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