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‘Bridge to the Future’ conference, Arnhem

On 16 September, the War Requiem - Bridge to the Future Foundation hosted its eleventh ‘Bridge to the Future’ conference in the St. Eusebius’ Church in Arnhem. The annual conference commemorates the Battle of Arnhem, and this year's theme was ‘Women and War Violence’. Several experts and victims shared their views and their story. Wisse Kommunikatie assisted the Foundation in several of its PR activities prior to the conference. Below is a short report of the conference. 

Women in the resistance
‘For most women, resistance in WWII consisted of things that don't make it into the movies, usually without too much violence’, says Marjan Schwegman, former Director of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD). 102-year-old resistance fighter Hebe Kohlbrugge indeed has experience with such ‘smaller’ acts of resistance. When she was 20 years old, she joined the Confessing Church in Berlin, which was synonymous to the resistance. ‘People who joined the Confessing Church had an opinion about what was happening in the country. And if you didn't agree, you just said “No”, by refusing to sign the Declaration of Aryan Descent, for instance, a document which effectively harmed the Jews.’

Wartime sexual abuse
Several experts and victims discussed sexual violence in war zones. Mirjam van Reisen, Professor of International Relations, Innovation and Care, explained how the vulnerability of women is often exploited in war: ‘They are an object in battle.’ Alexa ter Horst, a doctor at Médecins Sans Frontières, observed: ‘In Congo women always transport goods without a bicycle or scooter, because any possessions are dangerous.’ Journalist Brenda Stoter saw how women in war zones had nothing to say about their own lives. ‘Yes, they can go to school, but as soon as a man is interested in them, they are married off.’ Photographer Mona van den Berg described the situation of women in war zones as follows: ‘In a sense, women are two-time victims: they are forced to leave their homes and are sexually abused on top of that.’

Women in the army
Lt. Colonel Alwin van den Boogaard and Lt. Colonel Esmeralda Kleinreesink discussed the role of women in the army. ‘Women who have been subject to sexual abuse don't want to discuss this with a man. That is why the army needs women: to talk to these women’, says Van den Boogaard.

Boris Johnson and Bert Koenders
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders gave a short speech about women and war violence after visiting the Airborne War Cemetery in Oosterbeek together with his British counterpart Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson also addressed the conference: ‘Though we might review our relationship with the EU, we will remain Europeans and will continue to support Europe in the future.’ 

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Photo credit: Mona van den Berg

See the Bridge to the Future website for a full report.

Hanneke van Heijster