Of “memory wars” and joint commemoration

Discussion series on the 80th anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union

Deutsch English Русский

How is the Second World War researched and remembered in different European countries? And how are national and cross-border commemorative policies and practices shaped? These questions are the focus of our public event series. On three dates we want to discuss the landscapes of remembrance and commemoration policies in Belarus, Russia and Germany as well as the Baltic perspectives on the Second World War. Historians and representatives of civil society will have their say. Please register for the series of events or for individual events here.

2nd of June 2021, 18h pm | Panel discussion
Researching the Second World War:
Historical Science in Belarus, Russia and Germany between politics and society

with Alesia Korsak (Polotsk State University), Oleg Budnitskii (HSE Moscow) and Anke Hilbrenner (University of Göttingen)
The study of World War II has never been an easy task for historians in Belarus, Russia and Germany. While the Soviet Union enforced a strict narrative and emphasized its victory while downplaying its own victims, Germany had a long way to go in acknowledging crimes, especially in Eastern Europe. Then as now, historians in all three countries are part of state agendas, but also question them and represent an increasingly transnationally networked society. The panel discussion will shed light on the developments within the field and ask about the possibilities of cooperation.


Alesia Korsak is the head of the Department of History and Tourism of the Faculty of Humanities at Polotsk State University. Her research focuses on war graves and sites of mass extermination of civilians in 1941-1944 on the territory of Belarus, in particular their verification, identification and history of occurrence, as well as the state policy of commemoration of them.

Oleg Budnitskii is Professor of History and Director of the International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and its Consequences at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. His recent books include Люди на войне (2021), Терроризм в Российской империи: Краткий курс (2021), В движении: русские евреи-эмигранты накануне и в начале Второй мировой войны (2020, edited volume).

Anke Hilbrenner is Professor of Modern History of Eastern Europe at the University of Göttingen. Her research focuses on the everyday history of World War II, Jewish history in Eastern Europe, and the history of Russian terrorism.

To the registration

16th of June 2021, 18h pm | Panel discussion
Remembering the Second World War:
Perspectives from the Civil Societies in Belarus, Russia and Germany

with Aliaksandr Dalhouski (Historical workshop „Leonid Lewin“, Minsk), Irina Scherbakowa (Memorial Moscow) and Jörg Morré (German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst)
The memory of World War II has always been controversial, politicized and contested in the societies of Russia, Belarus and Germany. In this panel discussion, we will hear from representatives of outstanding civil society institutions in all three countries. They will give us their perspectives on their (sometimes marginalized) position, strategies and wishes for a common commemoration of World War II.


Aliaksandr Dalhouski is a Historian and works as a consultant at the "Leonid Lewin" History Workshop in Minsk. There he is in charge of the contemporary witness archive of the Minsk History Workshop and accompanies the German-Belarusian traveling exhibition "Vernichtungsort Malyj Trostenez. Geschichte und Erinnerung" in Belarus. Dalhouski's research interests include Belarusian history during World War II and after Chernobyl, as well as environmental history.

Irina Scherbakowa works for the human rights organization Memorial in Russia, of which she is one of the initiators. She is a Historian, Germanist and Cultural Scientist and taught at the Center for Oral History at the Social Sciences and Humanities University of Moscow, which she directed, from 1992 to 2007. Sherbakova has held several visiting professorships and was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. Her research focuses on oral history, the history of Stalinism, and the politics of history in Russia.

Jörg Morré studied history, Russian studies and education at the Free University of Berlin and the University of Hamburg. After his traineeship as a teacher in Hamburg, he earned a doctorate in Eastern European history at the Ruhr University in Bochum. From 1996 to 2008, Morré was a research assistant at the Sachsenhausen and Bautzen memorials. Since 2009 he has been director of the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.

To the registration

22nd of June 2021, 18h 15 pm | Lecture (in english)
Challenging paradigms: Baltic perspectives on dominant narratives of WWII in Europe
with Eva-Clarita Pettai (Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena)
Eighty years ago, in June 1941, the then Soviet socialist republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were invaded by the Wehrmacht; thirty years ago, in August 1991, the three countries were put back on the European map of independent states. The fifty years that lay between these two dates have been the subject of heated debate ever since. The specific Baltic perspective on World War II and the postwar years poses a challenge to many seemingly incontrovertible historical truths shared both in the post-Soviet Russian world and in the so-called West. The presentation will focus on two of these "truths" and the various ways in which they have been challenged by social memory and historiography, as well as by Baltic legislation and jurisprudence.


Eva-Clarita Pettai is a research associate at the Imre Kertész Kolleg at the University of Jena. Her research focuses on the comparative study of memory politics, democratization, and transitional justice in the former communist region, particularly in the Baltic states. She has published widely on the rewriting of history after communism, the contestation of memory in national, bilateral, and pan-European arenas, and the politics of truth and justice after extended repressive rule.

To the registration

The event series is part of the trilateral summer workshop „E pluribus unum? Possibilities and Limits of a Shared (Eastern) European Collective Memory of the Second World War“, organized by the Professur für Neuere Geschichte Osteuropas at the University of Göttingen together with the Higher School of Economics St. Petersburg, Polotsk State University, the Stiftung Adam von Trott, Imshausen e.V. and the Belarussisch-Deutsche Geschichtskommission.

Idea and concept:

Scientific supervision:

Organizational cooperation and project support:

  • Lars Jakob
    Public Relations, University of Göttingen
  • Sarah Reinke
    Stiftung Adam von Trott, Imshausen e.V.
  • Thomas Vanghele
    Student assistant at the Department for Modern History of Eastern Europe