Memory Wars in the ‘New Europe’

Dan Stone

in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560981
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Memory Wars in the ‘New Europe’

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  • History
  • European History
  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)
  • Methods and Historiography



Seventy years after the start of World War II, revisionists across Europe are arguing that Joseph Stalin was as much to blame for starting the war as was Adolf Hitler. As Adam Krzeminski rightly says, World War II is still being fought. This article sees ‘collective memory’ as a set of representations of the past that are constructed by a given social group (be it a nation, a family, a religious community, or other) through a process of invention, appropriation, and selection, and which have bearings on relationships of power within society. ‘Memory’ here refers not only to the academic study of memory but primarily to the various manifestations of ‘memory politics’ that have characterised Europe since the end of the Cold War. It is worth situating these European memory wars in a broader context, since they occur worldwide, especially in societies scarred by civil war, genocide, and authoritarianism, such as post-apartheid South Africa, Rwanda, Guatemala, and Argentina.

Keywords: collective memory; memory wars; memory politics; Europe; World War II; Cold War

Article.  9382 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; Methods and Historiography

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