A closer look at the War Museum controversy

Still pondering the controversy about the display in the Canadian War Museum, I decided to go have a look at it first-hand. On the basis of what I saw, I am even more convinced that the display is fair and balanced, and that it should not be altered in response to pressure from veterans.

Here, you can see the panel in question in its immediate surroundings:

An Enduring Controversy, and surroundings

This is one small part of a large area discussing the air component of the Second World War. A shot with a narrower field of view shows the controversial panel itself more clearly:

Enduring Controversy

Here is a large close-up shot of the panel text. Nearby, a more prominent panel stresses the deaths of Canadian aircrew and the degree to which aerial bombing “damaged essential elements of the German war effort.” This alternative panel is located right at the entrance to this section of the museum.

If anyone wishes to comment to the museum staff, I recommend emailing or calling Dr. Victor Rabinovitch, the President and CEO. His contact information, along with that of other members of the museum directorate, is available on this page.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

9 thoughts on “A closer look at the War Museum controversy”

  1. While not directly related, I thought this panel on propaganda was interesting.

    The little asterix suggests to me that the drafters of the panels anticipated the response: “Surely WE never engaged in propaganda! That is something the wicked regimes did.” and felt like reminding them of what propaganda means.

  2. Here is an article in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix strongly supporting the changing of the display:

    “We owe our freedom to Bomber Command vets

    Of all those who have gone to war for freedom, none were more courageous than the Canadian bomber crews who helped defeat Nazi Germany. It figures that veterans of that decisive campaign were wounded when the Canadian War Museum — their museum — characterized their effort as immoral and ineffective…”

  3. This is a public taxpayer-funded institution. Furthermore, the photos relate directly to an ongoing public debate. This is a personal, non-commercial site. I think their use is acceptable under several different justifications.

  4. Secret agents’ memorial unveiled

    By Paul Moss
    BBC News

    It was the SOE that carried out one of WWII’s most famous commando operations, the raid on Telemark.

    This destroyed a factory in Norway where the Germans were trying to produce heavy water, an essential ingredient in atomic bombs.

    Guest of honour at today’s ceremony was the man who led that raid, Joachim Ronneberg. He was in a sombre mood.

    “I am privileged to be here,” he said. “We had lots of friends who never knew that we won the war, because they were killed along the way.

    “It’s with great respect that you stand at a memorial like this.”

    Bust of Violette Szabo
    Violette Szabo gave nothing away under torture

    But if members of the SOE faced fierce opposition in the countries where they operated, they also came under attack back in Britain.

    Many in the military establishment resented what they regarded as an upstart unit, not under the control either of the generals or of the regular intelligence agencies.

    Their methods too were controversial, described euphemistically as “unorthodox,” but condemned by some as downright brutal.

    And in some places where the SOE had acted, there were appalling reprisals on the local population.

    Some came to doubt whether this civilian death-toll could be justified.

  5. I linked the SOE story above because it involves some of the same tensions.

    British people today would probably celebrate the hanging of German spies and saboteurs caught in their territory during WWII, but they also celebrate their fellow nationals doing the same thing in occupied Europe.

    WWII may be an unusually clear case of aggression by one side, but I still think this indicates the strange ways in which nationalism affects our thinking about military history.

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