European Remembrance - Symposium of European Institutions dealing with 20th Century History

2015 Vienna

Remembrance of the Second World War 70 Years After
Winners, Losers, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders
11-13 May 2015, Vienna

Attended by over 200 representatives from 120 institutions dealing with the history of the 20th century, the Symposium was dedicated to the memory of the Second World War and all those who took part in it. The participants took part in lectures, discussions, workshops and visits to the memorial sites.

The Symposium was organised under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Austria, Dr Heinz Fischer, who during the official opening addressed the participants saying that to discuss means asking questions, learning from history, and draw conclusions. Referring to the history of Austria as well as to the subject of this year Symposium President Fischer stressed the fact that in case of Austria, the terms ‘perpetrators’ and ‘victims’ are not that easy to define. Austria was at the same time the nation of perpetrators and victims. According to the President of Austria, just after the war there were no perpetrators as people thought that orders came from superiors and everybody was a victim. Only later the discussion about the painful history has started. Watch President’s Fischer speech.

During the first panel on remembering the Second World War 70 years after its end, Martin Pollack, Austrian writer, journalist and translator of Polish literature together with Professor Krzysztof Zamorski (Institute of History of the Jagiellonian University) emphasized the fact that our memory is fallible. Professor Zamorski stated that in many cases of various misunderstandings, it is not about denying the past but just about simple forgetfulness. The historical space of World War II is becoming more a space imagined – he said giving an example of the term “Polish death camps” used in relation to Nazi German death camps as a result of purely geographic connotations and not a mistake made on purpose.
– We must remember that our memories can be deceptive - emphasized Martin Pollack. - Even if there is no ill will behind it nor conscious effort to falsify or conceal anything, we distort and erase the memory of some events, while others become ‘invented’ and have their sequence changed.

The next days brought panel discussions on interpretations and images of the Second World War, on the regional diversity of the remembrance of the Second World War and about different ways of remembering the totalitarian regimes and their crimes in Europe.

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