Observers of contemporary Germany’s relationship to its past cannot fail to notice the very high number of memorials and memorial sites throughout the country. Nor can they fail to notice how seriously Germany takes its memorials and memorial sites. A measure of this is surely Germany’s Federal Strategy for Memorial Sites (Gedenkstättenkonzeption des Bundes), which passed into law in 1999 (and was amended in 2008).1 While Germany’s Basic Law ascribed the task of overseeing memorial sites to the federal states (Länder), some sites of national importance were able to call on central state funds for all or part of their costs, particularly after 1989. The Gedenkstättenkonzeption put an end to these rather piecemeal arrangements, formalizing the division of responsibilities between central and regional government by defining what counted as a ‘national’ memorial site. To some degree, then, the Gedenkstättenkonzeption can be viewed simply as an overdue bureaucratic tidy-up, concerned with funding budgets. Nevertheless, it was also born of more lofty considerations: recommendations made by the panel of experts advising on how Germany should deal with the memory of the East German dictatorship (the second of the so-called ‘Enquete-Kommissionen’). Accordingly, the strategy endeavoured to formulate a statement of the meaning and purpose of memorials for the German state and its people. The otherwise bureaucratic ‘framework principles’ end with the statement: ‘In remembering the National Socialist reign of terror, Stalinism, and the SED dictatorship, and in commemorating the victims and those who opposed or resisted these regimes, we strengthen our sense of freedom, justice, and democracy, and consolidate the anti-totalitarian consensus in Germany.’2
KeywordsGerman State Memorial Activity Cultural Geography Weimar Republic German History
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