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date: 25 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The enormous death toll of the twentieth-century world wars created a cultural struggle over their meaning. States, institutions, and individuals developed conflicting memories, which shifted with the political trends of the post-war eras. After the First World War nationalist narratives promoted by states did not automatically win unanimous adherence, but the apparently apolitical language of loss and mourning was most successful where the war was least controversial or where national narratives were unavailable. While memory of the Second World War and the Holocaust has often been discussed in terms of forgetting, there was no amnesia but rather a selective appropriation of the past. Myths of victimhood and resistance proved popular across Europe and persisted despite periodic engagements with the past. Germany’s acknowledgement of the Nazi past is the most thorough, while most Europeans states now more easily remember the Second World War than their colonial heritage.

Keywords: memory, remembrance, monuments, Unknown Soldier, First World War, Second World War, Holocaust

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