The passion for history of Philippe Gillain and Gérard Grégoire was the origin of the December44 Museum. Philippe has collected military uniforms and material since he was 14. He explored the Ardennes battlefields to find some material left by both camps. While visiting La Gleize, in the 60’s, he discovered an enormous quantity of uniforms and material abandoned by the Waffen SS when they fled. It was the beginning of a collection that would evolve into one of Europe’s most important collections. Gérard, born in La Gleize, lived through the 1944 fighting and turned it into his life’s mission to keep La Gleize’s battle history alive. First through a book called “Fire”, decribing meticulously how the battle evolved and later organizing, with Philippe Gillain, temporary exhibits.
In 1989, Philippe Gillain founded the museum with the help of the town of Stoumont and the Province of Liège. It was established in a 500 m² new building just beside the old presbytery, where the German had an aid station during the siege of La Gleize.
The philosophy of the museum founders can be caught in one phrase: sharing the history and heritage of the Battle of the Bulge through historically accurate displays and exhibits in the museum, to make future generations aware of the consequences of war and to perpetuate the memory of those who gave their lives to defeat fascism and racism.
In 2012, the founders were in search for successors driven by the same passion to perpetuate, preserve and pass on the history of the region. In 2013, the museum started its second life after a complete reconstruction where the surface was doubled by including the historic former presbytery. Thanks to a partnership with the Baugnez 44 Historical Center of Mathieu Steffens and the D-Day Paratroopers Historical Center of Michel De Trez, new and rare exhibits were added to the collections.
Thus the history and the heritage is guarded for the future. Located on the battlefield where hundreds of American and German soldiers lost their lives, the December 1944 Museum is a place to honor and remember their sacrifice. Many veterans of all nations and their families come to La Gleize to remember the sacrifices at one of the many monuments that were erected in the area. The exhibitions in the museum help to make sure that history does not repeat itself.
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