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Forgetting the Great War? The Langemarck Myth between Cultural Oblivion and Critical Memory in (West) Germany, 1945–2014

Connelly, Mark, Goebel, Stefan (2022) Forgetting the Great War? The Langemarck Myth between Cultural Oblivion and Critical Memory in (West) Germany, 1945–2014. Journal of Modern History, 94 (1). pp. 1-41. ISSN 0022-2801. (doi:10.1086/718269) (KAR id:83352)

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This article explores the way in which the First World War continued to speak into (West) German culture in the wake of the Second World War. It takes issue with the commonly held view that the Great War is a “long forgotten war” eclipsed by an even greater conflict. The notion of the “forgotten war” is best understood as a cultural representation in its own right, often used for political ends in the post-war era. Building on the recent theoretical literature on cultural oblivion, this article charts the trajectory of collective remembrance and “forgetting” from the end of the Second World War to the centenary of the First World War. Focusing on the once powerful war myth of Langemarck, it examines the agency of war veterans, the war graves association, local administrators, public intellectuals and grassroots activists to show that important memory traces of the Great War remained after 1945. Increasingly, though, Germans tended to approach war in a different register, one that was cerebral rather than emotional. The demise of the generation of veterans triggered not an era of oblivion, but instead the most intense period of (critical) engagement with First World War in post-war Germany. This meant that the mode and mood of war commemoration changed permanently during the 1980s. A new, highly localized memory of the First World War, preoccupied with sites of memory at home, became divorced from the traditional topography of remembrance which had centered on the Western Front as both a physical and imagined space. Now the emphasis was placed on confronting the past and on the lessons to be learned from it.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1086/718269
Uncontrolled keywords: War, memory, commemoration, remembrance
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I (1914-1918)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Stefan Goebel
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2020 09:04 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2023 00:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Connelly, Mark:
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