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Performing memory. Returned German Prisoners of War in divided and reunited Germany

Wienand, C.A.; (2010) Performing memory. Returned German Prisoners of War in divided and reunited Germany. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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The thesis explores the history of returned German Prisoners of War in post-war Germany from the mid-1950s to the present. This history is examined as a history of memory, applying a comparative perspective to Germany during and after its division. At its core lies the question of how the experiences of war captivity were transformed into various types of private and public as well as individual and collective memories. The time-frame allows for an analysis of the long-term evolution of these memory formations throughout the post-war decades and after the transition from divided to reunited Germany. By conceiving memory as a social act of communication, the thesis argues that memory is manifest in complex memory formations in which various levels and layers of memory intersect. It analyses the construction and development of these memory formations in four chapters, each representing a specific communicative framework: (a) representations of returnees in the mass media; (b) political debates about financial compensation for returnees; (c) constructions of transformation narratives in autobiographical writings and oral history interviews; and (d) institutionalised and non-institutionalised memory projects by individual returnees. In comparing memory constructions in accordance with the different post-war political frameworks, this project examines the relationship between political ideology and memory constructions on both the public and the private level. The thesis argues that the memory formations were shaped by the interplay of political, social, and personal interests of various collective and individual memory agents involved in the construction of memory. These memory agents comprised the heterogeneous group of returnees themselves, their family members and friends, the mass media, political agents, and veterans’ associations. These determining factors resulted in characteristic asymmetries which have shaped the history of returnees as a history of memory.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Performing memory. Returned German Prisoners of War in divided and reunited Germany
Language: English
Additional information: Authorisation for digitisation not given
UCL classification:
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/19576
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