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Open access

Stephan Jaeger

Abstract

This article provides an analysis of how military history museums in Germany, Britain, Belgium, Poland, and the United States exhibit and contextualize weapon technologies that were developed in the two world wars. The article focuses on technologies (gas warfare, the atomic bomb, tanks, and the V2 long-range rocket) that are directly connected to military success and innovation but also relate to dehumanization and destruction. By employing the analytical concepts of experientiality and of antagonistic, cosmopolitan, and entangled memory, this article demonstrates how museums can create open or closed narratives, steer the visitor toward particular interpretations, enhance or deconstruct the authentic aura of technological artifacts, and stage the symbolic potential of technologies. In addition, it shows how museums can educate visitors and allow them to experience the ambiguities, controversies, and complexities of these technologies.

Open access

Peenemünde Contested

Remembering Second World War Technologies in Rural East Germany from 1984 to 1992

Daniel Brandau

Abstract

Given Peenemünde's ambivalent military and technological history, from rocket development during the Nazi period to East German naval and air bases during the Cold War, its musealization was considered both a chance and challenge during the region's deindustrialization in the 1990s. Local residents’ support of veteran engineers promoting an apologetic view of Nazi rocketry was met with bewilderment. However, a space park project and anniversary event were spearheaded by government and industry representatives, turning a regional affair into an international controversy. The article analyzes the function of memory work and the remembrance of technological progress in rural northeastern Germany before and after German reunification. Based on archival sources and interviews with former officers and museum advocates, it traces the Peenemünde museum project through a history of ideological and biographical caesurae, enthusiasm, political promises, and socioeconomic despair.

Open access

Ruin of Empire

The Uganda Railway and Memory Work in Kenya

Norman Aselmeyer

Abstract

This article is concerned with the memory of the Uganda Railway in Kenya. Built during the heyday of British imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century, the colonial railway has been a highly contested infrastructure. Drawing on museum exhibitions, public speeches, and publications, the article argues that the main narrative of the railway line as a tool of oppression began to change when the railway infrastructure gradually deteriorated in the mid-twentieth century. I show how three distinct groups (white expatriates, Kenyan-Asians, and Kenya's political elite) were involved in creating a new public memory that popularized the Uganda Railway as a cornerstone of the postcolonial nation. Their uncoordinated but simultaneous efforts toward a new reading of the past all aimed, albeit for different reasons, at reimagining the nation. The article thus shows mechanisms of coming to terms with the colonial past in a postcolonial nation.

Open access

Julie Fedor

This article explores a key claim underpinning Russian official memory politics, namely, the notion that Russia’s past (and especially the role it played in the Second World War) is the object of a campaign of “historical falsification” aimed at, among other things, undermining Russian sovereignty, especially by distorting young people’s historical consciousness. Although “historical falsification” is an important keyword in the Kremlin’s discourse, it has received little scholarly attention. Via an analysis of official rhetoric and methodological literature aimed at history teachers, I investigate the ideological functions performed by the concept of “historical falsification.” I show how it serves to reinforce a conspiratorial vision of Russia as a nation under siege, while simultaneously justifying the drive toward greater state control over history education.