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This study aims to shed light on an extraordinary transformation in the commemoration of the Second World War in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Western Europe.

To this end, a currently relevant standpoint has been selected. Since Fhe fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, there has been an increasingly broad divergence between official, national remembrances and those at a local level or for specific groups.

The cover of Een open zenuw

Researcher: dr. Madelon de Keizer and drs. M. Plomp
Duration: 2007-2010
Publication: Een open zenuw. Hoe wij ons de Tweede Wereldoorlog herinneren (Amsterdam; Prometheus 2010)

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This project is intended to investigate the connection between both forms of remembrance and is, therefore, positioned at the intersection of the history of commemoration and that of the lieux de mémoire, the places of remembrance, interpreted in concreto (e.g. Waalsdorpervlakte) and abstracto (‘Do ist der Bahnhof’).

The transformation of the commemoration of the Second World War hinges on two points:

  1. The Wende in 1989
  2. The attack on the New York Twin Towers on 11 September 2001

Until the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, commemorations of the Second World War were dominated by national history and national memory as revealed in the official, national historical record. Commemorations of the war were gradually 'frozen' and national histories were attributed to the staus quo of the Cold War.

After 1989, “remembrance turned back” and “re-awoke history”, according to Aleida Assmann. In Western Europe this led to a strong 'de-mythifying' of individual national wartime histories, which previously had been couched in terms of victimhood or resistance.

The first effect of the abandonment of the ideological differences between East and West is the appearance of a 'Europeanisation' of memory and historical awareness.This process of de-mythifying and Europeanisation led to a more complex and inclusive national culture of remembrance. Universalisation of Holocaust remembrance must increasingly come to terms with the various national constructs and conflicts of memory in Europe that have occurred since 1989.

The compilation of forty historical studies of individual places of remembrance will cast empirical light on the development process over the period between 1989 and the present.