Ten of the world's most moving war memorials

VILLERS-BRETONNEUX, FRANCE

Some 52,000 Australians died on the Western Front during World War I, honoured by numerous memorials in towns such as Le Hamel, Fromelles and Pozieres. The Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux names 10,000 Australians killed in France with no known grave. The Australian embassy in Paris holds a moving ANZAC Day service there. The new, adjacent Sir John Monash Centre explains Australia's role in the Great War. See sjmc.gov.au

GALLIPOLI, TURKEY

Some 240,000 soldiers died on the Gallipoli Peninsula in eight months in 1915, and what is now a national park is scattered with more than 30 cemeteries and various monuments. You can see various landing sites, the steep cliffs the ANZACs confronted at Ari Burnu, the hell that was Burnt Hill for the British, and the main Australian memorial at Lone Pine, as well as a Turkish memorial and museum. See goturkeytourism.com

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN

Peace Memorial Park commemorates the August 6, 1945, destruction of Hiroshima by atom bomb, most strikingly symbolised by the skeletal ruins of the A-Bomb Dome, a former industrial hall. Across the river, the main park provides a heart-wrenching walk past various memorials, including an eternal flame. The Memorial Museum gives an account of Hiroshima survivors in the years following the bombing, but avoids addressing Japan's war aggression. See hpmmuseum.jp

WASHINGTON DC, USA

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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Photo: Alamy

Of numerous war memorials in the American capital, the most striking and sombre is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with its chronological list of more than 58,000 killed or missing soldiers engraved in gold on two black granite walls that point towards the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Mirrored surfaces reflect the surroundings. Nearby stands a bronze of three soldiers and the Vietnam Women's Memorial. See nps.gov/vive

KOKODA TRAIL, PAPUA NEW GUINEA

As memorials go, this is unusual. The Kokoda Trail is one of the world's toughest hiking challenges, a week-long, 96-kilometre trek across the Owen Stanley Ranges through rugged terrain and hostile rainforest. For some, it's a rite of passage that acknowledges the hardships suffered by Australians and Papuans during World War II. There are memorials or cemeteries at Bomana, Isurava and Ower's Corner. See kokodatrackauthority.org

AUSCHWITZ, POLAND

A910KG Auschwitz II (Birkenau) nazi  concentration camp in Poland. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown. 
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Auschwitz II (Birkenau) Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Photo: Alamy

A visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazis' most infamous concentration camp, isn't for everyone, and certainly not for children. More than a million people died in this harrowing place. The crematoriums are awful, but even more unsettling are the piles of suitcases, hair and glasses exhibited in mute witness to the Jews of the Holocaust. Viewing the endless rows of photographs depicting victims is a last feat of emotional endurance. See auschwitz.org

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA

Canberra's ANZAC Parade is lined with war memorials commemorating conflicts that have influenced our politics and society, culminating at the Australian War Memorial, where the Gallipoli gallery addresses the campaign that helped Australia define itself. The museum also houses a midget submarine, Lancaster bomber and Gallipoli landing boat. A wall of bronze plaques lists more than 100,000 Australians killed in conflicts. Every evening, the Last Post is sounded. See awm.gov.au

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PASSCHENDAELE, BELGIUM

Of all the serried ranks of white tombstones set against green lawns that commemorate World War I soldiers, perhaps none is more visually sad and stunning as Tyne Cot Commonwealth Cemetery, which commemorates nearly 12,000 ANZAC and British fallen. Few battles symbolise war's futility more than Passchendaele, where half a million lost their lives in 1917. Visit the interactive Passchendaele Memorial Museum to learn about trench warfare. See passchendaele.be

BERLIN, GERMANY

The Germans haven't flinched from erecting prominent memorials in central Berlin to the various groups persecuted during World War II. The most powerful is the starkly named Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a disorienting field of concrete stelae. Beneath is a confronting but compelling information centre that recounts the stories of individual Jewish families and sets them in the wider context of 6 million Holocaust victims. See stiftung-denkmal.de

PEARL HARBOUR, US

USS Arizona Memorial - exterior view. The memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship USS Arizona and commemorates the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
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The memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship USS Arizona and commemorates the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Photo: Supplied

Structural issues with the iconic white structure that hovers above the wreck of the USS Arizona has seen the closure of Pearl Harbour's best-known site, scheduled to reopen by the end of this year. Other things to see at the place that launched America into World War II in 1941, following a surprise Japanese bombing, include the battleship USS Missouri, USS Bowfin submarine and an aviation museum. See nps.gov/valr

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