Liberation Route Europe expands the Canadian Trails: the new Historic Paths Across North West Europe 

Earlier this spring, the LRE Foundation and several project partners met in Knokke-Heist, Belgium, to kick-off a new extended section of the Canadian Trails project. This initiative is supported by funding from the Interreg North-West Europe programme and aims to create a transnational hiking trail that follows the path of Canadian soldiers who helped liberate Western Europe during World War II. The project expands upon existing efforts in the Netherlands and extends the trail from Normandy to Germany as part of the Liberation Route Europe.  

The LRE Foundation is working alongside international project partners: LRE France, the Juno Beach Centre (France), and the For Freedom Museum (Belgium). Additionally, associated partners include the Juno Beach Centre Association (Canada), the French Hiking Federation, European Ramblers Association (Germany), and Stichting Wandelnet (Netherlands). 

The significance of the project lies in its dedication to preserving the memory of WWII, particularly Canada’s often overlooked role in Europe’s liberation. The new section of the Canadian Trails aims to weave together the narrative of Canadian soldiers’ journey from France to Germany via Belgium and the Netherlands, fostering cultural understanding and remembrance along the way. The trail, once completed, will serve as a walkable link connecting various historical sites, museums, and cities. 

During the kick-off meeting, the partners discussed the project development stages, shared responsibilities, and the next steps. Additionally, they had the opportunity to visit the inspiring For Freedom Museum in Knokke-Heist, one of the project partners, who also hosted the meeting in their hometown. In recent months, the partners have been working together to develop the first deliverables of the project, including the selection of historical sites and stories to include and the communication strategy and outputs. 

Project Officer Emme Johnson, leading the project and kick-off meeting, said “Our project aims to create a unique and immersive experience that connects the past with the present, and strengthens the ties between Canada and Northwest Europe through shared history and cultural exchange. By combining historical content, Vectors of Memory, and sustainable tourism practices, we hope to make this project inspiring and rewarding.” 

The team is excited to have had their first in-person meeting, to be followed by an online meeting at the end of June, and looks forward to a fruitful collaboration that will conclude in Spring 2025 with the launch of the new trails. 

Celebrating 10 Years of Liberation Route Europe in Arromanches-les-Bains 

Liberation Route Europe, one of the LRE Foundation’s key projects is among the leading cultural itineraries in Europe. Launched in 2014 the project has just turned 10. On the 7th of June, the LRE Foundation team travelled to Arromanches-les-Bains to celebrate this milestone with the network and partners.  

The anniversary event commenced with a Liberation Walk on Friday, June 7th, where participants gathered at the Esplanade in front of the D-Day Museum and started a guided historic walking tour through Arromanches.  

Following the walk, the “10 Years of Liberation Route Europe” ceremony unfolded at the Remembrance Garden. Opening remarks were delivered by Rémi Praud, Managing Director of LREF, followed by speeches from Nathalie Porte, Vice-President of Normandy region overseeing tourism, and Marcel Bastide, Mayor of Arromanches-les-Bains.  

Rémi Praud delved into the key milestones of LRE’s decade-long journey, while Madeleine Lebranchu, Vice President of FFRandonnée, announced a new collaboration agreement with the LRE Foundation during her speech, signed up immediately after the ceremony. 

The event featured the handover of three Vectors of Memory to the three speakers, culminating with closing remarks from Rémi Praud. Additionally, attendees had the privilege of hearing D-Day Veteran Mervyn Kersh’s reflections, interviewed by Ben Mayne, LRE UK Director.  As a sign of gratitude for Mr. Kersh’s continuous support of the LRE activities, he also received a Vector of Memory.  

Reflecting on the milestone, Rémi Praud says: “As I am looking back at the ten years of the existence of LRE, I feel a great sense of pride in what we have achieved. I am confident that together we will achieve even more in the future. I am extremely thankful to all our members, partners and funders, as well as team members who contributed to our work during the past decade.” 

As the journey of Liberation Route Europe enters its second decade, the LRE Foundation remains committed to fostering new ways to experience and connect remembrance sites, history and personal stories throughout the European landscape.   

For more information on the project and the hiking trails have a look at www.liberationroute.com  

The “On the Routes of Liberation: The Sicilian Campaign of 1943” exhibition at Abbaye aux Dames, Caen 

We are thrilled to announce the opening of the exhibition “On the Routes of Liberation: The Sicilian Campaign of 1943.” organized jointly by Normandy Region, the LRE Foundation and LRE Italy. This exhibition explores this important chapter in the story of the liberation of Europe, linking the historic landings in Sicily in July 1943 to the Normandy landings in June 1944, and highlighting their interconnected paths to freedom. 

The exhibition provides an in-depth look at the strategic, operational, and human dimensions of the Allied invasion of Sicily. Featuring historical content, photographs, videos, and maps, visitors will gain insights into the preparation, execution, and aftermath of the Sicilian campaign, emphasizing its role as a steppingstone to the Normandy landings.  

As Rémi Praud, Managing Director of the LRE Foundation, points out: “This exhibition plays a vital role in connecting stories from different parts of Europe and providing a chance to learn from each other. This dialogue is precisely what we aim for at the LRE Foundation.” 

As we commemorate the legacy of these major events, the exhibition invites reflection on the enduring significance of the Sicilian and Normandy landings in the broader context of World War II and their collective contribution to shaping a liberated Europe. 

The exhibition will be open until the 6th of October at Abbaye aux Dames, Caen, France. 

Launch of the new Liberation Route Europe Walking Route “In the Footsteps of the Canadian Liberators”

Yesterday, May 29th, the LRE Foundation, in collaboration with Erfgoed Zeeland and Provincie Zeeland, proudly launched the new Liberation Route Europe walking route in the Netherlands, titled “In the Footsteps of the Canadian Liberators.” This project, funded by Vfonds, highlights the crucial role of Canadian soldiers in the liberation of the Netherlands during World War II. The route includes several Vectors of Memory, designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind, which serve as markers to highlight major historical events and stories. 

Spanning over 1,500 kilometres, the new national walking route stretches from Zeeland to Groningen. It includes various museums, cemeteries, and other historical sites, featuring well-known and lesser-known stories from the final phase of World War II, such as the Battle of the Scheldt, Operation Veritable, and the liberation of the Northern Netherlands.

This new route is a vital addition to the Canadian Liberation Route, enriching the Liberation Route Europe hiking trail network. It retraces the steps of Canadian liberators in the Netherlands during 1944-45 and explores the resistance’s role, the actions of secret agents, and the experiences of ordinary citizens.

Yesterday’s ceremony, supported by the Municipality of Sluis, Village Council Retranchement, and Village Hall d’Ouwe Kerke, included the unveiling of a Vector of Memory at the Hickman Bridge in Retranchement. The 1.80-meter-high Vector of Memory commemorates the bridge constructed by the Royal Canadian Engineers over the Uitwatering Canal in October 1944. Named after their fallen sergeant, the ‘Hickman Bridge’ allowed Canadian troops to eliminate the last pockets of resistance around Knokke.

The launch ceremony at the Hickman Bridge was a beautiful moment, featuring speeches from Marga Vermue, Mayor of the Municipality of Sluis, Alderman Patricia van de Vijver, and Military Attaché at the Embassy of Canada, Colonel Marc Lafortune. Reflections on freedom were also shared by the oldest and youngest residents of Retranchement.

Following the ceremony, all guests went to the local Village Hall for the opening of the fascinating photo exhibition “1940-1945 Retranchement Terhofstede” about the town’s history during WWII.

The third Resistance Through Their Eyes youth event took place in Munich last week 

From 10 to 13 May 2024 the Weisse Rose Stiftung e.V. hosted the third edition of the “Resistance Through Their Eyes” youth event at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) in Munich. More than 100 students from four different schools participated in various workshops teaching them about stories of resistance during the Second World War. 

Coordinated by the LRE Foundation and funded by the European Union, Resistance Through Their Eyes is a collaborative project that aims to broaden a multi-perspective, transnational understanding of the theme of resistance during the Second World War. Alongside theLRE Foundation, key partners including the Milan Municipality (Italy), the Institute Ferruccio Parri (Italy), the Resistance Museum Amsterdam (The Netherlands), The White Rose Foundation (Germany) and the Home Army Museum Krakow (Poland), have come together to bring this initiative to life.  

On Wednesday, 15 May 2024, LMU Professor Michele Barricelli gave a public lecture on resistance to National Socialism as a historical root of Europe. The lecture was followed by a panel discussion introduced by Dr. Hildegard Kronawitter, featuring Stefanie Fehlhammer, Dr. Edith Koller and Jos Sinnema and moderated by Isabella Schmid. The discussion focussed on the exhibition “Resistance Through Their Eyes” which was shown at the university from 4 to 17 May 2024 portraying 16 people from the Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Germany who resisted the National Socialist regime. 

The nephew of White Rose member Alexander Schmorell, Markus Schmorell, and the grandson of Professor Kurt Huber, Stephan Weiß, were present during the discussion. Another participant was Mirosław Kosior whose father Henryk Kosior is one of the exhibition’s protagonists. A more detailed version of the exhibition containing 32 biographies can be viewed online by anyone wishing to find out more about people’s resistance during the Second World War. 

These kinds of events are extremely necessary and impactful, and having the family members of the exhibitions’ protagonists present gave the participants the opportunity to immerse themselves even deeper into their stories.” says Joanna Roman, Project Manager at the LRE Foundation. “The youth event in Munich serves as a great example of what can be done in the remembrance sector by organising meetings with people who are personally involved in the topic and with an audience that craves this type of content.”

By illustrating different perspectives of real-life war experiences, young people are encouraged to take a stand against the oppression of minorities and injustices in society. “Resistance Through Their Eyes” aims to promote civil courage, personal responsibility and democratic awareness and fosters a young generation that stands for tolerance, acceptance of others and respect for human rights. 

The fourth and last “Resistance Through Their Eyes” youth event will take place in Kraków, Poland, in October 2024. 

We are thrilled to announce the establishment of LRE Poland!

The LRE Foundation is a growing international organization responsible for projects that aim to preserve and valorize the cultural heritage related to the Second World War. It has national representations in multiple European countries including Brussels, Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and UK. The newly created LRE Poland has recently joined this group with Joanna Roman, a historian and project manager being in charge of it.

LRE Poland aims to explore the projects of the LRE Foundation such as Liberation Route Europe or Europe Remembers within the Polish context, including the creation of a new Polish network of trails and the establishment of lasting collaborations in the region.

Rémi Praud, Managing Director of the LRE Foundation, commented on this significant step: “The establishment of LRE Poland marks a milestone in promoting remembrance activities in this country. We are proud of Joanna and those who supported this launch, and we look forward to future cooperation with our Polish partners.” Over the past years, successful collaborations have been established in Poland with institutions such as the Museum of Gdańsk, the Home Army Museum, the Sybir Memorial Museum and the Grodzka Gate-NN Theatre Centre in Lublin. In addition, LRE Poland is also cooperating with universities and other WWII institutions to further develop its network.

Future plans include coordination of partnerships in Eastern Europe, covering Czechia, Slovakia, the Baltic States, Moldova, the Balkans, and beyond. Joanna Roman, the new Director of the LRE Poland: “I’m thrilled to commence this meaningful and responsible journey of creating and implementing WWII remembrance initiatives and to cooperate with local partners and authorities. I believe it will play a vital role in making the complex Polish WWII history a coherent part of European memory. I’m honoured to be working on building bridges between great institutions and regions as we collectively strive to make WWII history accessible to everyone.”

Currently, the efforts of the Foundation focus on building a network of members and partners and organizing the LRE Forum 2025, which will take place in Krakow between March 10 and 13.

This is just the starting point of an exciting journey, through which LRE Poland aims to promote the history and heritage of WWII and to commemorate its veterans.

Launch of new Liberation Route Europe trails in the Rivierenland  

Today, May 3rd, the LRE Foundation, together with four municipalities in the Rivierenland and the province of Gelderland, launches four new hiking and cycling trails in the Rivierenland in the Netherlands. This project shed light on the lesser-known history of the western Gelderland River area, that was among one of the hardest-hit regions in the Netherlands during World War II.  

The project aims to create a network of trails that informs the public about local history and create a better connection between different parts of the region. This collaborative effort involves the municipalities of West-Betuwe, Neder-Betuwe, Tiel and Buren, along with the Regionaal Archief Rivierenland, represented by Sil van Doornmalen, and the Flipje en Streekmuseum/ WO2 Informatiecentrum Rivierengebied. Local historians have also contributed to highlighting important POIs and stories about the wartime period in the Rivierenland. 

Today, May 3, marks the official launch of the five Liberation Route Europe trails: a themed hiking route in Tiel, three cycling routes spanning West-Betuwe, Neder-Betuwe, and Buren, and a comprehensive regional route for both hiking and cycling, covering over 230 kilometres and linking all aforementioned municipalities. 

The day’s agenda includes ceremonies across each municipality. Attendees will include local and national journalists, reenactors, Scottish pipe drum players, and representatives from the LRE Foundation, notably Honorary Chairman Jurriaan de Mol and LREF Project Officer Wout van Aalst. 

The ceremonies will feature the unveiling of a Vector of Memory, sharing historical anecdotes, commemorations, and most importantly, underlining the significance of the new Liberation Route Europe trails in the Rivierenland area. The day’s events will culminate in Tiel at the WO2 Informatiecentrum Rivierengebied. 

The impressive content and stories that have been collected, represent the impact the Second World War had on the people living in the Rivierenland.” says Wout van Aalst, project officer at the LRE Foundation. “Different perspectives and stories came to light: fighting in the resistance, the mobilization of the Dutch army, collaboration with German troops and the total destruction of certain areas, only to name a few. Collecting these stories together with the different partners and people involved, made working in the Rivierenland a real pleasure.” 

The LRE Active Remembrance Youth Programme kick-off seminar in Brussels

The Liberation Route Europe Active Remembrance Youth Programme (ARYP) kicked off last week at the House of European History in Brussels. Professionals from the history, remembrance, audiovisual, and podcast production fields gathered alongside the LRE Foundation Team for a two-day kick-off event filled with presentations, workshops, and knowledge-sharing. 

The Active Remembrance Youth Programme is an EU-funded project that aims to actively involve and inspire young Europeans from diverse backgrounds to explore and commemorate World War II from multiple perspectives. Through a series of youth exchanges, participants will visit significant WWII sites across Europe, engaging with history firsthand. This immersive experience encourages active learning, including conducting interviews, curating historical content, and creating podcasts and videos, all contributing to an online exhibition

The kick-off meeting’s first day featured insightful discussions with professionals like Annelies van Rijen from the House of European History Museum, Paula O’Donohoe from Euroclio, Jordi Guixé and Oriol Lopez Badell from EUROM, Anne-Catherine Michel from the Bastogne War Museum, and Roel Timperman from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They shared valuable best practices on engaging young adults in remembrance projects. Highlight presentations by Prof. Dr. Joanna Wojdon and Prof. Dr. Katja Makhotina underscored the importance of embracing multiple perspectives in historical narratives. 

The second day of the kick-off seminar delved into practical training sessions on podcast creation and guiding young individuals in video editing. Supported by Natif and MediaRaven, participants gained valuable skills essential for executing the project’s objectives. 

The two-day seminar marked an auspicious beginning for the Active Youth Remembrance Programme, setting the stage for a collaborative and impactful journey ahead.

Being able to learn from experienced organisations and sharing best practices, provided us with the perfect opportunity to prepare ourselves in the best way possible.” said Wout van Aalst, Project Officer at the LRE Foundation.

Stay tuned for more updates! 

The second Resistance Through Their Eyes youth event took place at Casa della Memoria in Milan 

 The city of Milan and the Ferruccio Parri National Institute co-organized the second Resistance Through Their Eyes youth event on April 9-10, 2024, at Casa della Memoria in Milan. Aimed at educating and engaging young people about the history of resistance during World War II, the event offered a unique blend of educational activities and interactive experiences. 

The highlight of the event was the urban game titled “The Secret Rebels of Milan”, based on the stories included in the project exhibition. Over 100 young participants, divided into teams, embarked on an exciting journey through the Library of Trees park, where they encountered ten stages, each representing a significant location linked to Milan’s resistance history. Equipped with smartphones or tablets, teams solved puzzles at each stage, earning clues that would ultimately lead them to uncover the final answer. 

The game also emphasized teamwork, strategy, and quick thinking. As teams raced against the clock, they could track their progress on a leaderboard, comparing their points with those of other teams. Additionally, teams could access help and hints whenever they faced challenges, ensuring that everyone had a fair chance to succeed. 

Beyond the urban game, the event offered participants the opportunity to explore the most important places of remembrance dedicated to World War II. Project partners gained firsthand insights into the stories of those who resisted Nazi-fascist oppression. 

Visitors were able to immerse themselves in the history of the Resistance, learn about the various viewpoints of its characters, and participate in special activities thanks to the collaboration with the Enigmap association.”, says a Milan Municipality representative. “Furthermore, secondary schools were invited to participate in an interactive treasure hunt at the BAM Tree Library park, which was organized by the Enigmap association. A one-of-a-kind opportunity for kids and boys to learn about the Milanese Resistance firsthand by solving puzzles and logic games based on Italian partisan biographies.

The event served as a reminder of the importance of commemorating and learning from the past, especially in today’s world. By engaging young people in meaningful ways, the Resistance Through Their Eyes project aims to ensure that the legacy of resistance lives on, inspiring future generations to stand up against injustice and oppression.