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  • Between Obsession, Routine, and Contestation: Remembering the Holocaust in Europe today

    Between Obsession, Routine, and Contestation: Remembering the Holocaust in Europe today

    24 February 2015
    While countries around the globe are moving the Holocaust to the centre of their historical and memorial consciousness, Germany is beginning to wonder if enough is enough. In this panel discussion, we will discuss the causes and possible implications of such scepticism.

    24th February 2015
    Followed by a wine reception

    UCL Roberts Building
    Room 309
    London WC1E 7JE

    Recent publications in Germany suggest the Germans may have had enough of Hitler and the Holocaust. As Harald Welzer put it, “Hitler can be forgotten”, while Ulrike Jureit complained elegantly that the Holocaust Memorial was more of marker of the 1968 generation’s pathological identification with Jewish victims than of anything else. Christian Meier wrote a book on the virtues of forgetting, echoing complaints from other quarters about a “hypertrophy of memory”. This raises a question about a possible German memory Sonderweg.

    While countries around the globe are moving the Holocaust to the centre of their historical and memorial consciousness, Germany is beginning to wonder if enough is enough. What has prompted this wave of scepticism? Where will it lead? What will happen to European Holocaust memory if Germany, surely the trendsetter in most aspects of Holocaust memorialisation, becomes engulfed in doubts? Or are these doubts not something far more positive: namely the first reactions to a perceived need to move away from routine and ritual to a more future-oriented memory work?

    This panel discussion will bring together academics specialising in German history to discuss these important questions.


    Professor Bill Niven (Nottingham Trent)
    Professor Mary Fulbrook (UCL German)
    Dr Francois Guesnet (UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies)
    Dr Andrew Pearce (UCL Institute of Education)
    Chair: Paul Salmons (UCL Centre for Holocaust Education)

    For more details, and to register, go to

  • Bertelsmann Survey Holocaust

    The survey I referred to in my previous post is available in full as a .pdf at

    The survey is called "Deutschland und Israel heute: Verbindende Vergangenheit, trennende Gegenwart?" ("Germany and Israel today: Common Past, Dividing Present")

  • Bertelsmann Survey Holocaust

    The Bertelsmann survey on attitudes towards the Holocaust is intriguing. That 81% of Germans want to put the Holocaust behind them, and 58% want to draw a definitive line is apparently a fairly stable numerical trend: it's been like that for the past 20 years, according to Bertelsmann. In fact, the number of those who want to draw that definitive line is slightly lower than it was in 1991. More interesting is the fact that the number of Germans who think the Holocaust is relevant for the present has come up from 20% to 38% (though I was not quite sure how to interpret this without more data). 68% of Israelis have a positive image of Germany today; only 36% of Germans have a positive image of Israel. More on this at

  • Auschwitz and Germany

    Yesterday, Germany's Federal President Joachim Gauck was speaking in German parliament to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Among other things, he said:

    "There is no German identity without Auschwitz"

    He warned against the dangers of forgetting. His comments have to be understood in the context of a new survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation, according to which 81% of Germans want to leave the Holocaust behind them ("hinter sich lassen"), while 58% even want to draw a line under the past ("Schlussstrich ziehen").

  • New Exhibition on Germany's Confrontation with Nazism

    Below is taken from the Experience Nottinghamshire Website, and I am advertising it here in the hope it will interest people in the Nottingham area. It opened at Beth Shalom (Laxton) today.

    Exhibition explores lessons from Germany’s confrontation of the Holocaust in a global context

    3rd February till 9th February at the Clifton Campus, Nottingham Trent University

    10th February till 20th February at the university’s Newton Building in Nottingham city centre

    As the world prepares to mark 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, an international exhibition looking at how Germany confronted the Holocaust is to be shown at Nottingham Trent University.

    Led by academics from the University of Leeds, with Nottingham Trent University’s Professor Bill Niven acting as historical adviser, Germany’s Confrontation with the Holocaust in a Global Context is part of a series of activities examining post-war responses of Germans to the crimes committed in their name: responses of silence, outrage, reconciliation and memorialisation.

    The exhibition also draws parallels to other global contexts and explores how nations and individuals confront traumatic histories, asking why and how we remember the past.

    It will be launched by Professor Niven at Nottingham Trent University’s Clifton campus on 3 February and will run until 9 February, before being transferred to the university’s Newton Building in Nottingham city centre until 20 February.

    The exhibition first opened at Leeds Town Hall and will simultaneously be unveiled at the National Holocaust Centre near Newark, Nottinghamshire, and Cape Town Holocaust Centre in South Africa on Holocaust Memorial Day on Tuesday 27 January – 70 years since the Red Army liberated Auschwitz. Professor Niven will be present at the opening of the exhibition at the Holocaust Centre to answer questions about the ideas behind it.

    Bill Niven, professor of Contemporary German History at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Arts and Humanities, said: “This is an important exhibition that draws attention to Germany’s sincere, if sometimes problematic attempts to come to terms with Nazism. Too little is known in Britain about the extensive memorial landscape in Germany commemorating Jewish victims. The exhibition also points to the efforts by other countries, such as South Africa, to face their own difficult historical legacies.”

    The exhibition is part of a programme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and will eventually also be displayed in Coventry, Aberystwyth, Chester, Birmingham, Newcastle, and Durham, and, internationally, in Cork, Copenhagen and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA.

  • Poland snubs Putin

    It seems that Poland has refrained from offering an official invitation to Putin to attend the Auschwitz memorial ceremony on 27 January, a result of strained Polish-Russian relations exacerbated by the Ukrainian crisis. That history is remembered as the present requires is well demonstrated by the comments of the Polish foreign minister, who remarked that it is the Ukrainians who should be praised for liberating the camp, not the Russians - a remark which of course offended Russia, as it was meant to. More on this at

  • Pegida leader stands down over Hitler photo

    Says the Guardian:

    "The head of the German anti-Islamisation movement Pegida has stepped down after a picture of him posing as Adolf Hitler went viral. Lutz Bachmann, 41, a butcher’s son from Dresden and co-founder of the organisation, was seen as Pegida’s figurehead and his resignation throws the future of the group into doubt."

  • New Memorial for Euthanasia Victims in Berlin

    Below is an image of the new Berlin memorial to the victims of the Nazi euthanasia campaign. Well, it is more than a memorial; it combines a memorial wall in a kind of tinted blue with an outdoor exhibition on the Nazi murder of the disabled which laudably includes a section on the pre-1933 history of euthanasia. So it is an example of what I have recently called 'combimemorials', a new trend in German memorialisation which, as the term suggests, integrates elements of memorials with other means of representation and remembrance such as exhibitions and archives. The combimemorials are replacing countermemorials as Germany's preferred memorial form, for a number of reasons which I have tried to explain elsewhere ["From Countermonument to Combimemorial: Developments in German Memorialization", Journal of War & Culture Studies, Vol. 6 No. 1, February 2013, 75–91].

    Euthanasia Memorial Berlin

  • Hitler's Bunker

    For those of you who haven't yet read Gavriel Rosenfeld's 'Hi Hitler', let me recommend it. I have some issues with it, but then that's what makes it even better - you can argue about it! Few books make you want to do that...

    On the subject of normalising Hitler, it seems that the Espionage Museum in Oberhausen (where I was unfortunate enough to spend three months - not in the museum, in the town) wants to reconstruct Hitler's bunker. Will this make Oberhausen a more exciting place? Can it now compete with Essen and Dortmund?

    According to the BILD Zeitung, the bunker will not be fitted out with the usual pictures of Hitler, but blacked-out frames. Why? Because they don't want to attract the 'wrong' kinds of visitor. I wonder how many neo-Nazis will be put off by this. Or did the BILD Zeitung mean some other undesirable group? Memorabilia thieves?

    More at


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