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Changing memory regimes in the New Europe

Meike Wulf
Maastricht Universiteit
Meike Wulf
Maastricht Universiteit
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper bases itself on the working hypothesis that European memory politics and the prospects of a shared post -1989 European identity are intrinsically connected. At the end of the Cold War a growing competition emerged between different and often conflicting memory regimes of the war and post war years in the Europe. I concentrate on the Baltic States as they (together with Poland) emerged at the forefront of the so-called new European commemorative politics. As examples of East European countries which endured consecutive military occupations by both Nazis and Soviets, coming to terms with the memory of the Holocaust in these countries appear particularly challenging. From the late 1980s onwards a shift from the prescribed anti-fascist narrative to an anticommunist narrative (a new memory) regime is noticeable in these countries. But it is this anti communist narrative which clashes with the memory regime promoted by the old member states (West. Europe). Judt (1992) bemoaned the radically inadequate post-war response to the memory of the Second World War. Consequently it is after the end of the Cold War, that we can begin to systematically reconsider these earlier European ‘memory regimes’ as well as the much more recent memory of the Soviet period and its demise. By comparing patterns of coming to terms with the past after 1945 and 1989 in East and West, we can establish differences and points of convergence. While presently, I see the interpretive differences of the recent past between Western and Eastern Europe as too complex to arrive at a unified or agreeable memory at this moment, I will nevertheless provide examples of how “mismemories” and clashing memory regimes prevent a shared understanding of the war and post war years in the New Europe. I will also ask what it means for the youth in the Baltic States particularly if the anti fascist narrative is discounted.