The Freedom Museum in Groesbeek has been hit hard by COVID-19 measures, like so many other museums around the world. But at the end of June, Paul Blokhuis, the State Secretary for Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport in the Netherlands, visited both the museum in Groesbeek and the Airborne Museum in Arnhem to offer financial support.
“Especially now that there are fewer eyewitnesses from World War II, it is important to ensure that museums and memories continue to exist. With Vfonds - National Fund for Peace, Freedom and Veteran care, we have made two million euros available from the Ministry of Health, Wellbeing and Sport for museums and memory centers highlighting events between 1940-1945. We hope, that with this, you are able to take the punches of the closure between mid-March and June”.
And endure the punches, they did.
Their wonderful team reached out to me last week to share some pictures of the new exhibits they’ve been working on, and they are looking forward to welcoming us back for 75+1.
The museum has been working on a new international storyline: The Story of War and Freedom without Borders, created through a unique and intensive collaboration of dozens of prominent Dutch and German historians and museums. The result is a multi-perspective story about war, freedom, international cooperation, and current affairs around freedom and democracy.
Their new building, also known as the Shaded Dome is a patented, sustainable building with an optimal indoor climate, even in extreme weather conditions. The innovative construction concept consists of an inflatable dome, (which was officially, -er, inflated rather than erected, in May 2019). A network of steel cables and a roof made of hi-tech textile makes the construction extremely flexible. The new museum is almost 12 meters high at the highest point and has a free span of 60 meters, with a panoramic view to boot.
"With the new cross-border educational storyline and the Shaded Dome, the museum will have a unique permanent exhibition for young and old and an exceptional building: a true tourist crowd puller in the green, hilly landscape of Groesbeek." says the NL marketing report upon their opening in 2019.
The Battlefield Tours & The Freedom Museum - a dearly loved relationship
Our team at the Battlefield Tours is a huge supporter of the Freedom Museum in Groesbeek because we owe them so much. Over the many years that we've been visiting them, they've always taken the time to speak one on one with the Canadians and veterans that filled our coaches. In 2015, they even hosted a private visit for us, including time to host a special CTV interview on their property with our tour group.
Pictured above, the staff at the Groesbeek Freedom Museum gives Canadian Liberator Ray Lewis a private walkthrough in 2015. As we walked, he pointed incredulously at people he knew in the exhibits displayed. It was an overwhelming experience for both him, and the museum's staff.
Pictured left to right, myself (Samantha) with Canadian Liberator Ray Lewis during an interview at the Groesbeek Freedom Museum in 2015
One of my favorite pictures of all time was taken at the Groesbeek Freedom Museum - in the forefront is Canadian Veteran George Skerkowski preparing for his interview with the Canadian press.
But in the background, you can just make out Canadian Veteran Bud Weeks, from Orillia, Ontario, who has just jumped out of his wheelchair in an attempt to climb on top of a Sherman, much to the dismay of his daughter Sharon, the delight of our driver Luke, and the interest of the CTV camera operator. 😂😂😂
Bud is shows correspondent, Ben O'Hara-Byrne of CTV news his photo as a 22-year-old in uniform, while at the Groesbeek Liberation Museum
I want to especially thank Dr. Wiel Lenders, as well as his employees and volunteers for their unwavering work and support.
I will never forget my first visit in 2005, I was sixteen years old. I learned so much from these wonderful people who have an undying commitment to the Second World War story.
You are doing a great job, guys, as you always have, even in these difficult times!
We can't wait to visit again! Until then, you can support by following them on Facebook!
twitter: @nooit1verhaal; @never1story