Re-membered and Re-mobilized: The 'Sleeping Dead' in Interwar Germany and Britain

Goebel, Stefan P. (2004) Re-membered and Re-mobilized: The 'Sleeping Dead' in Interwar Germany and Britain. Journal of Contemporary History, 39 (4). pp. 487-501. ISSN 0022-0094 (print). (The full text of this publication is not available from this repository)

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Official URL
http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022009404046751

Abstract

The rituals and rhetoric of war commemoration in the interwar period have traditionally been interpreted as expressions of personal mourning or as tools of political mobilization. To claim that war commemorations were exclusively about the management of bereavement is incomplete; but to reduce their meaning to political manipulation is cynical. Arising out of the shock of bereavement felt by the individual, war commemoration was a social act of public recollection that could not be politically neutral. This article aims to go beyond conventional historiographical polarizations; it explores a commemorative figure that colonized precisely the grey area between the personal and the political realms: the representation of death as a deep and joyous sleep. Embedded in medieval funerary tradition, national mythologies (Barbarossa and King Arthur) and folk tale (Sleeping Beauty), the idea of enchanted sleep fused notions of individual rebirth and national regeneration. Some day, the ‘sleeping dead’ would rise again. Thus families would be reunited and nations salvaged. Enchanted sleep marked an intermediate stage between the untimely departure and the eventual return of the war dead. The widespread popular appeal of this concept, especially in Germany and to a lesser extent also in Britain, is a remarkable indication of the public denial of death and, sometimes, of the refusal to perceive the Great War as totally over.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Stefan Goebel
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2008 11:10
Last Modified: 21 May 2014 08:26
Resource URI: http://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/7770 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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