The Volkstrauertag (People’s Day of Mourning) from 1922 to the Present
‘Back to the old Volkstrauertag’, proclaimed the People’s League for the Maintenance of GermanWar Graves (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, hereafter Volksbund or VDK) in its newsletter Kriegsgräberfürsorge in 1950.1 While the year 1945, an undoubted watershed in German memorialization, is rightly taken as a starting point for this volume, a sweeping characterization of 1945 as Germany’s ‘Zero Hour’ (Stunde Null) fails to do justice to the Volkstrauertag which, as the opening quotation hints, survived the historical caesura of 1945. Introduced in the 1920s as a commemoration day for the dead German soldiers of the First World War and continuing as Heldengedenktag (Heroes’ Remembrance Day)2 in the Nazi era, it was retained in West Germany (the FRG) but not in the east (the GDR). With unification, it came to be observed nationwide3 and is currently celebrated on the November Sunday two weeks before the beginning of Advent. The main Volkstrauertag ceremony has been held in Berlin since 1992, with parallel events in communities throughout the country.
KeywordsNational Commemoration Protestant Church Weimar Republic German People Compulsory Military Service
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- 1.Anon., ‘Warum Volkstrauertag?’, Kriegsgräberfürsorge 26:2 (1950), 11.Google Scholar
- 5.Anon., ‘Unsere Gedenkfeier im Reichstagshaus’, Kriegsgräberfürsorge 2:3 (1922), 26.Google Scholar
- 6.Anon., ‘Jahresbericht 1920’, Kriegsgräberfürsorge 1:1/2 (1921), 2–6Google Scholar
- 19.For the memory culture of the immediate post-war years see also F. Maciejewski, ‘Trauer ohne Riten — Riten ohne Trauer. Deutsche Volkstrauer nach 1945’, in J. Assmann et al. (eds), Der Abschied von den Toten. Trauerrituale im Kulturvergleich (Göttingen, 2005), pp. 245–66; G. Margalit, ‘Gedenk-und Trauerkultur im Nachkriegsdeutschland. Anmerkungen zur Architektur’, Mittelweg 36 13:2 (2004), pp. 76–92.Google Scholar