Making the First World War More Accessible

From 7th-11th May I was part of a group of over 400 young people from 44 different countries that met in Berlin as part of a series of events in the coming months to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. At the moment it is hard to look at the media without finding a documentary or an article about the First World War and this has led people to question why it is still relevant. How can a war which happened one hundred years ago still have an impact on my life today? That is the question which the young people at the event tried to tackle.

The First World War was at the time heralded by many as “the war to end all wars” but just open any newspaper and you will see that this was not the case. People are still suffering around the world with the consequences of war, whether it be watching your partner leave for the battlefield or living in a warzone. What the First World War showed us is that war just isn’t the way to solve conflicts between countries, it only leads to destruction and devastation which are still remembered generations later, but we didn’t learn our lesson.

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The event was opened by Angela Merkel, the Federal Chancellor of Germany, and in her speech she mentioned the events currently happening in Ukraine. Of course, with the centenary of World War One currently in everyone’s minds it is hard not to make comparisons and this has made the world uneasy. The fear that the situation in Ukraine could escalate and cause World War Three has been brought up on many occasions. So can we learn from the mistakes of the past and stop this happening? Only time will tell but the young people at the History Campus event are determined to make sure that the memory of 1914-1918 lives on.

the participants in Berlin tackled this problem head on, creating plays, drawing and animating short films and even having twitter debates on the subject.

With the deaths of the last soldiers of World War One, families have lost their last first-hand connections to the horrifying and tragic events of the time. This has caused people to question how historians, teachers and others working in the field can continue to make the topic of the First World War accessible to the youth of today and to therefore ensure that it is never forgotten. Through workshops based around social media, theatre, art, music, writing and so much more the participants in Berlin tackled this problem head on, creating plays, drawing and animating short films and even having twitter debates on the subject. It was truly wonderful to be a part of such an event and to experience the atmosphere as so many people came together to embrace the idea of keeping history alive.

Though there are still wars taking place and terrible things happening across the world, this event showed the hope we can have for the future. In 1914, the idea of young people from 44 different countries coming together to work on subjects they are passionate about without any feeling of animosity would have been unimaginable and yet 100 years on this is precisely what happened. So maybe we haven’t managed to end all wars, but we certainly have come a long way and with the youth of today determined to make sure that we never forget the lessons learned in 1914, maybe the future is even brighter. After all we make up the politicians, teachers, journalists and even soldiers of tomorrow and we can choose what tomorrow looks like.

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