Memories of the Second World War on Instagram
75 years after the end of the Second World War, EUSTORY is making a contribution to the cross-border reappraisal of the war. In the eCommemoration project "Europe 1945-2020: Looking back, thinking forward", 25 young people from almost 20 countries are researching untold life stories. They are exploring the question of what contemporary commemoration looks like in the 21st century.
Many of the participants are EUSTORY alumni and have already studied the history of their family or region intensively. Now they set out to deal with their own history but above all with that of others. How does a young Russian woman evaluate the Victory Day parades on 9 May in Russia? Do people nowadays perceive the Red Army's invasion of Bulgaria in 1944 as liberation or occupation? And what do young Israelis currently learn about the Second World War in school? For almost four months now, these young Europeans between the ages of 16 and 24 have been discussing and researching in a virtual classroom the importance and interpretation of the Second World War in Europe today. Together with historian Merle Schmidt and multimedia journalist Marcus Bösch, they are comparing different perspectives on the war and on the end of the war and are investigating very different narratives and memory cultures in their countries of origin. They have already worked out numerous differences between their countries of origin. Nevertheless, many are surprised by the large number of similarities and events that have shaped them all.
In the past weeks, the young people have been conducting biographical research in their immediate living environment. They have embarked on a search for so-called "silent stories": previously unheard or forgotten life stories, the memory of which still hurts, and which are historically significant because they conflict with common national narratives. Bror from Norway, for example, explored the story of his grandfather, a German-Norwegian war child. Alina from Russia used the example of her two great-grandfathers – a forced laborer of ethnic German origin in the Russian Red Army and a Tatar Red Army soldier fighting in Stalingrad - to show how the traumatic experiences of the war continued for generations and how diverse Soviet identity could be. And Tzivia from Israel shed light on the fate of a Lithuanian Jewish woman who lost her entire family in the Holocaust, was imprisoned while fleeing and died in a massacre by the Jordanian army even before the State of Israel was founded.
In early March 2020, the young people discussed their findings in an intensive weeklong workshop in Warsaw. For the presentation of the project results, they will break new ground and design their own Instagram Museum "Silent Stories of 1945".
Seventy-five years after the end of the war, this cooperation and exchange is intended to contribute to overcoming national borders in commemoration. After all, the Second World War left deep marks throughout Europe and beyond, and its end was an important turning point of the 20th century.