The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe

The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: Published: September 2006

History > European History, Politics > Political Science

For sixty years, different groups in Europe have put forth interpretations of World War II and their respective countries’ roles in it consistent with their own political and psychological needs. The conflict over the past has played out in diverse arenas, including film, memoirs, court cases, and textbooks. It has had profound implications for democratization and relations between neighboring countries. This collection provides a comparative case study of how memories of World War II have been constructed and revised in seven European nations: France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, and the USSR (Russia). The contributors include scholars of history, literature, political science, psychology, and sociology. Country by country, they bring to the fore the specifics of each nation’s postwar memories in essays commissioned especially for this volume. The use of similar analytical categories facilitates comparisons.

An extensive introduction contains reflections on the significance of Europeans’ memories of World War II and a conclusion provides an analysis of the implications of the contributors’ findings for memory studies. These two pieces tease out some of the findings common to all seven countries: for instance, in each nation, the decade and a half between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s was the period of most profound change in the politics of memory. At the same time, the contributors demonstrate that Europeans understand World War II primarily through national frames of reference, which are surprisingly varied. Memories of the war have important ramifications for the democratization of Central and Eastern Europe and the consolidation of the European Union. This volume clarifies how those memories are formed and institutionalized.

Contributors. Claudio Fogu, Richard J. Golsan, Wulf Kansteiner, Richard Ned Lebow, Regula Ludi, Annamaria Orla-Bukowska, Heidemarie Uhl, Thomas C. Wolfe


The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe contains much that is worthwhile, both in terms of conceptual integration of the literature on collective memory and the richness of the case studies offered.” — Marijke Breuning, Political Psychology

“[A] well-constructed and well-organized collection of essays . . . [and] a useful introduction to national memory cultures in postwar Europe.” — Eve M. Duffy, German Studies Review

“[O]ffer[s] a succinct introduction to . . . scholarship on the politics of memory in seven European nations that might serve as a solid foundation for readers interested in exploring the topic further.” — Kimba Allie Tichenor, H-Net Reviews

“[P]rovides many insights and observations of great interest and high value.” — Bo Strath, German Quarterly

“Comparative studies—like The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe—make us aware of how much shared memories create and sustain identities of individuals and communities and of the substantial impact they have on relationships between nations.” — Anna Ziębińska-Witek, CLIO

“Lebow, Kansteiner and Fogu have gathered together some worthwhile contributions. . . . The volume will be of particular use to historians and those in the field of cultural studies.” — Christopher Ward, Journal of European Studies

“The editors of the volume sought, and indeed achieved, good communication between historians and social scientists who are working on collective memory (p. ix), by using various methodologies in the
fields of history, literature, social psychology, political science and international relations. . . . [A] very compelling volume. . . .” — Raphael Vago, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs

“The seven national case studies which are at the core of the volume . . . provide excellent summaries of the state of research in this field for each nation.” — Christof Dejung, Journal of Contemporary History

“This rich volume examines the ‘politics of memory’ in postwar Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, and Russia.” — Stanley Hoffmann, Foreign Affairs

“This thoughtful and stimulating series of essays from a variety of disciplines explores how the memory of World War Two continues to be revised within several European national contexts, including France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, and Russia.” — Christine Lavrence, Canadian Journal of Sociology

“A stimulating addition to the literature on the intersection between memory and history, this collection is an intelligent and robust engagement with issues that simply won’t go away. One of its advantages is that it takes seriously the need to sharpen the conceptual tools we need to handle a subject as protean as memory.” — Jay Winter, author of Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History

“This is not the first collaborative volume on post–World War II memory in Europe to appear in recent years, but it is the best and most important. Two qualities that set it apart are the integration of excellent historical writing with a stimulating social-science framework and the broadly humanistic cultural sensibilities embodied in the country-specific chapters. The book will be read with benefit by students of history and political psychology, as well as by those interested in the comparative politics of the past.” — Martin O. Heisler, University of Maryland


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Richard Ned Lebow is James O. Freedman Presidential Professor of Government at Dartmouth College. He is the author of many books, including The Tragic Vision of Politics: Ethics, Interests, and Orders.

Wulf Kansteiner is Associate Professor of History and Judaic Studies at Binghamton University. He is the author of In Pursuit of German Memory: History, Television, and Politics after Auschwitz.

Claudio Fogu teaches in the French and Italian Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Historic Imaginary: Politics of History in Fascist Italy.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: ix

The Memory of Politics in Postwar Europe / Richard Ned Lebow 1

From Victim Myth to Co-Responsibility Thesis: Nazi Rule, World War II, and the Holocaust in Austrian Memory / Heidemarie Uhl 40

The Legacy of World War II in France: Mapping the Discourses of Memory / Richard J. Golsan 73

Losing the War, Winning the Memory Battle: The Legacy of Nazism, World War II, and the Holocaust in the Federal Republic of Germany / Wulf Kansteiner 102

Italiani brava gente: The Legacy of Fascist Historical Culture on Italian Politics of Memory / Claudio Fogu 147

New Threads on an Old Loom: National Memory and Social Identity in Postwar and Post-Communist Poland / Annamaria Orla-Bukowska 177

What Is So Special about Switzerland? Wartime Memory as a National Ideology in the Cold War Era / Regula Ludi 210

Past as Present, Myth, or History? Discourses of Time and The Great Fatherland War / Thomas C. Wolfe 249

The Politics of Memory and Poetics of History / Claudio Fogu and Wulf Kansteiner 284

Bibliography 311

Contributors 355

Index 357
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3817-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3802-4
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