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king opens new exhibition loenen national war cemetery

2020-12-01

This week, King Willem-Alexander opened the new memorial and educational centre of Loenen National War Cemetery, designed by Tinker imagineers. The centre focuses on stories by Dutch war victims and the deployment of the Dutch during international (peace) missions. In the exhibition, visitors encounter the relatives of war victims through mirrors, confronting them with the idea that this could have been about themselves. Meanwhile, a projection with various clips on one of the walls offers a perspective of war and peace back then and today. The adjacent room puts the spotlight on the veterans and tells the story of military missions that the Netherlands has contributed to.

Meeting the relatives of war victims
The first room boasts six mirrors that display the relatives of victims. They look you in the eye and talk about their loved one buried at Loenen National War Cemetery. Visitors go face to face with the survivors of Anton de Kom (resistor), Ben Buunk (escapee to England), Philip Schwarz (Jewish victim of persecution), Anda Kerkhoven (resistor), Raviv van Renssen (military, perished in Srebrenica) and Timo Smeehuijzen (military, perished in Afghanistan). The stories show how sorrow lingers after so many years and often continues to play out across multiple generations. The visitor is constantly aware of their own reflection while looking at this piece.

In the auditorium, you will find all military missions since 1947 that involved a Dutch contribution. In addition to a factual overview of the missions, this piece tells the personal stories of veterans. What were the considerations of Dutch soldiers to go and put their lives at risk in a faraway land? The room contains an interactive touch screen table with a large world map. The table acts as an interactive database of missions that involved the Dutch military between 1947 and today. Some missions are accompanied by an interview with a veteran.

Loenen National War Cemetery
Almost 4,000 Dutch war victims are buried at Loenen National War Cemetery, each with their own story. These stories come to life during a visit to the field of honour and the exhibit in the new centre. The ‘Oorlogsgravenstichting’ (War Cemetery Foundation) wants to share these stories to convey the message that peace, liberty and safety are not self-evident.

Loenen National Veterans Cemetery
Adjacent to the Loenen National War Cemetery, you will find the veteran cemetery where veterans and their partners, if so desired, are buried or their ashes scattered. The memorial and educational centre was designed by KAAN Architecten and doubles as an exhibit and an auditorium for veteran funerals.

Photos: Rob Gieling Photography