The Legacy of Second German Empire Memorials after 1945

  • Bill Niven


This book has largely been concerned with memorials constructed in the two Germanies after 1945, most of these constituting a response of one sort or another to the crime and trauma of the years 1933–45. By and large, the focus of these memorials is on the commemoration of suffering. They provide a framework for mourning, ritualized statements of the need to prevent the recurrence of war and genocide, and, increasingly, nationally self-critical engagement with the legacy of Nazi crime. While the heroic, celebratory mode of memorialization did not become a thing of the past (see, for instance, Scharnowski’s chapter on the GDR in this volume), it certainly became less common, ever more so as we reach the present. This begs the question as to how Germany has handled the stone legacy of monuments constructed before 1945, most of which certainly can be classified as heroic and celebratory, and some of which are of truly gargantuan proportion. This book has explored the evolution of counter-monuments; inscribed into their conception and design is a critical stance towards the heroic pose of earlier traditions of memorialization, especially those of the nineteenth century, but also those of fascism. Yet constructing counter-monuments has not really diminished the importance of Germany’s heroic monuments from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, many of which still exist and which are visited by tens of thousands of people every year. In this chapter, I examine the post-Second World War fate of a few suchmemorials, all built during the Second German Empire (after 1871), but before the outbreak of the First World War (1914).


Nations Monument Unity Memorial Politburo Member Hundredth Anniversary Ritualize Statement 
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© Bill Niven 2010

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  • Bill Niven

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