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The IJzertoren (Dutch; Yser Towers) is a memorial along the Belgian Yser river in Diksmuide. It commemorates the Belgian, and particularly Flemish, soldiers killed on the Yser Front during World War I and is an important place within the Flemish Movement.
History and ideology
There have been two IJzertoren. The first was built after World War I by an organisation of former Flemish soldiers. On the night of 15 and 16 March 1946 it was blown up by saboteurs. Although the perpetrators were never caught, it was believed that the Belgian military and Walloon militants were involved. Several years later, a new and larger tower was built on the same site. 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 during the fighting on the Yser Front. It is also the place where the Brothers Van Raemdonck are buried. According to popular memory, both brothers were soldiers in the Belgian army both of whom were killed. The story gained considerable importance in the Flemish Movement after the war.
Monument and museum
The IJzertoren symbolizes the demand for Nooit meer Oorlog (Never again War), which is 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 metres (276 ft)) is the highest peace monument in Europe.
The tower also is decorated with the abbreviations AVV-VVK (Alles Voor Vlaanderen, Vlaanderen voor Kristus; All for Flanders-Flanders for Christ). It is a symbol of Flemish nationalism. Every year at the end of August a political meeting, the 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 Luyten's opinion played the most important roles in Flemish history.