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[The editor received the following conference report, which may be of interest to list members.] Experience and Memory. The Second World War in Europe International Colloquium of the German Historical Institute Paris and the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt Potsdam in conjunction with the German Historical Institutes London, Moscow, Rome and Warsaw and the Institut d'Histoire du Temps Présent Paris held on 3-4 April, in Paris Report by Annika Kropf (Erlangen) and Holger Kozminski (Konstanz) In recent years traditional national histories of the Second World War have been called into question by historical research. New questions and approaches, for example military history expanded by social history, the history of mentalities and cultural history reveal the events of the war in all their various facets. First comparisons reveal trans-national commonalities. The public, too, is interested in the role of the civilian population during the war. What can and should a Europeanisation of the history of the war achieve? This was the main question that occupied the conference held in Paris on 3-4 April 2006. Under the title Experience and Memory. The Second World War in Europe the German Historical Institute Paris (DHIP) and the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt Potsdam (MGFA) had invited historians from Belgium, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland and Russia to a colloquium. The concept, devised by Jörg Echternkamp (Potsdam/Paris) and Stefan Martens (Paris) envisaged, firstly, looking at country-specific experiences and memories of the war beyond the supposed caesura of 1945, and, secondly, looking over the rim of national history to larger and smaller states in West and East Europe. War and post-war should, as Echternkamp stressed in his introductory paper, be brought into a stronger relationship with one another than hitherto. The country-specific papers should show where the possibilities and limitations of a European history of the Second World War lie, and where structural commonalities and differences can be established. Benelux In the first section dealing with the Benelux countries, introduced by Pieter Lagrou (Brussels), Benoit Majerus created a link to the First World War by means of the "experience space" concept that goes back to Reinhard Koselleck. German Nazi functionaries, intellectuals and historians involved in the occupation of the Benelux countries between 1940 and 1944 could already have recourse to such "experience spaces". Majerus distinguished three experiences that were inextricably linked to a space: the First World War, the French- Belgian occupation of the Ruhr and Rhineland, and western research. Using several biographies he demonstrated that at a "microlevel", i.e. in the practice of occupation, a decisive role was played by a group of people who applied their earlier experiences to the occupation of the Benelux countires. After this reference to the background of the Germans' experiences Chantal Kesteloot (Brussels) looked at the national status of the Second World War in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg. A common denominator in the memory culture of these three states she identified as the systematically implemented commemorations and the tendency to victimisation. However, there were differences between Luxemburg and the Netherlands on the one hand and Belgium on the other. Immediately after the war the image of a nation of heroes still prevailed in the Netherlands and Belgium, a nation that had put up resistance and saved Jews from deportation. As soon became apparent however, this did not happen to the extent assumed. In Belgium on the other hand the resistance was ambivalent from the start, if not regarded in a negative light. In both cases the unrecognised "heroes" now joined the ranks of the victims and even competed with one another over who had suffered the most. This change was accompanied by increased attention to the Second World War in publications, TV series and films, heavily orientated towards eye-witness reports. But this process started at different times in the three countries. This is illustrated by the dates on which historical research establishments were founded in each country – as early as 1945 in the Netherlands, in Belgium the late 1960s, and in Luxembourg not until 2002. Other differences become apparent if we look at the role played by the Second World War in national identity. In Luxembourg and the Netherlands, having been neutral in 1914-18, it seemed like an opportunity to fight for the fatherland, linked, in the Netherlands, to a tradition of resistance and of fighting for the liberal-democratic system. In both cases the Second World War had a consolidating effect on the national identity, but in Belgium the opposite appears to have been the case with an ever deeper gulf developing between Flemings and Walloons. Great Britain Not just a nation of resistance fighters, but a nation of Europe's saviours, led by Winston Churchill, was at the centre of the myth created by Britain's selective memory. In John Ramsden's (London) paper, read by Richard Bessel (York) it was therefore a more a question of sacrifice than victimhood. Ramsden's thesis that for the British victory in the Second World War was just as much the greatest reality as the greatest myth can be explained if we look not only at Britain's undisputed victory, but also at its losses during the war period and its replacement by the USA as an imperialist great power. According to Ramsden these losses justify the question whether Britain's victory over Germany did not come at so great a price that it was more like a defeat. He said that in the British consciousness such losses were, to this day, suppressed by the victorious battle against Nazi Germany, as shown by football slogans, newspaper headlines and questionnaires. It was not until the 1980s – and then only to a degree – that historians managed to expand this one-sided fixation on victory over the Third Reich into a less selective picture of the Second World War. The reason why this attempt had only limited success, according to Ramsden, had more to do with Britain's search for a new role in the world than with the historical facts of 1940/1. Mark Connelly (Canterbury) also dealt with the positive image of the war already constructed during the war. We can take it! – this propaganda slogan was the title of his paper about the British Home Front; it was this heroic, sacrificial attitude on the part of the British civilian population to the Blitz that defined presentations of the Second World War for a long time. The sociologist Richard Titmuss even attributed to this period of crisis the positive effect that it drew society together despite all class barriers. It was not until the 1970s that the untarnished image of the Home Front was scratched: for the first time negative aspects were depicted in films and books such as the black market, corruption and infidelity. In the early 1990s not only was the myth called into question, but the issue was raised as to how and why it was propagated. In 1991 Angus Calder argued in The Myth of the Blitz that by its one-sided presentation of the German air war against London the government actually manufactured the heroism of the Home Front while Clive Pointing suggested that by over-emphasising the resistance of 1940 it deliberately drew a veil over Britain's internal divisions and crises. Connelly's paper relativised the caesura of 1945 particularly clearly. In his view, after the war only historical images and interpretative models were disseminated that had already been constructed during the war. But in contrast to Ramsden, who saw the war against the Nazi regime anchored more firmly than ever today in the British identity, Connelly perceived a fundamental change, as reflected, for example, in school curricula. Here the Home Front and the Blitz were analysed more and more, and no longer idealised, while the history of Nazism and the Holocaust became the focal point. In the discussion led by Matthias Reiss (London) it became clear that memory is not only determined by past experience but also by its own present. Thus the British population celebrated victory in the Falklands War of 1982 in the same way as the victory celebrations at the end of the Second World War. Poland and Russia The contradictions in the national memorial culture of the eastern European countries emerged in the Polish and Russian section, chaired by Jochen Böhler (Warsaw) and Bernd Bonwetsch (Warsaw). Polish memory of the Second World War was, until the end of the 1980s, governed by official guidelines on the part of the Soviet Union. According to Piotr Madajczyk (Warsaw) this was reflected clearly in the main topics of research in the 1960s and 1970s. Research on German occupation policy was, he said, particularly encouraged for political reasons, while the question of the Soviet role before the war broke out and Poland's everyday relationship with the Soviet power were largely excluded. When the USSR collapsed a re-examination of war memories took place after decades of collectively suppressing personal recollections. In a questionnaire in the early 1990s the majority of Poles said that their experiences under German and Soviet occupation had been equally bad. Many even went so far as to say that they found the Soviet yoke even more repressive. Due to the limited opportunities for academic research coming to terms with the past in Poland mostly took place in the public sphere. Examination of the last months of the war between liberation and new subjugation showed that in Polish history 1945 was not a decisive caesura in political and cultural processes. The new generation of Polish researchers is an important factor in the changed perception of the war. The question remained open as to the status of the Second World War in the memory of the various generations and to what extent it influenced political thinking today. In contrast to Poland, Russian research on the world war is still largely dominated by old Soviet models. Sergej Kudrjasov (Moscow) first demonstrated how the war was perceived in the former Soviet Union and what collective memory of the war is like today. In the former Soviet Union the end of the war was initially stylised as the beginning of a new and happy time and was also perceived as such by many Soviet citizens. When the utopia of a better life failed to materialise the disillusionment was described by many historians as the phenomenon of the "stolen victory". Examination of the war directly after it ended was officially forbidden. Instead the Soviet propaganda machine created a "correct" image of the recent past. In public people could only remember what they were allowed to remember. Invented deeds of heroism and battle scenes were no rare thing, as is illustrated impressively by the massive monument near the town of Dubosekovo. Glorification of the war is still so influential today that after the collapse of the USSR the town is incapable of dealing with the recent past objectively. Although its archives are open many files, according to Kudrjasov at the end of his paper, are still retained by the government. A thorough confrontation with its own recent past is still a long way off. Italy The Italian section chaired by Lutz Klinkhammer (Rome) revealed particularly clearly that there can be different, indeed contradictory memories of war within a country. Gabriella Gribaudi (Naples) draw attention to the British and American moral bombing – a fact which so far has barely been discussed in Italy. The aim of the Allied attacks was to demoralise the population and get rid of the fascist regime. Large numbers of casualties and the direct destruction of strategically unimportant civilian establishments had, she said, been consciously accepted. Gribaudi distinguished between two war strategies with differing psychological significance: the deliberate killing of individuals and random mass killing by dropping bombs. So ultimately the question remained as to whether moral bombing was actually necessary at all. As in Germany, in Italy too it is only in recent years that the question as to the point of bomb attacks has been discussed – and here again no clear answer has emerged as yet. Filippo Focardi (Padua) then criticised the myth of the "good Italian" still prevalent in Italy today. Between April 1941 and September 1943 fascist Italy administered large sections of Yugoslavia and Greece. Even though the occupying forces in the Balkans were guilty of serious war crimes with thousands of victims these dark areas had been suppressed in the national collective memory. Even before the war was over the monarchy and the anti- fascist forces prepared the way for the myth of the "good Italian" Post-war works such as Mussolini e l'Europa by Mario Luciolli even made him out to be a war hero, a "defender of the oppressed". Films such as Captain Corelli's Mandolin promoted this image, which to this day is still stubbornly defended. The reason for this, he said, was the great deficit in Italian historiography on the war and the difficulty of access to the military archives. It was only in recent times that a new generation had started to examine the different aspects of Italian occupation. In this process, Focardi demanded, suppressed facts such as the war crimes in the Balkans should be exposed. France After this glance at the macro-level Pierre Le Goic (Brest) turned to mico-history in the section on France chaired by Fabrice d'Almeida (Paris). Talking about "Brest sous les bombes" he approached the subjective reality of the war in the sense of an "archéologie des émotions". The starting point was the diaries of the German solider Erich Kuby and the Frenchwoman Suzanne Langlois, both of whom experienced the Allied bombing of Brest. Unlike retrospective accounts of war experiences, which were often selective and glossed over certain facts, Le Goic believed that diaries, because of their proximity to experience, provided more trustworthy information, even if they had been written with specific intentions in mind. Both Kuby and Langlois, who was disabled, confronted the constant mortal danger by trying to carry on living their lives as in peacetime. Even though after a certain length of time neither was able to suppress their fear any longer, Le Goic saw in their behaviour confirmation that the population was capable of adapting to constant danger. One should not, however, generalise on the basis of these two cases, and in the discussion this gave rise to the question of other strategies, for example an emphasis on a working routine. Philippe Buton (Reims) took a different approach when he looked at the political repercussions of the war on voting patterns and party allegiance. Using a comparison of the regional distribution of the Communist Party (PCF) membership and voters, he asked whether the war represented a significant upheaval and, if so, what this should be attributed to. Buton came to the conclusion that the Second World War, like no other event before or since, led to a new structure. Similarities in the regional distribution suggested that resistance activities led to greater sympathy for the PCF. His explanation for this was that precisely in those regions where the Resistance was particularly active, a sort of civil war and political death sentence came about. Buton saw a two-part split here: in the "first France" the evil was the result of the Vichy regime, in the "second France" it was a matter of an evil "from above" that had to be tolerated, since this was the only way the Allies could end the German occupation. In the "first France" people took the fight against the occupation into their own hands, which was reflected in active resistance. This could have led to the population becoming more radical, and therefore more in tune with the ideology of the PCF. Germany Analysis of the memory of war in Germany was marked by the division and the politics of two different post-war systems. The German section, chaired by Hans-Ulrich Thamer (Münster) focussed on this differentiated perception. Dietmar Süss (Munich) introduced the topic of the bombing of Germany – a topic that has given rise to heated debates, not only amongst scholars, especially since the publication of Jörg Friedrich's book Der Brand. With an eye on social history and the history of experience he pleaded for a European history of the war in the air, as yet to be written. In the Third Reich the war in the air led to different, sometimes overlapping narratives. While the regime was propagating the "stability of the home front" shortly before the end of the war, the war created an alternative public sphere in which rumours and information provided by individuals influenced the public perception of the war. The Nazi government demanded absolute trust. Questioning was not wanted. Slogans that emerged during the war such as "barbarism of the Anglo-American destroyers of culture" or "destruction of defenceless German cities" served, directly after the war, to portray Germany not as a perpetrator but as the victim of Allied atrocities. Thus every discourse on victims, as also conducted in the recent past, already had its origins in the war. At the end of his paper Süss emphasised that research on the Second World War was still a long way from a comparative history of the war in the air and its repercussions on the culture of memory. First of all there had to be a national coming to terms with the phenomenon, as in the case of Italy. According to Axel Schildt (Hamburg) coming to terms with the war was, until the end of the "old" Federal Republic, an extremely laborious process in West Germany. The focal point was the question of whether the end of the war was a "defeat" or a "liberation" for Germany. The post-war period was connected with numerous difficult problems. Due to a cluster of factors memory of the war was constantly present and did not need to be repeatedly summoned back – also out of fear of another world war. After the 1950s, a "decade of coming to terms" (Schildt), the public discussion about the Second World War became much less heated. It was not until the 1990s, after reunification, that broad-based discussion took place once again about private and public memory of the war, especially about the victims of bombing, escape and expulsion. Despite common foundations two completely different interpretative models emerged in the two separate German states, as Dorothee Wierling (Hamburg) stressed. Research in the GDR, as in Poland, had to work with the official statements of the Soviet occupying power. The best example was public silence about the violence of the Red Army before and after the end of the war. The image of the "Russian" as a brutal conqueror and merciless despot at the start of the occupation changed with the restructuring of politics and society into the ideal of an allied leader. This rapid change, Wierling said, only led, however, to a superficial Sovietisation, whereas most of the West Germans were quite happy to live with Americanisation. Public presentations and distortions of the Second World War formed an ideological unit in the GDR. The opportunities for interpretation and remembrance were structured really very simply, so that it was easy to allocate a role to those involved in the war. The Soviet Union, as a victorious power, which had also made the greatest sacrifice in the battle against fascism, was apportioned exceptional importance. The official reports in the GDR led, according to Wierling, to a division, indeed alienation in German-German memories of the war. The different post-war fates of the two Germanies, determined by the division, very soon suppressed the image of a common fate in the war. The division was perceived much more strongly and for much longer in the East than in the West – as a result of its consequences in the GDR, knowledge of the war stayed alive for longer. Conclusion The approach to "memory and experience" of the Second World War has changed – this is how Henri Rousso started off his conclusion. The Holocaust, which even ten years ago was still the focal point of the discussion, had obviously found its place in memory. Without reducing the status of the Holocaust, the spectrum of topics had, since then, expanded to include forgotten and neglected themes, and this had given the Colloquium a different character. In addition, a tendency away from social to individual experience could be observed, illustrated by the fact that social and political aspects were barely touched upon. This different way of looking at the war also drew attention to other, hitherto forgotten groups of victims. This threw up some new concepts and ways of looking at the war. One of these is already tucked away in the title. It was a question of being at war (être en guerre), not waging war (faire la guerre). The question was posed repeatedly as to whether memory of the war can be explained more by the past experience to which it relates or by the present, in which the memory takes place. Is memory "fille de son père ou de son temps?" In Rousso's view various concepts created during the post-war period, for instance Sortie de guerre in France, hinted at the importance of present-day perceptions. In Germany the concept of "the culture of memory" also indicated the relation of the past to the present. Looking at the geographical space Rousso drew attention to the game of levels, which ran like a thread through the whole Colloquium. The European, the national, the local and the individual level followed each other in succession. This revealed, for example, the differences between memory in western Europe and in the eastern bloc countries, where communism seems to have exhausted memory of the Second World War. The Colloquium had demonstrated structural trans-national commonalities, the role of the war in the air, the significance of the First World War, the function of enemy images, the various modes of recollection and the influence of a new generation. On the other hand, he said, the differences in the national memory cultures should not be overlooked. Rather than reaching a standard version for the whole of Europe – this too became clear – it was more a question of sifting out memories at a level below that of national history. This diversification generally replaced a memory myth which in many countries had been constructed and instrumentalised as the official national memory and was not called into question until a new generation came along. According to Rousso, even though its was constantly emphasised that this official memory had much in it that was falsified, idealised, and mythologised, the question was rarely asked as to why it was necessary to create these myths. Rousso said that the Colloquium encouraged the periodisation of memory. The innovative approach of looking at the period before and after 1945 at the same time made certain things clear: the first phase of memory started with the creation of myths during the war, for example in the cases of Germany and England. For instance, the phenomenon that after the Second World War many Germans saw themselves as victims had already been prepared for by Goebbels' propaganda. Apart from the war itself, however, other milestones of the change in memory could be perceived: In the West the 1960s and 1970s heralded criticism of the prevailing memory of the war, while in the former eastern bloc countries the 1990s certainly marked a turning point. So in the individual countries of Europe not only are the memory cultures different, they are also dealt with at quite different times – regardless of important events. Even if memory is always striving for commonalities, for commemoration, it was useless to look for a homogeneous European memory. Clearly the Holocaust was the greatest common denominator. But it was possible, and this is what those researching the Second World War wanted, to demonstrate these differences in a European history of the experiences and memories of the war and to gain the necessary acceptance of their plurality. Richard Bessel (York) made the final point when he presented the findings of the conference in a broader frame of reference in a public lecture at the DHI Paris. One the one hand he took up the same tone as the papers when he concluded that memory takes on different forms depending on the chronological backdrop. On the other hand he saw a convergence, which could unite various nations today: sooner or later the war, in all countries, came to represent suffering and violence, and in this spirit more attention tended to be paid to the victims than to the perpetrators. But how did this new interpretation of the war come about? During the interwar period in Germany war was still glorified. But after the Second World War many Germans categorised themselves as victims because of a widespread feeling of senselessness and disillusionment. So the German victims and losses (in the sense of sacrifices) could not be appreciated, because they were ultimately "senseless", and this made it impossible to glorify the war. In Bessel's view, however, with the passing of time memory of the Second World War also changed in other countries. This is not only because a new generation came along, but also because the damage caused by the war continued to be felt by large sections of the population for a long time, to a far greater degree than in the First World War. Up to the present European consensus had gradually emerged that war means suffering and loss. But this may not necessarily remain the case. Younger generations, who will never come across the Second World War via eye-witnesses, and indeed the increasingly multicultural nature of European societies and the multiplicity of memory contexts, could once again look at the war from a different point of view.