historical culture of Global Conflicts and Mass Violence’ at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Ribbens joins the LREF Historical Advisory Board and enriches it with his knowledge and interest in public history, commemorations, museums, history education and social imagery linked to war experience. “Contemporary encounters with World War II can occur in various forms. Tourism too plays a role in this, in which curiosity can lead to greater knowledge and a better understanding of this dramatic twentieth-century past. In my research on the culture of remembrance of the war and the Holocaust, I have noticed the opportunities tourism offers for keeping this history alive, particularly in an international context. That makes it valuable to be involved in the ongoing work of Liberation Route Europe.” Prof. Ribbens stated, “The NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies has played a role in documenting and analysing the history of the Second World War ever since the Liberation of the Netherlands. Drawing on the knowledge acquired here about what happened then and the post-war impact and significance it has, I look forward to contributing to the Historical Advisory Board.”, he concluded.

The last addition, Dr. Benoît Niederkorn, is the curator and director of the National Museum of Military History in Diekirch (Luxembourg) since 2017. Niderkorn’s main research interests are the history of war and society and the history of the Luxembourgish Armed Forces in the 19th and 20th centuries. “Luxembourg is rich in WWII history and cultural heritage. Many monuments and stories linked to the Battle of the Bulge and more are worth being researched and conveyed. I am glad to be joining the LREF Historical Board. LRE Foundation’s experience, combined with the archives of the National Military Museum, can help the Luxembourgish Ministry of Culture in its mission to improve the country’s hiking trails and provide valuable stories for those hiking along the Liberation Route Europe theme routes.”, Dr. Benoît Niederkorn said regarding his entrance in the LREF Historical Advisory Board. 

LRE Foundation signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Maison de la Randonnée – GTA Belgique

We are delighted to announce that the LRE Foundation (LREF) and the Maison de la Randonnée – GTA Belgique have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and partnership to promote the Freedom Trail (Chemins de la Liberté ®) in the Belgian Ardennes.

GTA Belgium has been active in the Ardennes since the 1980s and has developed many famous touristic trails, such as the Transardennaise. The organisation’s expertise in outdoor recreation represents an excellent asset for developing the LRE Foundation’s European trail system – the Liberation Route Europe hiking trails – which follow in the footsteps of the Allies during the latter phase of the Second World War (1943-45).

The LRE Foundation and GTA Belgium will work together to promote the Freedom Trail, a 68 km signposted loop trail starting in Bastogne that will lead hikers to discover various remembrance sites in the Bastogne region and part of the history of the famous Battle of the Bulge. This route crosses the municipalities of Vaux-sur-Sûre, Sainte-Ode, Bertogne and Bastogne. The Freedom Trail is identified by a 1:25,000 IGN map and Road Books translated into three languages (FR – NL – GB). The Freedom Trail becomes a core part of the Liberation Route Europe, together with the recently launched themed route in the Ardennes. Together, LREF and GTA Belgium will also work on the touristic promotion of the many historical sites present in the area and a unique visitor experience.

“The Freedom Trail is a mythical route that leads us to the events of the Second World War,” explains Denis Jusseret, president of the Maison de la Randonnée – GTA – Belgium. “A route that expresses the deep meaning of this history. It connects the main sites of the Memory of the Second World War located among others on the perimeter of the Battle of Bastogne. Its path between forest and countryside, over hills and valleys, can only fill us with wonder in the middle of nature.”

“The signing of this partnership will allow us to further extend the Liberation Route in the Belgian Ardennes, and the major GTA hiking trails we developed at length to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge will also gain more visibility”, stated Rémi Praud, Managing Director of the LRE Foundation. “In that respect, working with GTA – Belgium is a valuable asset, and I am very much looking forward to this important collaboration”, he added.

LRE Foundation receives Belgian National Lottery grant for the development of the Liberation Route Europe

At the beginning of 2022, the Belgian National Lottery decided to support the Liberation Route Europe hiking trails by granting part of its yearly subsidies to the LRE Foundation. The significant amount allocated to the project helps the foundation move forward in the route expansion and historical research in Belgium. Furthermore, the grant will help develop the Liberation Route digital platforms, including the website (and online travel planner) and the recently launched mobile app (now available for Android and iOS!).  

Every year, the Belgian National Lottery devotes a significant portion of its game revenue to financing numerous social projects on the Belgian territory in various fields such as culture, sport, research, development, solidarity and more. 

Sammy Mahdi, Secretary of State Asylum & Migration, in charge of the National Lottery of Belgium: “Thanks to our players, every year we are able to support significant causes all around Belgium. The National Lottery, its players and I are pleased to support such an important project as the Liberation Route Europe hiking trails. We wish you every success.” 

Liberation Route Europe is the transnational itinerary that links the central regions that marked the end of the Second World War. Since 2021, people can experience the route in a new way, by walking or hiking, thanks to an extended network of trails connecting WWII remembrance sites and stories across Europe. Thanks to the new digital offer consisting of a renewed website and mobile app, people can easily plan their trips along the Liberation Route by exploring the trails and reading many stories about the end of WWII in Europe.  

Rémi Praud, Managing Director of the LRE Foundation: “We would like to deeply thank the Belgian National Lottery for the support and trust. Thanks to the grant received, we will be able to expand and promote the hiking trails system in Belgium and add new stories and sites to the Liberation Route Europe website and mobile app.” 

More ‘Vectors of Memory’ unveiled across Europe 

Throughout the first half of 2022, many new ‘Vectors of Memory’ have been installed across Europe with many more to be unveiled later this year. These important way markings along the Liberation Route Europe have been erected thanks to the hard work of the members of the LRE Foundation and the financial support of our key partners. 

The ‘Vectors of Memory’ were designed by Daniel Libeskind as a family of monuments that serve both as physical embodiment of the Liberation Route Europe and to provide wayfinding along the new hiking trails. In total, Daniel Libeskind designed four types of ‘Vectors’ that would be recognisable across Europe (from largest to smallest): Remembrance Site Vector, Crossroads Vector, Wall Vector, and Floor Vector. More information on Daniel Libeskind’s concept can be found here. 

In the Netherlands, this year new Crossroads Vectors were unveiled in the village of Vught, the Commonwealth War Cemetery Uden, Freedom Museum Groesbeek, city of Wageningen, Airborne Museum Villa Hartenstein, German War Cemetery in Ysselsteyn, and city of Apeldoorn. Later this year Crossroads Vectors will also be installed in Arnhem, Nijmegen, and the villages of Mesch and Wilp. In addition to the aforementioned Crossroads Vectors, over 15 Wall Vectors and 40 Floor Vectors have been installed this year at various locations in the Dutch provinces of Limburg, Gelderland, and North Brabant thanks to the financial support of various partners including the vfonds, Mondriaan Funds, Province of Limburg, Province of Noord-Brabant,  Province of Gelderland, Province of Zeeland, Airborne Region, and Airborne Beer. 

The first ‘Vector of Memory’ in France was presented to the Region of Normandy during the LRE Forum in April 2022. In Belgium, a Wall Vector was presented to the Bastogne War Museum during the ‘EASTory Through Their Eyes’ Youth Conference. 

In 2021, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany sponsored the production of 130 Floor Vectors as part of larger financial support for the development of the Liberation Route Europe hiking trails and new website / mobile applications. The Floor Vectors are in the process of installation at various locations throughout Europe. This included the first German ‘Vector of Memory’ unveiled in May at the Peace Museum – Bridge at Remagen 

Rémi Praud, Managing Director of the LRE Foundation, expressed, “We are very grateful for the enthusiasm our partners across Europe have shown to further develop the Liberation Route Europe by adopting and installing a ‘Vector of Memory’. I am sure that in the upcoming years, many more Vectors will unveiled across Europe.” 

To stay up to date with the latest locations where a ‘Vector of Memory” has been installed, visit: Vectors of Memory – LRE Foundation.

If you would like to install a ‘Vector of Memory’ or make a donation, please get in touch with us. 

New Liberation Route Europe trail in Jersey highlights historic forced labour on the island

The LRE Foundation, Visit Jersey and Jersey Heritage are excited to announce a new addition to the Liberation Route Europe, the Forced Workers Trail, located on the Island of Jersey. The trail introduces visitors to 20 locations linked to the experiences of forced foreign labourers to the island during the Second World War.

The Channel Islands (that include Guernsey and Jersey) were the only region of the British Isles to be occupied by German Forces during the Second World War. The Island’s occupation lasted for two years, from 1 July 1940 until its Liberation on 9 May 1945. Starting in the autumn of 1941, German occupational forces brought 6000 foreign workers, both men and women, to the Island to work as forced labour on the construction of concrete German fortifications, part of the larger Atlantic Wall. These actions took place under the Organisation Todt (OT), the civil and military engineering organisation responsible for engineering projects in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War Two.

Whilst these workers originated from many different countries, their treatment varied. Labourers from Western Europe and North Africa were conscripted as paid labourers. While Eastern Europeans, such as Vasily Marempolsky, were used as slave labour and were often treated with brutality. In some cases, the Islanders, such as Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, put their lives and livelihoods in great peril to shelter escaped labourers.

Together, Jersey Heritage, Visit Jersey, and the LRE Foundation have worked to create a new thematic route, the ‘Forced Workers Trail in Jersey’, as part of the Liberation Route Europe to connect the historic locations across the Island and tell these moving personal stories. This project will promote the preservation and appreciation of Jersey’s historical heritage, making it accessible to visitors to the area and ensuring that the Island’s story is passed on for many generations to come.

To follow in the footsteps of history in Jersey and discover more locations along the Liberation Route Europe, visit the website or download the new Liberation Route Europe mobile app here. 

First ‘Vector of Memory’ unveiled in Germany at the Peace Museum – Bridge at Remagen 

On 9 May 2022, the first ‘Vector of Memory’ in Germany was unveiled in front of the Peace Museum – Bridge of Remagen in the presence of Björn Ingendahl, Mayor of Remagen, Anke Sultan and Volker Thehos, Peace Museum Board Members, and Chance Williams, Project Manager LRE Foundation. 

This Vector was produced and installed thanks to the financial support of the German Bundestag and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in The Hague, which has given its financial support to further develop the Liberation Route Europe since 2020. 

 “The early capture of the Remagen Bridge by the Americans on March 7, 1945, significantly shortened World War II in Europe, according to experts. Therefore, it has a rightful place on the Liberation Route Europe,” said Mayor Ingendahl.

“Remembering the past is to create a better future. This motto of the LRE Foundation is also fundamental for the work of the Peace Museum,” added Volker Thehos, Board Member of the Peace Museum. 

To follow in the footsteps of history in Remagen and to discover more locations along the Liberation Route Europe, visit www.liberationroute.com or download the Liberation Route Europe mobile app here. 

HistoryTreks – Dutch and German students on a trip along the Liberation Route Europe to discover their shared history

At the beginning of May, twenty-seven university students took part in the “History Treks – Promoting European Citizenship and Sustainability along the Liberation Route Europe” project. This initiative, part of the LRE Youth Programme array, was co-organised by the Foundation with LRE NRW and funded thanks to an Erasmus+ grant.

Coming partly from the Radboud University of Nijmegen (Netherlands), the Duisburg-Essen University (Germany) and the Hogschule Rhein-Waal (Germany), the students came together for a 5-day trip along the Liberation Route Europe. As part of this experience, they visited some of the most important sites linked to WWII history and remembrance in the Limburg, Gelderland and North-Rhine-Westphalia regions and reflected on the different perspectives of WWII history and the long-lasting consequences for Germany and the Netherlands.

On the first day, the students, accompanied by LRE Foundation staff and some university professors, arrived at the Vogelsang International Place, a former Nazi training institution used today as a place of active remembrance. They explored the complex, visited the museum’s permanent exhibition, and discussed the propaganda movie ‘Der Herscher’ (1937, by Veit Harlan). After two days, the group moved to the Netherlands, where they were welcomed at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten by Frenk Lahaye from the American Battle Monuments Commission. After visiting this iconic remembrance place, the students continued with a guided tour of the German War Cemetry in Ysselsteyn.

On May 4 – Remembrance Day in the Netherlands – the students joined the commemorations at the Oversteek (‘The crossing’) bridge in Nijmegen. They took part in the emotional Sunset March, a daily tribute to the Allied soldiers who fought for the liberation of The Netherlands. On Liberation Day (May 5), the group continued with a guided tour of the Freedom Museum and Canadian Cemetery in Groesbeek. Finally, the trip ended in Oosterbeek, where the group visited the Airborne Museum and the Airborne War Cemetery in Oosterbeek.

Luisa Röhrich, Professor at the Duisburg-Essen University: “The students experienced an interesting and intensive time. They learned a lot about the cultures of commemoration in the neighbouring countries, which resulted in an important contribution to the German-Dutch friendship and exchange. The German students found the Sunset March particularly emotional. That Germans, less than 80 years after the liberation, have the opportunity to walk along the march, is a strong sign of the friendship between the neighbouring countries and shows the importance and overwhelming significance of projects such as the Liberation Route Europe”.