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Discourses on National Socialist Forced Labor in the Czech Republic and Poland from 1945 to 2005

The dissertation project shows, in comparative perspective, how the discourses in the Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic and Poland concerning forced labor for the National Socialist regime have developed from 1945 until the current day. Persons who were compelled to forced labor by the National Socialists were not officially recognized as victims in the communist states. The main focus of remembrance was directed to the heroic battle against Nazi-Germany, these allegedly passive victims did not fit into the discourse of legitimacy supported by the state. Despite this, there are belletristic works, autobiographies and scientific works that throw light on the way the topic was dealt with. What was the account of forced labor and forced laborers given in these works after 1945? And what were – at a later point in time – the consequences for the effected persons concerning their status as victims, the recognition of their suffering and their demand for compensation? At the time of political transition the former forced laborers were able to found independent associations. These acted as lobby groups to assert their right for compensation and as communities of remembrance. How did these groups influence the discourse concerning the commemoration of the Second World War and claim their demands in the 1990s? In this context the political influence of commemoration is of relevance as well as the question of whether and how these associations joined existing discourses concerning the national identity of their countries.

Katrin Schröder

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