Members of the Henley Falaise Twinning Association have been invited to visit a new museum on the 15 May, during their bi-annual visit to their Normandy twinning partner.
Called the “Mémorial des Civils dans la Guerre” (Memorial to Civilians in the War) and due to open to the public on the 9 May, the museum will depict the experiences of civilians in the Second World War. It is the first museum of its kind in Europe.
The Second World War saw the deaths of 35 million civilians and 30 million military personnel and, for the first time in the history of modern warfare, the number of civilian deaths exceeded those of the military. Since that time, this has been the case in most, if not all, armed conflicts.
The weeks and months following the D-Day landings of June 1944 saw 2 million soldiers fighting in Normandy, with one million civilians affected in one way or another. Of these, 20.000 lost their lives while 150.000 were forced to abandon their homes.
Half of the museum’s cost of 4 million euro has been contributed by Falaise and the Community of Falaise Communes and the rest by the Départément de Calvados, the Basse-Normandie Region and the French government.
The exhibits will be described in three languages: French, English and German. Interactive multi-media tools, large-format vintage photos, filmed testimonies, reconstructed scenes of family life, together with a 3D animation of the destruction of a house by shelling, will all contribute to what promises to be an informative and compassionate view of civilian life in the war.
Some collected wartime memories of local Henley people have been forwarded to Falaise for possible inclusion among the museum’s displays.