This article is based on the findings of an empirical study that is being conducted in Austria, Poland, and Germany. The material consists of a total of sixty group discussions with families, people of different age groups, as well as individuals dealing professionally with history and memory, including historians, teachers, politicians, journalists, displaced persons, and Jewish communities. Even if there are differences within every country, one clearly can observe dominant country-specific ways of speaking about the past. The German discourse could be described as a meta-narrative. Germans do not speak mainly about the past itself, but rather about how it should or should not be represented. The narrations are highly skeptical and unheroic. By contrast, the Polish discourse is almost devoid of skeptical narratives. Notions such as “historical truth,” “national pride” and “national history” were dominant in the discussions. The article concludes by noting that even though the modes of narrating the past are different in Germany and Poland, its function remains untouched: the past is always a resource for the construction of coherence and meaning.
The Projects of Christophe Boltanski and Ivan Jablonka
in France. He grew up and lives today in what he calls a society marked by a memory culture in which one is asked to reflect on and pay homage to the victims of the Holocaust. 3 But, he recognizes, this “duty to remember” can be stifling, a matter of
Claus Leggewie and Erik Meyer, “Ein Ort, an den man gerne geht” Das Holocaust-Mahnmal und die deutsche Geschichtspolitik nach 1989 (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2005)
Karen E. Till, The New Berlin: Memory, Politics, Place (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005)
Peter Carrier, Holocaust Monuments and National Memory Cultures in France and Germany since 1989: The Origins and Political Function of the Vél’ d’Hiv’ in Paris and the Holocaust Monument in Berlin (New York: Berghahn Books, 2005)
The Rotterdam Bombardment in Local Memory Culture and Education from 1980 to 2015
This article analyses three local educational projects about the Nazi bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940, all of which took place from 1980 to the present day in the context of the dynamic memory culture of the bombardment. These three contexts testify to a process by which memory, increasingly derived from authentic locations and objects instead of individual memories, is put to use in education. Moreover, increased awareness of the disappearance of eyewitness generations means that young people are becoming key consumers and auxiliary producers of memory.
The article sketches the ruptures in today's German memory culture, concentrating on the Volkstrauertag (People's Day of Mourning) and the Gedenktag für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (Remembrance Day for the Victims of National Socialism) on 27 January. It starts with an overview of the history of the Volkstrauertag with its (outward) transformation from a commemoration day for dead German soldiers into one for “all victims of war and violence.” The inclusive model of commemoration that was typical for the Bonn Republic is disintegrating today. In united Germany, the Volkstrauertag and 27 January reflect antagonistic memory strands, that is a memory focussed on the war dead and German suffering or on the Holocaust and German guilt. In light of discussions about commemorating Bundeswehr dead, the article ends by describing a re-heroicizing of the Volkstrauertag and, in a more general way, tries to outline the shifting construction of German national identity.
Women as Seen through the Media
Renata Jambrešić Kirin and Reana Senjković
This article shows how the model of the ideal patriotic woman, established through propaganda activities between two competitive ideologies in Croatia during the Second World War, have been transformed and adapted to accommodate diverse genres of memory culture from 1945 until the present day. In order to indicate the inter- relation of media-ideological constructs and self-definition, the authors have compared cultural representation models of ‘acceptable’ and ‘obnoxious’ females in war time with ethnographical interviews conducted with women at the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Antifašistički front žena (Women’s Anti-Fascist Front, AFŽ) Istrian Conference in 2004. The contrast between recollections and culturally constructed official memory shows how the memories of women, as autonomous historical subjects, resist the imposed collective amnesia on the anti-fascist movement, although these women also leave many ‘unsuitable truths’ untold about their subordinate role within the anti-fascist movement.
Polish Women's Rights Activists and the Beginnings of International Women's Day Around 1911
Iwona Dadej and Angelique Leszczawski-Schwerk
This article investigates International Women's Day (IWD) in Poland as a historical and current event. In 1911, the first IWD was observed by Polish feminists who belonged to a "nation without a state." This first celebration marked the beginning of the first stage of the history of IWD in the Polish lands. One hundred years later, women's marches took place again on 8 March. This article examines how Polish feminists celebrated and organized IWD in Galicia and Congress Poland in 1911 and beyond. The article sheds light on the relationship between the liberal and socialist women's movements in Poland during the years 1911–1914. This study contributes to Polish women's history and to the feminist memory culture of IWD. Using our analysis of the history of the origins of IWD in Poland, we also consider whether or not the demands of 1911 are still relevant to the present day.
The Cold War in History Museums around the Baltic Sea
This article derives from the research project entitled “Art, Culture and Conflict: Transformations of Museums and Memory Culture around the Baltic Sea after 1989,” which was financed by the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University. It discusses how history museums in Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have reacted to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the conclusion of the Soviet occupation of the three Baltic states. It argues that the Cold War is understood by the museums as a special historical epoch not comparable to any other historical period in these six countries. It concludes that to be able to deal with this particular point in history we either need to metaphorically put the Cold War in between red brackets, as it were, which makes it possible to address the Cold War when needed, or to place it outside the historical narrative of the modern rise of the five discussed nation-states.
Reflections on Auschwitz
Austrian-born Ruth Klüger was a teenager when she and her mother were deported first to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz, and later to Christianstadt. This article examines Klüger's memoir weiter leben in which she records her memories and assessments of her experience in these concentration camps. It considers her critical stance toward the postwar Holocaust memory culture and focuses on Klüger's relationship with German thought and language. In particular, during her imprisonment in Auschwitz, German poetry played an important role in her survival. This offers new insight into Theodor Adorno's statement (which he later retracted) that “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.“ As questions about German identity are raised, this article suggests a discourse about the Holocaust from within German culture and points to questions about the intricate relationship of a shared cultural background between victim and perpetrator.
Eckhardt Fuchs and Marcus Otto
Cultures of remembrance or memory cultures have constituted an interdisciplinary field of research since the 1990s. While this field has achieved a high level of internal differentiation, it generally views its remit as one that encompasses “all imaginable forms of conscious remembrance of historical events, personalities, and processes.” In contrast to this comprehensive and therefore rather vague definition of “culture of remembrance” or “memory culture”, we use the term “politics of memory” here and in what follows in a more specific sense, in order to emphasize “the moment at which the past is made functional use of in the service of present-day purposes, to the end of shaping an identity founded in history.” Viewing the issue in terms of discourse analysis, we may progress directly from this definition to identify and investigate politics of memory as a discourse of strategic resignifications of the past as formulated in history and implemented in light of contemporary identity politics. While the nation-state remains a central point of reference for the politics of memory, the field is by no means limited to official forms of the engagement of states with their past. In other words, it does not relate exclusively to the official character of a state’s policy on history. Instead, it also encompasses the strategic politics of memory and identity pursued by other stakeholders in a society, a politics that frequently, but not always, engages explicitly with state-generated and state-sanctioned memory politics. Thus, the politics of memory is currently unfolding as a discourse of ongoing, highly charged debate surrounding collective self-descriptions in modern, “culturally” multilayered, and heterogeneous societies, where self-descriptions draw on historical developments and events that are subject to conflict.