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Discourses of Victim Associations: Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Comparative Perspective

For the injustice to which they were subjected, victims of the Second World War have demanded and continue to demand social recognition, symbolic and/or material "compensation", an elucidation of the crimes and a conviction of the culprits.

"Discourses of Victim Associations" is a project of the Deutsch-Tschechische und Deutsch-Slowakische Historikerkommission (German-Czech and German-Slovak commission of historians) that is conducted in cooperation with the Collegium Carolinum. The examination focuses on victim groups of the Second World War as well as on the associations in which they were organized, which, after 1945, acted as protagonists in various ways, basing the legitimacy of their actions on their collective experiences.


On the one hand, an examination of the victim associations and their discourses is relevant and makes sense from a scientific point of view, because this is the place where the individual memories are concentrated and become politically influential. On the other hand, in the context of a higher national level, a discourse is initiated by the victim associations, which can – but does not necessarily do so – provide a resource of meaning for state actions. Hereby, the question of relevance is raised as to what degree of individual memory entered the discourse of victims within the associations and also whether the emotional and interpretational analysis conducted by these associations was adopted by the state. Additionally, it is worthwhile to look at the opposite perspective, namely how the state attempted to influence individual commemoration and the commemoration in associations. Was the state possibly not only involved in organizing certain already existing forms of memory, but also in actively contributing to the formation of paradigms of commemoration and narration?

The central questions of the project are concerned with the place that victim associations occupy or should occupy in the historical memory of the societies of the GDR, of Czechoslovakia and its succession states as well as of Poland. It will be asked, which narratives of victims have emerged and asserted themselves in the context of the rivalry of commemoration and the interpretation of history on a national and a European basis. How has the perception of "active" and "passive" victims changed since 1945?

 


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