British-German relations have undergone a considerable transformation since 1945 with both countries having to adapt to significant changes in their own status, as well as a very different international environment. Germany's status as a morally and militarily defeated and occupied power in 1945 is in stark contrast to the confident role it is playing at the beginning of the new millennium when—sixty years after the end of World War II—the German chancellor for the first time took part in the VE-Day celebrations of the victors. This article analyzes recent dynamics of collective memory in both countries and examine if and to what extent their collective memories play a role in British-German relations.
Angela Merkel came to power at a crucial time in regards to Germany's relationship with its past. Where would she position herself in light of Gerhard Schröder's approach that had offered a new way of accepting responsibility for the past and integrating it into the twenty-first century present by explicitly making it a key element of German national identity, but also in view of her East German biography? Would she continue and maybe even reinforce the institutionalization of Holocaust-centered memory and-given the forceful return of the topic of German victimhood-complement it with the institutionalization of the memory of German suffering, or would she emphasize the latter at the expense of the former? This paper attempts to answer these questions by examining Merkel's politics of the past during her first three years in office.
Stephen Welch and Ruth Wittlinger
The aim of this paper is to offer a critique of the proposal of “methodological cosmopolitanism“ in theoretical terms and to substantiate this critique by providing an account of the dynamics of collective memory and identity in postunification Germany. In the first part, we look at the arguments about methodological cosmopolitanism and their derivative, the idea of cosmopolitan memory, illustrated by the case of Holocaust memory. In the second part we look at the case of Germany: firstly at its postwar experience of the attempted construction of “postnational“ identity, and then at more recent trends, contemporaneous with the Berlin Republic, towards a “normalization“ of national identity in Germany. The Holocaust plays a crucial, but different, role in each phase, we suggest. In the conclusion we return to more general themes, asking what the German case tells us about the cosmopolitanization thesis more generally.
Eric Langenbacher, Bill Niven, and Ruth Wittlinger
As the inestimable Harold Wilson once put it, “a week is a long
time in politics.” Certainly, the evolution of collective memory and
scholarship devoted to it is much slower than the pace of day-to-day
politics. Yet, there are periods of rapid change—of paradigm shifts
even—where the landscape shifts rapidly over a relatively short
period of time. This special issue, we think, captures one of these
periods of rapid change. Compared to the last special thematic issue
of German Politics and Society from 20051 and even compared to
many books published in the last few years, the state of collective
memory in Germany appears very different today. Most prominently,
Holocaust-centered memory is foregrounded to a much
lesser extent than previously.