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Monuments, Memorials and the Culture of Remembrance Concerning World War II in the Czech Republic since 1945

Currently, several thousand monuments and memorial sites can be found on the territory of the Czech Republic which commemorate the history of the Second World War or the victims of this conflict. Many different types of memorials exist – from simple memorial plaques to monumental memorials, which were predominantly constructed during the time of the communist dictatorship and often interpret the historical events in the context of the then existing ideology. In turn, some memorials were removed because they did not comply with the existing political situation.

It is the goal of this project to analyze in which way the events of the Second World War (including the Holocaust) were commemorated in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic after 1945. The language of the memorials will be examined – i.e. which expressions were used in the respective decades, how the language changed and how it was influenced by the ruling regime. It will be shown with which names the perpetrators and also the victims were labeled (e.g. “occupants”, “fascists”, “Jewish fellow citizens”), which groups of victims were preferred to others and which victims were not mentioned at all (e.g. in which way the resistance of the Sudeten Germans against national socialism is described). Furthermore, the visual design of the monuments (e.g. statues or reliefs of soldiers, crying women) and the question of symbols appearing repeatedly on different memorials will be analyzed. Special attention will be paid to the monuments which were removed or disappeared (mainly after 1948 and also after 1990).
 
Not only the memorials themselves will be examined, but also the context in which they were erected. Memorials created in communist times will be examined with regard to the extent to which historical facts were distorted (e.g. memorials in areas which were liberated by the American army but thank Soviet soldiers for the liberation). The project also endeavours to describe in which way the monuments affect the public discourse concerning the history of the Second World War and in which way they contribute to the formation of the collective memory of this period of history in Czech society.

 

Petr Koura

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