Shaping the European Identity: Convergent Patterns of Memory and Amnesia After 1945/1989 Trademarks

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Emanuel Crudu, Euroacademia (Paris, Lucca & Brussels)


    This paper is an open reflection on remembrance, memory, and patterns of acknowledging the past in contemporary European identity construction. After the trademark of the Second World War a new trademark emerged 45 years later: the revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe. Both moments affected dramatically the self-perception of Europe firstly as thorn apart and astonished by its own atrocities and secondly as re-unified Europe after the enthusiastic return of the Central and East European States. This paper argues that there are distinguishable similar patterns in acknowledging the past both through remembrance and forgetting in the process of European identity building. If after Auschwitz the European identity/civilization was dramatically challenged, after the fall of Berlin Wall significant re-evaluations of the past have emerged. Yet, instant amnesia was often politically considered as an optimal choice after 1945 and so did after 1989. European identity as an ongoing project risks therefore being built on a “memory kitsch”. After 1945, the European identity was profoundly shaped by the division inflicted during Cold War together with a ‘desire, common to both sides, to forget the recent past and forge a new continent’ (Tony Judt, 2004). After 1989 Europe was exposed to a double re-evaluation: new memories of war and post-war were on table together with Western ‘confused sentimentality’ towards East. On the other side Eastern European nations had now to revisit their own Second World War history and feelings of abandonment after 1945. Since memory and remembrance are more about identity than about outcomes of institutional politics or realist history my paper is an inquiry about perceived gaps in the so called European identity and discontinuities involved in approaching the past in the “reunified” Europe.