Thursday, April 20, 2017

Barge Date: 12-04-2017 


My pace of work continues but on a recent Sunday I took the entire day off to visit the town I am in - Diksmuide, a small town with a history that includes both world wars but more so the first world war. This area of Belgium was the fighting ground, the front line for the war from almost day one till the end.

Diksmuide, Ypres, Mons and other Belgian towns were completely leveled during the war. One picture that you may see shows a landscape barren of all living things. Had the Belgians not been able to flood a polder north of Diksmuide, it is likely the Germans would have made significant advances and might have forced and early peace.

After the war those still alive returned and in many cases rebuilt their town as it was prior to the

destruction. They also built a large monument to call for no more war. This monument is just across the river from our boat. In fact there are two monuments. The first survived, interestingly, through WWII. Why didn't the Nazis blow it up? But in 1946 a group of Flemish fascists destroyed this monument. Perhaps most towns and the people that live there would have simply thrown up their hands and accepted this. But people that have had their town destroyed twice within 30 years and still choose to live here are not likely to walk away from their call for peace.

A new monument was planned and sits behind the destroyed remains of the first monument. It is quite striking in its appearance of strength, built to last I might say. You enter the grounds and take an elevator to the top of the monument. From here you can see the flat lands of northern Belgium and how easy it must have been for armies to travel quickly. But you will also notice that the land is low and wet and the ability to flood the lands north of the village created the stalemate that was the signature of this war.

After the view from the top, it is requested that you descend floor by floor as each floor has a significant display of the history of the war. This is the war that first used mechanized forms of killing such as the machine gun and the tank. This is one of the reasons why on some days during this war more than 60,000 people could be killed. Around the base of the monument in four different languages are the words “No More War”.

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