From Patriotic Memory to a Universalistic Narrative. Shifts in Norwegian Memory Culture after 1945 in Comparative Perspective
On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January 2012, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg publicly apologized for the participation of Norwegians in the mass murder of European Jews during the Second World War without relating it to the fascist Nasjonal Samling (NS). At the same time, he praised those citizens who had abstained from participation in the deportation of Jews or even opposed the Holocaust in Norway in the Second World War.
This statement has been a landmark in the turn to a self-critical memory that has been based on universalistic notions of human rights that have also emerged in other West European countries. It contrasts to a more patriotic memory that had highlighted military sabotage and the civic resistance against the German occupiers and their collaborators of the NS from 1940 to 1945. This narrative that had shaped public memory in Norway in the first three decades after the Second World War had been strongly tied to the appreciation of Norwegian democracy. Although the patriotic narrative had started to erode from the 1980s onwards, the recent shift to
a universalistic memory that is based on general human rights and the commemoration of the Holocaust has been a major shift in Norway’s memorial culture. It raises the following clusters of issues and questions that merit a detailed investigation and discussion:
- On what evidence has the patriotic democratic memorial culture in post-war Norway been based? Which alternative narratives have been proposed and promoted?
- How, when and to what extent has the turn to a universalistic memory been inaugurated by previous debates, for instance on the members of the NS and treatment of Norwegian girl-friends or wives of German soldiers (Tyskerjentene) as well as their offspring (Tyskerbarn) after the Second World War?
- What is the role of memories of the Holocaust in the turn to a more universalistic narrative?
- Which role has historiography played in the process of memorising the Second World War in Norway? To what extent has the twist in memorial culture been based on new findings of research? What are the merits and the drawbacks of the new interpretation?
Which specific features of the turn to a universalistic remembrance in Norway can be discerned in comparison to other west and central European states such as Germany, the Netherlands, Italy or France?
The workshop will deal with these questions. Contributions are to focus on the development of Norwegian memory culture and to relate it to the historiography of the occupation period. Particular attention will be given to the comparative perspective as well as to transnational relations between Norway and its European partners, in particular (West) Germany and the Netherlands.
The workshop will take place on 15 and 16 March 2013 at HL-Senteret Oslo. The conference language is English. Please send proposals for contributions including title and abstract (maximum 500 words) as well as your contact details by 5 November 2012 to Robert Zimmermann (robert.zimmermann[at]fu-berlin.de).
The workshop is supported by Stipendienfonds E.ON Ruhrgas im Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft.