Afterword: Stalinist Rehabilitations in a Pan-European Perspective
With the ‘memory boom’ of the past two decades, there has developed a rich historiography on how post-war societies — at least in Western Europe — dealt collectively with the violence and political extremism of the mid-20th century.1 Scholars from a variety of different disciplines have discussed what ‘coming to terms’ with the past can mean for both individuals and for national communities.2 In 1945, violence did not instantaneously disappear from the continent, but the cataclysms of the previous six years have not been repeated, and it has been possible to see the barbarity of those years as a chapter in European history that has now been overcome.3 In his masterful Postwar, Tony Judt begins with evocative scenes of ‘utter misery and desolation’, with refugees, returning POWs and former prisoners all poignant reminders that traditional, pre-war communities had been shattered. Judt writes: ‘Photographs and documentary films of the time show pitiful streams of helpless civilians trekking through a blasted landscape of broken cities and barren fields.’4 The emotional impact of these images on the contemporary viewer is possible precisely because Europeans have come to see such scenes as part of a remote and distant past.
KeywordsCommunist Regime European History Barren Field Communist Bloc Political Extremism
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- 1.J. Winter, ‘The Memory Boom in Contemporary Historical Studies’, Raritan, vol. 21, no. 1 (2001), pp. 52–66.Google Scholar
- 2.D. LaCapra, History and Memory After Auschwitz (Ithaca, NY, 1998); D. LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore, MD, 2001); Robert G. Moeller, ‘What Has “Coming to Tenus with the Past” Meant in Post-World War II Germany? From History to Memory to the “History of Memory”’, Central European History, vol. 35, no. 2 (2002), 223–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar