This article reports on a continuing professional development program run by the Imperial War Museum in London for educators involved in teaching about European memories. On the basis of two sites visited in Hungary which were elements of the educational program, the Memorial Shoes on the Danube Promenade and the Memento Statue Park, this article suggests that Alison Landsberg's concept of prosthetic memory can be applied to these sculptural monuments. It explores the political potential of empathy in transmitting diverse European pasts and of mapping individual performative responses to less familiar cultural contexts.
Reflections on an InSite Teaching Program
Helmut Peitsch and Joanne Sayner
This article examines two chapters from Martin Sabrow's 2009 edited volume Erinnerungsorte der DDR, one on antifascism and one on Buchenwald. These two case studies exemplify the complexities of the contemporary German memorial landscape. In particular, they thematize the remembrance of the Nazi past in the German Democratic Republic and how this GDR past has, in turn, been tendentiously remembered since unification. By examining the layering of memories in these two chapters, we argue that the theoretical models which often underpin contemporary German memory work, Sabrow's volume included, serve to obscure the role of the state as carrier of official memory. On the basis of this study, we show that concepts dominant in today's Germany promote a unified national narrative. In particular, terms such as the “culture of memory” (Erinnerungskultur) and cultural memory (kulturelles Gedächtnis) downplay conflicting, contentious and diverse memories relating to the GDR past. As such, the article provides a timely note of caution for memory studies and memory work, which increasingly applies these models to wider, non-German contexts.
Joanne Sayner, Isabelle Hertner and Sarah Colvin
Anniversaries provide moments for taking stock. In the wake of the so-called Supergedenkjahr of 2014—the year of numerous significant commemorative events for Germany, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and of German unification—it seems particularly timely to engage with debates about what it means to be German. Such retrospection is now an established and widespread part of the German habitus, and the number of organized moments of contemplation—moments that say as much about the present as the past—has multiplied since unification. Within Germany and beyond, the question of what it means to be German is frequently being asked by those who want to define local, national and international agendas for the future and to redefine agendas of the past. Representing an individual, a community or a nation involves the construction of narratives and identities, a process now often informed by sophisticated understandings of image and audience, of beliefs and branding. In fact, the numerous facets that make up an image of “Germany” have, for the most part, been perceived affirmatively; in recent international polls Germany has been the country seen as most likely to have an overwhelmingly positive influence on the world.