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The “Broken Chair” monument to land mine victims at the Place des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland The “Broken Chair” monument to land mine victims at the Place des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, July 16, 2009 (AP photo by Anja Niedringhaus).

A Global Movement to Memorialize War’s Civilian Victims Gathers Steam

Friday, June 4, 2021

While Americans commemorated their fallen soldiers on Memorial Day this week, a group of activists in Luxembourg were inaugurating a different kind of war memorial. Handicap International Belgium, that country’s chapter of an NGO originally dedicated to civilian victims of landmines, unveiled a sculpture by artist Manolis Manarakis commemorating the civilian dead of all modern wars. It was the latest in a series of monument unveilings, including another just last month in Brussels, meant not only to recognize civilian victims of war, but to underscore their absence in the global culture of war memorials.

In the United States, Memorial Day dates back to the post-Civil War era, when the war’s fallen soldiers were commemorated each year on what was once called “Decoration Day.” In addition to the over half-million combatant dead from that war, historian James McPherson estimates that 50,000 civilians died as well. Yet Memorial Day celebrations in the United States, even today, uniformly focus on the military casualties of America’s wars. ...

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