Who we are
Curator: Proff. Dr. Peter Schrijvers
Strategic director: Kristof Borremans
Operations director: Tom Lantin
Staff: Morien Schroyen
administrative staff: Hans Tombeur & Lieselotte Zels
Photographers: Sonja Bruggeman, Jo Vanden Bossche, Wim Gombeer
What we do?
The mission The mission describes what we stand for and what the core values (norms & values) of our organization are. World War II was the most destructive war humanity has ever known, fueled by extreme, totalitarian ideologies that set the world on fire. An estimated 60 million people died, about 40 million of them civilians. It was a war of annihilation, in which populations were stigmatized, persecuted and exterminated on an industrial scale. After the war, the collective memory of the crimes of National Socialism provided a broad social foundation for democracy in many countries.
Meanwhile, we live in a time when the last eyewitnesses are fading away, and the direct link with World War II has largely disappeared. Liberation Garden should help ensure that the memory of WWII has a lasting social anchor and is passed on to future generations. It should help keep the past relevant for tomorrow’s generations.
Liberation Garden brings an important message, about the price of peace, democracy and freedom. A story that is more topical today than ever. The key message is that the democracy and freedom regained at the end of World War II can never be taken for granted.
There is nowhere better to tell the story of World War II in the region than in Leopoldsburg. Leopoldsburg is a historic garrison town, home to the largest army camp in Belgium since 1835. That military presence determines the identity of the community of Leopoldsburg, which would never have existed without the soldiers’ camp. Leopoldsburg is a mirror of more than two centuries of European history, from Belgium’s independence just after the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War and the many new threats since then, from 9/11 to the conflict in Ukraine. Leopoldsburg is a municipality that lives to the rhythm of war and peace and is therefore a permanent reminder of the price of peace, democracy and freedom.
Where do we want to go with the project? What is the dream for the future?
- Liberation Garden brings to life the memory of World War II in an experiential way.
- It does this by telling the gripping stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances in a quirky, multimedia and nuanced way. The experience is compelling, exciting and often gripping (but never non-committal).
- Liberation Garden is not a traditional military museum. Here it is primarily about people and their stories.
- The museum works on three levels and focuses on head, heart and hands. Content is engaging, educational and layered (“head”). People’s personal stories take you into the human side of the story (‘heart’). But you can also touch, smell and do X in the museum (‘hands’).
- Liberation Garden is dynamic and alive. Everything is tailored to the experience, comfort and needs of visitors down to the smallest detail. As a visitor, you come to Liberation Garden to discover, experience and enjoy:
- Discover… Liberation Garden is a place where, as a visitor, you discover new things. You discover a story that surprises, moves and offers new insights. But also a special environment full of military heritage.
- Experience… During your visit you will experience an exciting adventure and step into the shoes of occupiers, resistance fighters and liberators. You yourself are a part of the story. Not a passive experience, with your hands behind your back, but an active and participatory one. You will have to shelter in an air-raid shelter during a bombardment, sit among the officers during the briefing for Operation Market Garden and even fly in a real Spitfire during the decisive crossing of the Rhine, in an amazing VR experience.
- Enjoy… In Liberation Garden you come to enjoy yourself, with the whole family. Of the hospitable, customer-friendly welcome by local and passionate volunteers. Of the museum and the green surroundings.
- Liberation Garden thus reaches a wide and diverse audience, ranging from families with children to heritage tourists. A special, adventurous children’s route is being developed for children.
- Liberation Garden is not only a museum to be seen, but also a starting point for further exploration of the area, with attractive walking and cycling routes along the unique military heritage.
- Liberation Garden is being developed into a tourist gateway, where visitors are inspired to explore the wider WWII heritage and the 100,000 war graves in the ‘East Corner of WWII’ (analogous to the ‘West Corner’ for WWI).
- Liberation Garden assumes a pioneering role in the development of the WW II theme in the province of Limburg and the whole of Flanders. Not only Leopoldsburg, but also the province of Limburg, and by extension Flanders, played an important role in the final phase of the war in the west, with e.g. the Battle of the Kempen Canals and the Battle of the Schelde. These stories are currently barely unlocked, leaving (international) WWII tourists, who are visiting well-known places like Normandy, Bastogne and Arnhem, largely ignoring Flanders. By developing Liberation Garden into a successful tourist heritage attraction, we are creating a strong lever to broadly develop the theme of WWII in Limburg and Flanders in the coming years.
- This way, in the run-up to the major 100-year commemorations in 2040-’45, the region can profile itself as an attractive WWII destination and a new, sustainable tourism market will be tapped.
- Internationally, Liberation Garden will be the first Flemish anchor point on the successful Liberation Route Europe, the tourist route that follows and internationally highlights the liberation of Europe.
- Liberation Garden is an economic leverage project for the municipality of Leopoldsburg. Leopoldsburg has a unique heritage and a special story. This is what we will be focusing on in the coming years. Liberation Garden should become a strong lever to attract private investment in the local leisure economy.