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Transformations in the politics of memory surrounding involuntary migrations in the context of World War II: Košice after 1989

Between 1938 and 1947 the ethnic composition of the population of Košice changed dramatically. These changes were due to a large extent to multiple waves of involuntary migrations. The town’s Czech and Slovak inhabitants fled after the First Vienna Award and the subsequent occupation of the town by the Hungarian army in the autumn of 1938; the Jewish population was deported in 1944; and Hungarians and Germans were (partially) expelled after the war. At the end of the 1940s Košice was culturally and ethnically considerably more homogeneous than on the eve of the war.


The aim of my research is to explore the existing plurality in cultures of memory surrounding involuntary migrations in the period 1938-1947 in Košice at both individual and institutional levels and to analyse how they are interrelated in the broader context of minority histories and commemorative practices in relation to World War II. Based on the accounts of witnesses and participants of the memory-keeping process and other available data, the project will attempt to retrace the evolution of memory politics over the past three decades, describing the underlying tensions and dilemmas that shaped this development. The study of recent transformations in cultures of memory involves three basic (and largely interconnected) levels of inquiry: 1) individual memories/memoirs and the family traditions of those affected by involuntary migrations; 2) cultures of memory pertaining to and administered by specific ethnic communities and their organisations; 3) the official historical narrative as reflected in municipal politics and policies, public institutions and public spaces.


The main research questions are:

How do the families affected by involuntary migrations between 1938 and 1947 remember life in or outside of Košice in this period? How is this memory passed on to younger generations?

What role have civic organisations played in shaping and promoting group-specific cultures of memory?

How have official municipal policies concerned with memory keeping, monument preservation and cultural institutions in general evolved over the past 30 years? What kind of messages do public spaces and public institutions convey?

Adam Gajdoš



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