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The IJzertoren (Yser Tower) is a memorial along the Belgian Yser river in Diksmuide. There have been two IJzertorens, the first built after the First World War by an organisation of former Flemish soldiers. On the night of 15 and 16 March 1946 it was illegally demolished with dynamite; the perpetrators were never caught, though there are strong indications of involvement of the Belgian military and anti-Flemish, French-speaking radicalists. Several years later, a new and higher tower was built on the same place. With the remains of the old tower, the Paxpoort or Pax-gate (Gate of Peace) was built.
The IJzertoren site is also the burial place of some Flemish soldiers killed on the battlefield, who have become examples and heroes for Flanders.
It is also the place where the myth of the "Van Raemdonck-brothers" is venerated. Legend says that both brothers were sergeants in the same regiment. The story runs that after a successful offensive across the Yser River, Edward noticed that his brother wasn't with the regiment. He turned back into enemy territory and was found in his brother's arms nineteen days later. Later, the Germans offered a half-hour truce in order for both sides to be able to give the bodies of their lost ones a proper burial. A French-speaking general (Bernheim) of the Belgian Army replied: ""Je n'en vois pas la nécessité. D'ailleurs il s'est avéré que le plus jeune des deux était un flamingant" ("I don't see the necessity. By the way, it's known that the youngest one was a flamingant." To which general Mahieu answered: "En effet" ("Indeed").
In reality, this legend has taken shape in the mind of Lodewijk Van Gelder, a former student of the well known flamingant Cyril Verschave and has been published by Clemens De Landtsheer (secretary to the IJzerbedevaart from 1926 to 1984). The soldier who buried the brothers, Charles Withof, has an essentially different story. Frans Van Raemdonck was found dead in the arms of Amé Fiévez, a Walloon corporal. Edward Van Raemdonck was found a couple of meters further. When Withof reported the erred story to De Landtsheer, the later replied:
Alhoewel ik volledig met u't akkoord ben op gebied van waarheidszin, toch denk ik dat we best zouden doen die zaak niet publiek rond te venten, en ze onder ons te houden, en in het publiek het gedacht te laten dat men ze IN ELKAARS ARMEN heeft gevonden, en ziehier om welke redens: hadden wij die inlichtingen gekend in 't begin, dan had alles zo geweest. Maar nu is hunne ideale heldendood overal gekend en al legendarisch geworden, waarom die schoonheid breken, en er de waarheid als een koud bad over uitstorten... dit zou zeer veel nadeel doen aan de zaak zelve. (..)Ik schrijf u deze brief heel vertrouwelijk en hoop nochtans dat gij uwe soldaten zult aanmanen de zaak dus zoo te laten voortleven... voor het welzijn van de zaak zelf en voor de arme ouders.
(Translated: 'While I wholeheartedly agree with you with respect to the truthfulness of the matter, I nonetheless believe that we would do well not to make the matter publicly known, and to keep it to ourselves, and to leave the public to its conviction that they were found IN EACH OTHERS' ARMS, and this for the following reasons: had we known this information from the start, then everything would have been thus. But now their ideal heroes' death is universally known and has already passed into legend, why then dispel this beauty, and pour out truth over it like a cold shower... this would greatly harm the cause itself. (...) I address this letter to you in the fullest of confidence, and hope yet that you will encourage your soldiers to allow the matter to live on thus.. for the benefit of the cause itself, and for the aggrieved parents.')
The IJzertoren symbolizes the demand for Nooit meer Oorlog (Never again War), written on the tower in the four languages of the fighting forces in the area during the First World War (Dutch, French, English and German). The rebuilt tower (84 m) is the highest peace monument in Europe.
The tower also sports the abbreviations AVV-VVK: Alles Voor Vlaanderen-Vlaanderen voor Kristus (All for Flanders-Flanders for Christ). It is a symbol of Flemish nationalism, especially regarding the rights to use the Dutch language and the rights to political autonomy. The IJzertoren has been recognised by the Flemish parliament as the official memorial of Flemish emancipation, especially against the oppression by the French-speaking minority of Flemish art, culture.
Every year at the end of August the political meeting IJzerbedevaart is organised next to the IJzertoren.
The IJzertoren houses a museum on Oorlog, vrede en Vlaamse ontvoogding (War, Peace, and Flemish Emancipation), that belongs to the United Nations network of peace museums. The museum houses the large painting The Golden Canvass of Flanders (“Het Gulden Doek van Vlaanderen”) by Dutch-born Belgian painter Henry Luyten. The painting depicts a fictional meeting of the one hundred people who in Henry Luyten's opinion played the most important role in the Flemish movement and Flemish history.