The hotel-restaurant … offers you agreeable accommodation in the vicinity of the battlefields of Verdun. From here you can easily reach the memorial at Fleury, the fortresses of Vaux and Douaumont, the trench known as the Tranchée des Baϊonnettes, the charnel house in Douaumont and the subterranean citadel. An attractive detail: quiet and calm in the centre of town in a hotel offering every comfort.
Viewing the sites of war began during the war itself, when members of propaganda bureaus, journalists and photographers travelled to the front in order to document the events taking place there. Since then remembrance tourism has become a business, which booms especially in the ‘round’ anniversary years. Hence the battlefields of Verdun are among the places in Lorraine which attract the most visitors. Such tourists thus make a significant contirbution to the region’s economic performance.
In France the Comité National du Souvenir de Verdun, founded in 1951, takes care of the remembrance of the battles of the First World War. Large parts of the battlefield have been given the status of a ‘red zone’, which counts as a large-scale memorial site and may not be built on or cultivated. It has been turned into a kind of open-air museum which attracts thousands of visitors with different motives every year. In order to curb any ghoulish tourism no accommodation or catering is provided on the site. The crowds of tourists move along ‘world war trails’ which have been laid out through a landscape which has been ‘scarred’ by the results of warfare in a manner that is as impressive as it is terrifying. The likelihood of finding live ammunition as well as splinters of shells and grenades is still relatively high even today. This attracts adventurers equipped with metal detectors who go on an illegal souvenir hunt so that they can then sell their finds, with pieces of equipment used by German soldiers being particularly in demand.
In connection with viewing the battlefields Flanders tourism offers additional programmes such as a daily ceremony of sounding the last post in Ypres. The range of offers there includes coach tours, special hiking and cycle routes, and even flights over the battlefields.
The form of remembrance used by the Friends of the Dolomites is more traditional. What they offer in Kötschach-Mautern in Carinthia is described as follows: ‘The various traditionalist associations marched in to the musical accompaniment of the Carinthian Mountain Riflemen’s Band. After they had marched past the guests of honour, and the most distinguished political and military figures present had inspected the ranks and offered their words of greeting, the ceremonial address was given by Karl Habsburg-Lorraine. In addition the menu for tourists also included ‘samples to taste from the field kitchen of the Mountain Artillery Regiment Kaiser No. 14’.
The tourism association of Julian-Veneto in the north-east of Italy attracts visitors with the following world war programme: ‘On the routes offered you can take moving walks which will enable you to imagine life in the trenches, often in the midst of breathtaking scenery.' (Bold face as in the original)
In Sarajevo, even if the traces of the Bosnian war and above all the siege by the Yugoslav People’s Army from 1992 to 1996 are still to be seen everywhere, in the anniversary year 2014 the tourist business is dominated by two figures: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. Like Franz Joseph and Elisabeth in Vienna, they have become advertisements for the city. The assassination in 1914 serves as a backdrop for a sightseeing industry which places the successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his consort at the centre of its ‘attractions’.
Translation: Leigh Bailey
Brandt, Susanne: Vom Kriegsschauplatz zum Gedächtnisraum. Die Westfront 1914–1940, Baden-Baden 2000
Heymel, Charlotte: Touristen an der Front: Das Kriegserlebnis 1914–1918 als Reiseerfahrung in zeitgenössischen Reiseberichten, Münster 2007
Petermann, Sandra: Rituale machen Räume: zum kollektiven Gedenken der Schlacht von Verdun und der Landung in der Normandie, Bielfeld 2007
Verdun, paradis des pilleurs des champs de bataille de 14-18, in: L’Express vom 6.4.2014. Unter: http://www.lexpress.fr/actualites/1/societe/verdun-paradis-des-pilleurs-des-champs-de-bataille-de-14-18_1506508.html (16.6.2014)
Weltkriegs-Tourismus in Frankreich: Schwarze Kreuze für die Deutschen, in Der Spiegel vom 13.3.2014. Unter: http://www.spiegel.de/reise/europa/erster-weltkrieg-in-frankreich-tourismus-an-graebern-a-958446.html (16.6.2014)
„The hotel-restaurant … offers you ...": http://www.tourisme-meuse.com/de/0/6/1/SEJLOR0550002P/sit/detail/Verdun-... (21.06.2014) (Translation)
„The various traditionalist associations marched ...“: http://www.dolomitenfreunde.at (16.6.2014) (Translation)
„On the routes offered ...“: http://www.turismofvg.it/Erste-Weltkrieg (17.6.2014) (Translation)
- The First World War as a ‘Site of Memory’
- The First World as the ‘Original Catastrophe’ – Narrative I
- From ‘Powder Barrel’ to ‘Universal Conflagration’ – Narrative II
- ‘Laurels for the Soldiers Who are Worthy of Laurels’ – the Outer Burgtor Becomes a Monument to Heroes
- The ‘Siegfried’s Head’ at the University of Vienna
- The ‘Ordinary’ Soldier Becomes a Hero
- Remembrance Tourism: Travel to the Sites of War