Magazine article UNESCO Courier

A Museum for Peace

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

A Museum for Peace

Article excerpt

IF you stand in the grassed over quarry that now forms part of the gardens of the Memorial Museum for Peace, on the outskirts of Caen in Normandy, France, your eye will perhaps be caught by a seemingly insignificant, newly-planted sapling.

Under two metres in height, there is nothing to distinguish it from the other trees in the garden except the plaque that informs the curious that it is a gift from the people of the United States, a sequoia sempervirens, a Redwood, the world's tallest species of tree, that one day will tower above its neighbours at its maximum height of 90 metres or more.

Opened in 1988, the Memorial Museum for Peace was built to commemorate those who died in the Battle of Normandy in 1944, the biggest battle in the history of mankind. It also honours the people of Caen, who saw their city reduced to rubble around them in the struggle for liberation.

But the Museum is not just another memorial, not just another war museum full of rusty war relics and a somewhat distasteful hint of glorying over the vanquished enemy. It is a monument to the obstinate determination of human beings to safeguard their freedom, and a laboratory in which to study the causes and prevention of armed conflict. Today, it could well claim to be on the way to becoming the world's first University of Peace.

In January this year, thirty-four selected American students are to come together at the University of Texas, Austin, to take part in the first Normandy Scholar Program, sponsored by the US Normandy Foundation and devised with the advice of a board of leading American historians. They will spend four weeks at the University of Texas, eight weeks at the Memorial Museum for Peace, and a final two weeks back in Austin.

According to Anthony Stout, Chairman of the US Normandy Foundation, whose father was closely involved with General Eisenhower in the planning and execution of the Normandy landings, "the idea of this course is to teach the Second World War as a 'case study' and to find out how people who don't want to wind up in a war wind up in a war",

This "case study" approach will involve an in-depth examination of conditions in Europe before, during and after the two World Wars with the aim of finding answers to such questions as:

I How did the Second World War happen so soon after another, gruelling war between many of the same combatants, and could it have been avoided?

* Why were the Allies reluctant to resist the Nazis until it was almost too late?

* What role did world economic conditions play as the war approached?

* What role was played by the press, the Churches and other institutions?

Many of these questions and others raised by the conflict are as relevant to peace now as they were in 1939. Many are central to issues being faced and debated by leaders today and to issues which will be faced as society moves into the next century.

The initial pilot programme will consist of four major courses covering the economic background, the cultural and intellectual history of France in the European context from the 1880s, communications and an assessment of the role of all the media, and leadership and strategy before and during the Second World War,

The Memorial Museum for Peace provides the ideal setting for studies of this kind. …

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