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The Twentieth Century in European Memory

Transcultural Mediation and Reception

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Edited by Tea Sindbæk Andersen and Barbara Törnquist-Plewa

The Twentieth Century in European Memory investigates contested and divisive memories of conflicts, world wars, dictatorship, genocide and mass killing. Focusing on the questions of transculturality and reception, the book looks at the ways in which such memories are being shared, debated and received by museum workers, artists, politicians and general audiences. Due to amplified mobility and communication as well as Europe’s changing institutional structure, such memories become increasingly transcultural, crossing cultural and political borders.
This book brings together in-depth researched case studies of memory transmission and reception in different types of media, including films, literature, museums, political debate printed and digital media, as well as studies of personal and public reactions.

Contributors are: Ismar Dedović, Astrid Erll, Rosanna Farbøl, Magdalena Góra, Gunnthorunn Gudmundsdottir, Anne Heimo, Sara Jones, Wulf Kansteiner, Slawomir Kapralski, Zoé de Kerangat, Zdzisław Mach, Natalija Majsova, Inge Melchior, Daisy Neijmann, Vjeran Pavlaković, Benedikt Perak, Tea Sindbæk Andersen, and Barbara Törnquist-Plewa.

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Edited by Tea Sindbæk Andersen and Barbara Törnquist-Plewa

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Ismar Dedović and Tea Sindbæk Andersen

Abstract

In 2013 and 2014, Serbia’s president Tomislav Nikolić made several speeches and public statements in which he gave his version of Serbia’s First World War history, emphatically rejecting that that Serbia could in any way be held responsible for the outbreak of the war. Nikolić explicitly refers to Christoffer Clark’s book The Sleepwalkers. How Europe went to War in 1914 as a source of historical falsifications and attacks on Serbia.

This chapter investigates Nikolić’s statements both as remediations of Serbian memories of the outbreak of the Great War and as reception of Clark’s book. The chapter traces a powerful premediation of Nikolić’s statements in the tradition of rejecting Serbia’s potential responsibility for the war in history books and school textbooks on history. The authors propose his tradition of rejecting war responsibility should be understood as reception of real and perceived accusations, and suggest that the urge to stand up to these perceived accusations creates a sense that Serbia’s First World War needs protection, which increases its actuality and relevance in the present.

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Zoé de Kerangat

Abstract

The Francoist repression of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and dictatorship killed thousands of people and left them buried in unmarked mass graves. After dictator Franco died in 1975, groups of people decided to unearth the remains of their relatives. They opened the graves away from media visibility and despite the institutional ‘Pact of Silence’ about the past, implemented by the political powers of the transition to democracy. In light of the Spanish political and historical context in the 70s and 80s, those exhumations were acts of dissidence against the dominant discourse, and a form of response to institutional silence. In spite of their invisibility, the exhumations produced local memory discourses that both disrupted and adapted to the context in which they took place. Most interestingly, in the 1980s there were similar exhumations of the Greek Civil War mass graves. Hence, these local discourses also fit into a larger historical and transnational context. This chapter aims at analyzing how the memory discourses produced by the exhumations during the Spanish transition played a role of resistance and negotiation at different levels, both local and transnational.

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Rosanna Farbøl

Abstract

The Cold War never became the global World War iii. It was a war that never broke out. Nevertheless, in some countries like for instance Denmark it is commemorated as exactly that: a war. This is particularly apparent at museums and heritage sites, where the narrative and mnemonic frame works used and activated in the representations stem from cultural memories of the Second World War. In the proccesses of establishing this Cold War cultural memory as a war memory, it has become part of a transcultural passion for memories of traumatic pasts. But, the Cold War as cultural memory is a counter-factual war memory. In Denmark, the Cold War has, moreover, become part of a fierce competition between rivaling memory communities, preventing a common commemoration culture caracteristic of transcultural war commemorations. This article reveals a number of paradoxses related to the notion of absence: the absent war is remembered as a war; it is a war memory without victims or traumas; a national war commemoration culture in connection to the Cold War is absent; and the war memory is received without contestation in spite of the competition between the various memory communities.

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Edited by Tea Sindbæk Andersen and Barbara Törnquist-Plewa

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Sara Jones

Abstract

The study of memory has become increasingly transnational. Central to this cross-border focus has been the recognition that the national and transnational are not easily separated. Key theoretical terms have been developed to described this entanglement, as ‘multi-directional’, ‘travelling’, ‘transcultural’ or even ‘global’. This chapter shifts the focus to consider how memory is developed relationally. It analyses not how memory moves across borders, or how it is received and put to use in different contexts; instead, it looks at how memory is actively built at points of ‘intercrossing’. It does this by examining the cross-border co-operations of two memory-political institutions located in Germany (Memorial Berlin-Hohenschönhausen and the Federal Office for the Stasi Files) over a four-year period. Using an innovative methodology that combines the quantitative approach of social network analysis with a discursive analysis of published texts, the chapter shows how these institutions use collaboration across borders to construct memory regions and to support or contest national memory regimes. It concludes by proposing the new theoretical concept of collaborative memory. Collaborative memory focuses our attention on the agents of transnational memory cultures and incorporates acts of memory that are constructed through co-operative action between partners in different national contexts.

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Inge Melchior

Abstract

The Soviet repressions are ‘living’ in Estonia. They still easily evoke an emotional response among a wide share of the population. Not being understood by Western Europeans when it comes to minority, nationalism and memory politics is one of the main concerns often mentioned during my extensive ethnographic study in Estonia. In the current chapter I explore what Estonians who moved to The Netherlands – where people adhere to another, in Europe more dominant memory narrative – do when they experience different understandings of the Soviet past and of Russia. Presenting oneself as ‘double victim’ – carrying both the burden of the Soviet repression as the post-generation and the contemporary misrecognition in Europe – seems most common. However, the changing Dutch public discourse – as a consequence of the annexation of the Crimea in Ukraine and the attack on the Dutch mh17 airplane by Russian separatists – has created space for Estonian ‘agents of change’ to speak up. Agents of change believe that their voice counts within Europe and that their story of Soviet repression can provide important life lessons to those Europeans with a less complicated history. By sharing, these Estonians simultaneously act upon their civic duty to prevent the Soviet suffering from being forgotten.

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Barbara Törnquist-Plewa, Tea Sindbæk Andersen and Astrid Erll

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Anne Heimo

Abstract

During the 1913–1914 Copper Strike seventy-three people of European descent were crushed to death on Christmas Eve at the local Italian Hall in the small township of Calumet on the Keweenaw Peninsula, Upper Michigan. The tragedy was investigated on several occasions, but no one was found responsible for the deaths, and the case remains unsolved to this day. The incident was reported widely in the media, but was then not discussed in public for decades. The Italian hall was demolished in the 1980s, which generated the first wave of commemoration of the event. The second wave commenced in the wake of the centennial of the tragedy. For many the tragedy is a significant part of their family or local history and is shared online. This article examines the remediation of the memory of the Italian Hall tragedy and why it continues to be retold a hundred years later.