Wiesenthal Centre Warns Of Possible 'Minefield' In Franco-Belgian Proposed World Heritage Candidate Site

June 29, 2018

“Reconciliation is valid for WWI - Not so for WWII”

“The World Heritage Committee professional advisors must examine every military cemetery and shrine to identify any mines along the road to World Heritage status”

Representing the Simon Wiesenthal Center at the annual meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage, Committee in Manama, Bahrain, Dr. Shimon Samuels,  Director for International Relations , raised concerns about the joint  Belgium-France proposal to give UNESCO World Heritage status to “Funerary and memorial sites of the First World War” - 139 sites along the 1914-1918 Western Front, holding the remains of tens of thousands of soldiers of several nationalities.

The French cemeteries are respectfully noted for religious markers: the Cross, the Crescent, the Star of David, and a stylized stele designed for agnostics and other faiths. Most of the 56 French cemeteries are a mix of nationalities, also marked for both French and German fallen. Listed are 22 German, 3 American, 8 Belgian, 4 Canadian and one graveyard for each of: Portuguese, Czechoslovak, Italian, Romanian, Danish, Russian and Irish.

“The Wiesenthal Center accepts the concept of honouring mixed graveyards of all belligerents from both sides of the trenches. That is valid for World War I... Not so for World War II,” argued Dr. Samuels, the Center’s Permanent Observer to the World Heritage Committee.

Samuels stressed, “it is unthinkable for the armies of Hitler to be honoured in common graves with Allied units fighting to save Europe from the Nazi German ‘Gottedammerung’... There can be no absolution for Wehrmacht murder squads, Waffen SS or Gestapo, no reconciliation between the 'Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness.' ”

"Yet, in June 1994, on the 50th anniversary of the Normandy landings - D-Day - French President Mitterand was to invite President Clinton and Queen Elizabeth II to lay a wreath at the Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof (German Military Cemetery) at La Cambe,” recalled Samuels. The Wiesenthal Center exposed an outrage: the perpetrators of the 1941 massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane - 642 men, women and children villagers burned alive - the “Das Reich Division,” were buried at La Cambe.

Samuels urged the WHC professional advisors of ICOMOS, “to examine every graveyard listed among the Franco-Belgian candidates, so that no similar 'hidden bombs' be discovered,” adding, “we can, in fact, already identify one site of dubious validity: the Tour Yser in Diksmuide, Belgium.” Samuels noted that, “From a WWI shrine for Flemish nationalists, the Tour, since the 1980s, became an annual summer gathering for neo-Nazis, Skinhead concerts, Holocaust denial and hatefests against Jews, Muslims, migrants and Gays...”

"The Wiesenthal Center is ready to assist the WHC to identify any 'mines' along the road to UNESCO World Heritage status,” concluded Samuels.

For further information, contact Shimon Samuels on +33 609 770 158


For more information, please contact the Center's Communications Department, 310-553-9036. Join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter,  or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter feed.


The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).


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