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!