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Musealization of Memory

The Second World War and Nazi-occupation in Museums, Memorial Sites, and Monuments in Eastern Europe


The debates following the 60th anniversary of the war’s end in 1945 made it clear that in many states of Europe the Second World War and the years immediately following still form a central point of focus of the collective memory and of the national policies of history. Many of these debates focused on museums, historical exhibitions and memorials. Particularly in the post-communist states of Eastern Europe, the desire to adapt the presentations in museums of the war experience and the post war years to the changed political conditions led to several new history museums being founded. At the same time, many already existing memorial sites were newly interpreted; monuments dedicated to the occupation regime of the Second World War were sometimes newly constructed, in other cases they were removed from their original locations.

It is the goal of this project to examine presentations in museums, memorial sites and monuments relating to occupation politics and the experience of occupation during the Second World War and to shed light on their specific semantics, presentation logics and intentions. In the course of this examination the main question will be to discover which symbolic languages and processes of inclusion and exclusion help create a feeling of community. A central focal point of the examination concerns the differing tendencies of the recollection of the time of occupation in Europe: on the one hand the tendency of universalization, on the other hand the tendency of particularization of memories. In this context, it is necessary to distinguish between cross-national presentations of occupation, experiences of imprisonment, Shoah and the liberation from symbolisms that separate the various modes of memory in different European regions.

The research group, comprising an international group of young academics, will examine this question in several individual projects. These projects will focus on Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic. A Europe-wide forum for discussion will be established by two international conferences.


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