Historian, responsible for educational remembrance-projects at the Belgian National Institute for War veterans.
- My organization:
The Belgian National Institute for War veterans is a government organization that was first set up right after the First World War in 1919. The institute has 3 missions: The reimbursement of medical costs to different categories of war victims, war veterans and war invalids; Providing social assistance to all these people; Remembrance and teaching about Remembrance.
- Examples of concrete activities I have organized/am organizing in the field of “dealing with the past”:
- School trips to historical sites in Belgium and abroad e.g: Breendonk, CaserneDossin, Boyau de la Mort, Auschwitz, Buchenwald,… In 2012 we organised ‘The Train of 1000’: We took 1000 17-year-olds by train on a 5-day trip to Poland. They visited Auschwitz and Birkenau.
- Exhibitions on historical themes that travel to schools e.g. ‘Deportation and Genocide’ (concentration camps from ’33 to ’45, ‘TokopesaSaluti’ (on Congo and Belgium from 1885 to 2006), Congo at the Yser (on 32 Congolese soldiers in the Belgian army of WW I).
- Meetings between youngsters and the last survivors of WW II
- Interviewing the last survivors and tape the interviews
- Concrete challenges I am facing in my “dealing with the past”-related work:
- The disappearance of eye witnesses. Survivors of the war won’t be around forever to transmit the message of peace.
- The increasing number of foreigners in Belgian schools that feel no connection to the history and therefore remembrance of WW I and WW II.
- Different levels of schooling demand a different approach
- My personal link to/interest for the topic of “dealing with difficult pasts”:
Right out of school I started working as a historian for the Institute. In total I’ve been studying history for 10 years now and I consider myself very lucky to be doing my job. I feel that through our projects we contribute to the democratic upbringing of Belgian youngsters, we show them what happened, how it happened, why it happened that way and why it could happen again. We try to make intelligent and active citizens out of them and I feel lucky being a part of that effort. At the same time we make sure that history is never forgotten, that’s very important to me as a historian.