On November 11, it will be 100 years since the end of the First World War. This centenary year allows us time to pay our respects and remember those who gave their lives during the tragic events of WW1.
Across Europe, memorials, battlefields and wartime museums offer the perfect place to commemorate this poignant moment in history – many of which can be visited on a river cruise.
Exploring Europe’s wartime history on a river cruise
A river cruise provides the perfect opportunity to visit Europe’s many memories of both world wars, from villages to cities, offering you the chance to learn more about the history of these times gone by.
In 1945, Germany’s and Prussia’s Crown Prince Wilhelm’s home was the Cecilienhof Palace. It was here that became the venue for the Allied conference and where the post-war partition of Germany and the terms of surrender for Japan were agreed.
The building is situated in Potsdam, close to Berlin and is now part hotel, part museum. Walking around the building, you can see old newspapers with updates on the conference (codenamed ‘Terminal’), as well as a dinner menu for the day and other items which purvey the era and task at hand.
You even have the chance to see the conference and working rooms where Churchill, Attlee, Truman and Stalin all arranged meetings.
Budapest and the River Danube
The River Danube plays a significant part in wartime history as it is the place where the Arrow Cross Militia forced innocent victims to strip naked along the river bank before shooting them in the back.
60 pairs of iron cast shoes now stand on the river bank, a moving memorial which stands in front of the Parliament Building and signifies the horrifying events which took place here during WWII.
There are many cruise lines which sail along the Danube as it is a lively city offering plenty to see and do during your stay,with both sides of the river comprising much to explore.
Holocaust Memorial and the Berlin Wall
Many river cruises along the Elbe end in Berlin, where you can find the Holocaust Memorial – or Brandenburg Gate. This structure comprises a grid pattern of over 2,700 concrete slabs which bear the names of three million Jewish Holocaust victims.
Berlin is also home to the iconic Berlin Wall, one of the city’s top attractions. The wall split the city into East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989, when it was opened by government officials. There is a remaining part of the wall which is now a centrepiece for an open-air memorial and supports an exhibition on Bernauer Strasse where the history of the wall, its construction and following demolition can be viewed.
Cologne and Anne Frank’s House
A beautiful city to visit during a Rhine River cruise, Cologne is a phoenix of wartime history – having risen from the ashes of the Second World War. The city was heavily bombed during WWII, yet many of its most iconic landmarks managed to live to tell the tale.
The cathedral – which served as a waymarker for RAF bombers due – as well as the 12th-century City Hall (still Germany’s oldest in use) and the Hohenzollern Bridge which crosses the river all managed to remain standing throughout the attacks.
Travelling toward Amsterdam, the Rhine river also passes another iconic region of wartime history. This city portrays Jewish life through walking tours which visit the synagogues, memorials and Amsterdam’s old Jewish Quarter as well as the house of German-born teenage, Anne Frank.
Now a museum, this house pays homage to a Jewish family of eight who all hid from the Nazis during WWII in Anne’s bedroom, which you can peer into and see where she documented her life in her famous diary.
Normandy’s Landing Beaches
A river cruise on the Seine will lead you to the landing beaches of Normandy, where the largest seaborne invasion ever took place in 1944. Often referred to as D-Day, these beaches saw an armada of troops comprising British, American, Canadian and more all of whom stormed the beaches to begin the liberation of Europe – a crucial event which changed the way the world saw naval operations forever.
There are so many more regions you can visit in relation to wartime history. A river cruise offers the perfect opportunity to explore these regions all in one trip, with tours and exclusive excursions available to ensure you make the most out of every port of call.
If you would like to visit some of these, browse our latest river cruise deals at RiverVoyages.com. To book or for any further questions, call our Cruise Concierge team on 0800 197 0854 for expert advice and award-winning service with your booking.