The City of Antwerp reflects on the human aspect of the First World War. The commemoration emphasises the dark side of the war and the need for peace. We choose to focus as much as possible on personal testimonials and references from daily life, in order to appeal to the widest possible audience, with special attention to children and young people.

The Antwerp ‘14-’18 programme is a city-wide programme. With over forty project partners joining forces the aim is to ensure a successful commemoration of the First World War in Antwerp and to generate widespread support in and outside the city.

The commemorative project is a project with international appeal. A collaboration with partners in the Netherlands, France, Great Britain and Germany will enrich the content and generate
international attention for Antwerp. Antwerp ‘14-’18 wants to appeal to a wide audience based on the adage of “something for everyone”. A wide range of educational, historic and cultural activities will be organised which also provide opportunities to develop more added value.

The commemorative programme focuses on the interaction between the past and the present. The three project pillars (historic-chronological programme, refugee programme and the art programme) zoom in on the past but also combine this with a reflection on the present. As an avant-garde city and port city with a significant foreign presence Antwerp cannot ignore its contemporary character. The project enhances Antwerp’s image as well as putting it into the spotlight as an appealing, avantgarde and contemporary city.

An illustration:
A highlight in the framework of Antwerp ‘14-’18 is the reconstruction of a pontoon bridge across the River Scheldt near Steen Castle from 3 until 5 October 2014. This reconstruction is a contemporary representation of a significant historical moment in the city’s history: the bridge was a major escape route for the military and for civilians. It also is an invitation to build bridges in the present, to work together to create a connected, inclusive city. In the refugee story the dichotomy between past and present is also a crucial element. In the early days of the First World War one fifth of the then Belgian population fled to other countries in hopes of a better life. Today Antwerp every year welcomes a multitude of newcomers. In the past the allies organised a campaign called “Help the Belgians”. Today we “Help the Iraqi” and “Help the Syrian people”. As such the project provides an excellent framework to develop a shared reference frame for all the citizens of Antwerp, regardless of their age, whether they have been living here for generations or have just arrived. Sharing a common history helps build a community.