Introduction: Coming to Terms with the Past of Mass Dictatorship

  • Jie-Hyun Lim
  • Peter Lambert
Part of the Mass Dictatorship in the 20th Century book series (MASSD)


Coming to terms with past tyranny in the ancient democracy of Athens entailed the employment of a rigid strategy. Individual citizens were in fact forbidden to recall the past. Legally enforced amnesia became the tool for guaranteeing reconciliation among citizens and thus enabling them to live together again as a political community1 But amnesia is not thus privileged in contemporary democracies. Adam Michnik’s slogan of ‘amnestia tak, amnesia nie’ (‘“yes” to amnesty “no” to amnesia’) represents one current of thought in coming to terms with the past of communist dictatorship.2 The ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ in South Africa tried to preserve memory of the apartheid regime at the expense of what might have seemed to some to be justified retribution — by offering perpetrators ‘amnesty’ in return for their confessions. Such confessions were seen as acts of atonement. The Stockholm Declaration of 2000 made teaching the Holocaust obligatory among EU member countries, while the ‘Platform of European Memory and Conscience’ was established in 2011 as an educational project about the crimes of totalitarian regimes. Indeed, the politics of memory pervade the global community; in Continental Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, they revolve above all around colonialism, dictatorship, genocide, mass killing and the many other forms of oppression that have left deep scars on the societies that they afflicted.


Social Memory National Memory Reconciliation Commission Academic Historian Deep Scar 
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Copyright information

© Jie-Hyun Lim and Peter Lambert 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jie-Hyun Lim
  • Peter Lambert

There are no affiliations available

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