Archaeology and Memory. Unearthing Europe’s Age of Terror beyond the Holocaust Paradigm
The devastating horrors of two World Wars have for the last six decades stimulated a unique process of European unification. After decades of a heroic remembrance of military occupation and resistance in most Western and Eastern European nations, war heritage and memory has almost completely been determined by the Holocaust paradigm. Yet, as I will argue, the assumption of the Holocaust as a common European experience, and hence as a basic part of Europe’s postwar identity raises some critical objections. Firstly, the Holocaust paradigm is currently challenged by a deep incompatibility of opinions about the impact, interpretation and meaning of the persecution of the Jews and other victims of Nazi and Communist terror, and secondly it is competed by the rise of a post-1989 Occupation paradigm in Eastern Europe. Interestingly, archaeology plays a prominent role in this dynamic of memory. This may seem self-evident, as archaeologists are digging for truth and authentic traces, but archaeology has never been an innocent discipline. This accounts also for the war period itself, during which the first excavation of mass graves already started as pivotal in ideological propaganda. This ‘heritaging’ of the past asks for a transnational rethinking of the archaeology of terrorscapes.
Prof dr Rob van der Laarse University of Amsterdam / VU University Amsterdam (Westerbork Chair on War Heritage) / NIAS Fellow 2012-2013