The First World War centenary led to numerous remembrance activities in many states affected by this global caesura: exhibitions, publications, TV series, conferences, new or refurbished memorials, and remembrance events on various levels attracted different target groups. Germany, one of the main belligerent countries, still does not have a common narrative of the First World War, due to several historical reasons, including the Second World War being Germany’s ‘Great War’ and Nazi dictatorship providing the negative founding myth of contemporary Germany, thus overshadowing any other event in its history.
Nevertheless, from late-2013 to mid-2014, a ‘barrage of remembrance’ (Gerhard Hirschfeld) could be observed, bringing the almost forgotten war back to public memory. While other countries such as Australia, Belgium, France, and the UK continued their commemoration activities in the following years, instead it was ‘back to business’ in Germany, with a few notably exceptions, such as on the anniversary of the Battle of Verdun. The end of the First World War, however, provides for various links to contemporary political agendas: on 9 November, the first German republic was declared, including women’s suffrage.
It will, thus, be very interesting how the political level will address the end of the First World War this November. Besides conferences and youth meetings, high-ranking politicians such as Chancellor Merkel and Federal President Steinmeier will attend international commemoration events in Europe, while the Federal Parliament will celebrate the German Republic’s centenary. On the other hand, it is questionable to what an extent these matters will catch wider public awareness.
Image: Neue Wache, Berlin, Germany’s central memorial for all victims of war and tyranny. © 2014 Martin Bayer