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22,500 visit Tribute at Netherlands American Cemetery

Published: Tuesday, 10 May 2016

22,500 people have visited The Faces of Margraten tribute at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, the Netherlands between May 1-5. The photos of almost 4,100 U.S. soldiers who have been either buried or memorialized in Margraten were on display next to their graves or names on the Walls of the Missing. The Dutch non-profit organization Stichting Verenigde Adoptanten Amerikaanse Oorlogsgraven (Foundation United Adopters American War Graves) showed by doing so for the second time in the cemetery’s history the faces of the people who gave their lives to liberate Europe during World War II. The foundation’s call for visitors to reflect upon freedom in its “Embracing freedom” campaign was answered by several hundred visitors.

In the opinion of many visitors, the photos brought the liberators somewhat back to life. “We live in an age in which images are very prominent,” says Sebastiaan Vonk, chairman of the foundation. “We continuously take photos and numerous selfies. However, whereas we have an almost unlimited number of photos of ourselves, it is difficult to locate photos of these soldiers 71 years after the war. Yet the photos that we were able to trace showed us that the people who became victim of war were like you and me. Visitors paused at the photos, talked about what the photos showed to them, and became aware that this cemetery is about individuals and that it more than simply a field of white crosses.” The soldiers’ photos were located in historical sources. Also soldiers’ families and the adopters of the graves contributed photos to the project. In the end, almost 800 additional photos were on display in comparison to 2015 during the 2016 edition of this tribute.

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Many visitors also participated in the “Embracing freedom” campaign during the tribute. The foundation asked visitors of the tribute what freedom means to them and with whom they would like to share their freedoms. Visitors responded to these questions by embracing each other on camera or by leaving their thoughts on freedom in the guestbook. Vonk: “One of our visitors wrote down a quote of Elie Wiesel: ‘It is not just that we remember, it’s what we do with these memories.’ Being at a site where we remember people who gave back our freedom, we therefore asked people to whom they would pass on freedom. Other than that, this statement also touches upon the lessons that we have learned from World War II, a war in which racial hatred supported by stereotypes and generalizations featured prominently. The contemporary public debate learns us that it continues to be important to be cautious of such stereotypes and polarization.” The foundation will combine the pictures of the visitors and their statements in a booklet that will be published at a later moment.

2016 4Visitors embraced freedom during the tribute.

The Faces of Margraten tribute will return to the cemetery in Margraten in 2018. In the meantime the foundation will continue to look for more photos of soldiers who have been either buried or memorialized in Margraten. Photos can also be submitted on the website of the tribute, www.thefacesofmargraten.com.

The Faces of Margraten tribute has been financially supported by the municipality of Eijsden-Margraten, the province of Limburg, the U.S. Embassy The Hague, Rabobank Centraal Zuid-Limburg, Stichting Elisabeth Strouven, Stichting Kanunnik Salden Nieuwenhof, and vfonds. The foundation would like to thank its volunteers for their commitment and service. Lastly, it would like the American Battle Monuments Commission for their cooperation in organizing this tribute.

Donate

Would you like to contribute to keeping the memory alive? By donating just 12.50 dollars, you will enable us to give a face to one soldier. You can directly donate 12.50 dollars via your credit card or PayPal by clicking the button below. Click here if you want to read more or donate another amount. Thank you for your support!

Mollie

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