Remembering Across the Iron Curtain in the Cold War Era. The Emergence of Holocaust Memory: Call for Papers

Conference venue

Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past, University of York, September 3-4, 2018


Anna Koch (University of York)
Stephan Stach (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences)

The Cold War influenced how people, societies and states dealt with and understood the Holocaust and its aftereffects. Yet historiography tends to neglect the role the block confrontation played in shaping scholarship, trials, and memory in Western Europe, the US and Israel. At the same time ideological and political manipulations of collective memory are highlighted and at times overestimated in treatments of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Rarely can we see discussions of Holocaust memory that look at both East and West. Foregrounding the essential role of the Cold War, this international workshop asks how it affected research, legal proceedings and collective and individual memories.

Recently, historians have challenged the assumption that research on the Holocaust begun only with the Eichmann trial in 1961, and have highlighted the role mostly Jewish scholars and lay people played in documenting the murder of European Jews immediately after the liberation, or even before. This new perspective has made historians reconsider Eastern European Holocaust Memory, showing how people acting outside the state’s framework succeeded in making room for at least limited discussions of the Holocaust. Such new research has challenged the assumption that here memory was either completely silenced or entirely politically manipulated.

At the same time a closer look at Western Europe, the United States and Israel shows how, there also, political ideologies shaped narratives and understandings of the Holocaust.  From the 1950s onwards, and especially in the years during and following the Eichmann trial, Holocaust memory also frequently became an object or terrain of political fights within the bipolar confrontation.

Breaking with narrow, national frameworks this workshop aims to find new ways to understand Holocaust commemoration and memory. We are interested in examining how different, and at times contradictory, narratives of the past shaped one another, how marginalized voices aimed to influence public understandings of the past, and how state and non-state actors negotiated cultural representations of the Holocaust. We are looking for comparative and transnational understandings that go beyond Cold War divisions. Bringing together scholars who work on different regions, and especially enabling conversations between scholars of Eastern and Western Europe, opens opportunities for new perspectives on Holocaust Memory as well as the cultural history of the Cold War.

We welcome papers that address the overarching theme of Holocaust Memory in the Cold War Era from a variety of disciplinary perspectives such as history, literary studies, art history, politics, memory studies and sociology, and especially contributions investigating research questions such as:

How did the Cold War influence interpretations of the Holocaust? What role did ideological frameworks and concepts such as totalitarianism, antifascism or genocide play?  How did non-state researchers and their institutes negotiate and situate themselves within the Cold War frame? Did transnational networks develop beyond Cold War boundaries, and what role did Jewish actors and institutions play in such cooperations?

How were individual memories influenced by larger narratives? How did they differ from, respond to and resist or challenge public representations of the Holocaust?

Please send an abstract of about 300-400 words and a brief biography to Anna Koch and Stephan Stach by January 30, 2018.

Limited funding will be available for some scholars.

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