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Westhoek: places of memory and monuments of the Great War

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Author Solivagant
#1 | Posted: 11 May 2008 16:37 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Full name of site: Westhoek: places of memory and monuments of the Great War
Country: Belgium
Short description of site (also include multiple locations if applicable): Cemeteries, memorials and military remains of the Western Front from WWI in + around Ypres
Criteria (cultural, natural, mixed): Cultural iv, v
Current status: T List
Outstanding universal value / comparative analysis: The list contains no entry from WWI – the event which set the agenda for the rest of the 20th century. A major gap. There is a reluctance perhaps to "celebrate" war but there are plenty of military structures on the List and of course Auschwitz and Genbaku Dome are on from WWII. The issue of winners and losers is also far enough away now – everyone was a loser and cemeteries from all the nations on the Western Front are included. They themselves are "historic buildings" and represent the times in which they were built soon after the end of the war.

Author Assif
#2 | Posted: 12 May 2008 08:44 
I support this one too.

Author meltwaterfalls
#3 | Posted: 12 May 2008 08:59 
100% support, not only a memorial to one of the greatest losses of human life but also an exceptional example of lanscape design in the shape of the cemmetaries, they are also imaculatly maintained.

Author Xeres
#4 | Posted: 22 Jun 2008 11:32 
an superb suggestion. it shows the evolution of warfare (trenches), architecture of memorials and cemeteries, and the how the landscape has been altered (cratered) by bombs,and shells.

might be extended to include sites in France, and even Canada (vimy ridge, is technically part of Canada, it was given to Canada by the French in recognization of the Canadian effort at the battle there).

i support

Author EnsignYoshi
#5 | Posted: 16 Feb 2014 09:16 
This one has my support as well

Author clyde
#6 | Posted: 18 Feb 2014 15:46 
Since it is relatively close to where I live and it is likely to become a WHS in the near future, I'll certainly visit and give it a try. Although I admit I'm quite sceptical.

Author meltwaterfalls
#7 | Posted: 19 Feb 2014 06:23 
I would recommend having your own transport to travel around to a few different sites and heading across the border to France as well.. The large cemeteries especially with the massive fields of graves are rather impressive. The layout and regimentation of the design is a particularly effective way of using landscape design to make a rather moving and poignant point about the sheer scale of the loss of life.

Author hubert
#8 | Posted: 19 Feb 2014 09:46 
I agree that this proposal would be a worthy addition to the WH list. For both reasons mentioned by meltwaterfalls. Several years ago, I visited the batte field in Verdun, which certainly will be among the nominated sites. And I was deeply impressed by the sheer size of the American cemetery and the ossuary, by the endless rows of white crosses, and also by the number of memorials and small cemeteries along the former front line.

According to the following websites, 80 sites in France and 25 in Belgium have been selected, but only a few examples are mentioned. It would be interesting to have a detailed list. 80-sites-au-patrimoine-de-l-humanite_4345285_823448.html sement-de-sites-14-18-de-meuse-et-belfort#jimage=E2D36ED7-553B-4D49-B423-C75B2898ED02

Author Solivagant
#9 | Posted: 19 Feb 2014 10:40 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Well - we shall have to see where it "comes" in the "Top 50 missing" voting won't we!

This year of course is the 100th Anniversary of the start of WWI - at one time the site was targetting the 2014 WHC but I guess they are going to aim to have it inscribed by 2018 now??.
The Anniversary is receiving a lot of coverage throughout the year in UK and I would be interested to know what its profile is elsewhere among other former combatant countries - Netherlands of course remained neutral and USA didn't declare war until 1917 but Forum members represent a number of the countries involved from 1914. At least (as well as UK) - Germany, France, Austria, Australia, Canada and India.

Author Khuft
#10 | Posted: 19 Feb 2014 11:24 
In germany bookshops at least seem to cover it quite extensively too...

Author meltwaterfalls
#11 | Posted: 19 Feb 2014 12:45 
The Anniversary is receiving a lot of coverage throughout the year in UK

:) My desk-mate now works solely on the First World War, such is the level of interest in projects. Yet we are criticised for not carpeting the whole country in poppies.

Author elsslots
#12 | Posted: 19 Feb 2014 13:22 
Netherlands of course remained neutral

WWI totally has passed NL by, and there never has been any real interest. It's big in Belgiun though.

Author hubert
#13 | Posted: 19 Feb 2014 22:52 
I would be interested to know what its profile is elsewhere

It's different in Germany compared to the UK and France, and also to Canada or Australia, I think. In Germany, WWII is much more present in the collective memory than WWI. For Germans, the consequences of the WWII were more severe and drastic. First, the immediate consequences after 1945. But also later, the discussion on the Holocaust and the question of personal guilt and responsibility, the position in the Arab-Israeli conflict or in the 1990s the question of the role of the reunited Germany in military conflicts around the world. These political issues are discussed in context to WWII and Nazism.

But certainly, there will be also a lot of commemorations and projects this year. And the "commemorative industry" with books, movies, TV features etc runs in Germany as extensive as in other countries.

Author Solivagant
#14 | Posted: 20 Feb 2014 03:11 | Edited by: Solivagant 
It's different in Germany compared to the UK and France

Interesting comment. WWI is seen very much as a "watershed" in UK History at which point "society" changed fundamentally in ways which weren't so much the case with WWII. And of course the casualties were far greater in UK (and in France) relative to WWII (even if WWII did "reach" the UK home front rather more directly than WW1). I have done a quick approx comparison below for some countries - WWI - Mil Death/Civ Death......WWII - Mil Death/Civ Death
Germany 2,000,000/1000.....3,500,000/700,000
Australia 61,966/0......23,000/12,000
Canada 64,976/0....37,000/0
UK 886,939/2,000.....383,800/67,000
Belgium 58,637/7,000....12,000/76,000
France 1,397,800/40,000....200,000/350,000
Italy 651,000/4,000....330,000/80,000
Rus/USSR 1,811,000/500,000...10,000,000/10,000,000
U States 116,708/757...416,800/1,700

For UK, WWI is also seen as a potentially "unnecessary" war which (conceivably) it needn't have been involved in, so it has a "what if" aspect to it which increases the poignancy of the casualties. For Australia and Canada WWI was a "Nation creating" event so has that "special" aspect for them - and also the military numbers were large in %age terms.

the question of personal guilt and responsibility

You mention the "Guilt" question in Germany re WWII. Is the Question of WWI "guilt" discussed at all nowadays (even only in Schools?) - and if so what is the "general consensus" at the beginning of 21st C? The issue of "unjust blame" was of course a major factor in the events which led on to WWII so cannot be totally "ignored".

Author hubert
#15 | Posted: 20 Feb 2014 07:14 | Edited by: hubert 
You mention the "Guilt" question in Germany re WWII.

I mentioned "question of guilt and responsibility" more in connection with the Holocaust.
But there is a consensus about the causes of WWI and the role of Germany and Austria. And also about the global impact of WWI.
But for example in School there is more emphasis on WWII, Nazism, and the Weimar Republic. What's called "Vergangenheitsbewältigung" in German (there is no English term, I think). This certainly hampers the perception of European history as a continuous process. But it is also understandable. The consequences of WWII for the life of the people were more severe and sustainable. The "fundamental change of society" happened in Germany after WWII.
A few keywords thereto:
immediately after 1945:
- destruction, hunger and scarcity (of course also true for other countries)
- the occupation and division in West and East Germany
- need to rebuilt the political and social structures, and the denazification
- expulsion of Germans from former eastern territories, and their integration
In the 1960s the already mentioned discussion on "question of individual guilt" emerged, mainly caused by a discussion on the statute of limitation for war crimes. The question who was offender, collaborator, follower? How could it happen, that millions of Jewish citizen and neighbours were arrested, deported and murdered, and nobody has intervened?
And in the 1990s the discussion on the role of the reunited Germany in military conflicts around the world. Until then, the German army was a defence army, military operations outside Germany were forbidden by law.
For these reasons WWII is more present in the memory of the people than WWI. But I think this is similar in the countries at the former eastern front of WWI?

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