Survivors of the Resistance in Post-war Europe

Networks and Communities of Transnational Memory

Interest in historical research regarding the role played by the survivors of the anti-fascist resistance and the former persecutees of National Socialism in the politics of history in most European states has admittedly grown in recent years. The central focus here, however, is on national aspects. Relatively little attention has been paid to the cross-border activities of the former persecutees and to their diverse international contacts, although the survivors counted among the few protagonists during the Cold War who maintained their links to those beyond the Iron Curtain. The present study aims to remedy this shortfall. Therefore, the transnational memories of the former persecutes shall be examined using the International Federation of Resistance Movements (FIR) as an example. The focus will be on the memory of the resistance, which dominated commemorative cultures in both Eastern and Western Europe. The thesis of transnational memory studies, according to which commemorative cultures were not intertwined transnationally until the memorialisation of the Holocaust in the 1980s, will be critically examined here and a contribution made to the debate on a collective European memory. What role did the FIR play in the European discourses on memory? Did a transnational European memory of resistance exist? What stance did the FIR adopt over Holocaust remembrance, Jewish survivors and Israel? What role did the anti-fascist resistance fighters play in selected conflicts of the Cold War, such as  the debate over German rearmament? How was the remembrance of Nazi crimes used in these conflicts as well as in the campaigns for compensation and the debate about limitation?
Did the male-dominated associations of former persecutees remember the participation of women in the resistance? What role did the persecution of the Jews play in the memory of FIR? How did the FIR react to the challenges of resistance memory as a result of the commemoration of the Shoah in the West from around 1979 onwards?
The central approach is the cultural studies concept of transnationality, which is used to ascertain the reciprocal connections, intertwinements and references transcending national borders between the commemorative cultures. Discourse analytical concepts will be used to examine the linguistic practices of the FIR, which served to achieve an understanding of the past and to give meaning to the present. In this way, the transformations of memory and oblivion, which is inextricably linked to remembrance, can be traced in detail. The combination of discourse analysis and the examination of memory should allow for the provision of methodical impulses for research into historical memory.

Head of Project: Maximilian Becker
Funding: Lise-Meitner Grant FWF
Duration: 2019/08/01 - 2022/10/31

Photo: Memorial to murdered Polish and Czechoslovak resistance fighters with FIR emblem at the Johannis Cemetary in Dresden @ Maximilian Becker