World Battlefield Museums Forum 2018 hosted by Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk in 2018 provided a perfect opportunity to engage in a dialogue about raising historical awareness and discussing ways to commemorate important world battlefields. During the Forum the general public was also informed about the projected development of a brand-new museum on Westerplatte, the site that is known today as the symbol of the beginning of WWII in Europe.

During the Forum, a number of practical ideas were put forward as well as theoretical questions relating to commemoration and up-keep of battlefields were raised. Forum guests and lecturers from all over the world discussed a variety of subjects that touch upon sensitive issues of war and conflict.

Questions on how to manage and commemorate battlefields today led to an idea of gathering in one place the hosts of the most important world battlefields, the sites that were crucial in forming the history of the world across ages. Regardless of  when and where a battle took place, the issues of commemoration are always of the same nature. And so, World Battlefields Museums Forum came to being.

A three-day conference was held in the year of 100th Anniversary of Regaining Independence by Poland. It began on 4th September, 2018 with a study visit to Westerplatte where the guests had a chance to see the groundbreaking excavation work carried out by museum’s archeologists and learn about the sensational results of the dig. The visit provoked valuable opinions, suggestions, and reflections evoked by Westerplatte’s unique atmosphere.

It is safe to say that WBMF 2018 was probably the first international debate raising questions of commemoration and of battlefields spanning centuries. Experts and lecturers underlined the importance of further cyclical meetings. Preserving historical battlefield substance for future generations and promoting knowledge about conflict and reconciliation were key objectives of the Forum.

All participants of the Forum agreed that further scientific exchange should follow. The plan was agreed to call to being World Battlefield Museums Association. Attendance of the public was more than satisfactory, with many people, including students and young people, expressing interest in the subject of battlefields. 

No doubt, WBMF 2018 at the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk met the objective of defining the conditions, experiences, and ways of handling the substance of a historic battlefield. The conclusions that  followed will surely be used in a constructive way during the planned development of Westerplatte and the War of 1939 Museum. In this way, the Forum’s participants have, no doubt, become the ambassadors of Westerplatte battlefield.

Adam Koperkiewicz