UCL European Institute


Disturbing Pasts: Reverberations of the Second World War in Europe after 1945

Start: Jul 03, 2014 12:00 AM
End: Jul 05, 2014 12:00 AM

3-5 July 2014
Organised by the AHRC-funded research group Reverberations of War in Germany and Europe since 1945, directed by Prof Mary Fulbrook and Dr Stephanie Bird, this conference sets out to explore the complex and diverse reverberations of the Second World War.

3-5 July 2014

Wilkins Haldane Room
Wilkins Building
Gower Street


Reverberations of War  

The notion of  ‘disturbing pasts’ refers to the experience of war and violence. But the aim is to understand how and why these experiences continue to disturb a later present, and how some people later disturb an apparently dormant past. The focus is on conflicting, unexpected and often dissonant interpretations and representations of these events among both those who were the witnesses, victims and perpetrators of these events and among different communities in the generations that followed. On a theoretical level, therefore, one objective of this conference is to raise challenges to the widely used and yet under-theorized concept of ‘collective memory’. 

For the purposes of this conference, ‘disturbance’ is addressed on three different levels which interrelate in what might be called a ‘dialectics of disturbance’:

  • Those aspects of the past that remain disturbing, however hard people try to repress, forget, contain or silence this past
  • The ways in which people later actively ‘disturb’ this past; processes of confronting, interacting and dealing with the past, that in turn affect and alter how it is perceived and what its implications are for a later present
  • The often disturbing ethical questions raised in relation to the role of the analyst, historian and writer confronting this past. 

Key issues include:

  • TRANSMISSION: How are experiences of war and violence transmitted between andacross communities and generations?
  • EMBODIMENTS: How were the experiences of war and violence and their memories inscribed onto the human body? How is the body used to make sense of or deal with these experiences, whether in daily life or in artistic interventions?
  • REPRESENTATION: How are the experiences of war and violence represented in various media (films, literature, memorials, autobiographical accounts, press) and what is the wider impact of these representations on changing social perceptions?
  • DISPLACEMENT AND IDENTIFICATION: How did people interpret and deal with the experience of losing their home and making a new one elsewhere? What roles do place/space play for identify construction.


Download the full programme

 Thursday 3 July 2014
 Time Event
 1.00pm Registration
 1.45pm Welcome & Introduction
  Panel I: Challenging Narratives
 2.00-3.30pm 'Disturbing the Past / Disturbed by the Past', Mary Fulbrook (UCL)
  'Unbearable Mending: The Holocaust in Contemporary Israeli Literature', Tsila Ratner (UCL)
  'Disturbing the Past: The Representation of the Waldheim Affair in Robert Schindel’s Der Kalte', Katya Krylova (Nottingham)
  Chair: Tim Beasley-Murray
  Panel II: Hauntings
 4.00-5.00pm 'Disturbing ghosts, German bunker restoration and postmemory in the Channel Islands', Gilly Carr (Cambridge)
  'Haunted Cities: Remembering Vanished Others and Urban Identity in Eastern Europe', Uilleam Blacker (Oxford)
 5.15-6.45pm 'The Uncanny Memory of Nazi Euthanasia', Susanne Knittel (Utrecht)
  'Victimhood through a Creaturely Lens: Reckonings with the Holocaust in Ilse Aichinger and Primo Levi', Alexandra Hills (UCL)
  'Second Generation Perpetrators? Inherited Guilt and the Holocaust', Joanne Pettit, (Kent)
   Chair: Mererid Puw Davies (UCL)
 7.30pm  Conference Dinner, Tas 22 Bloomsbury St, WC1B 3QJ

 Friday 4 July 2014
Time Event
  Panel III: Fascination / Pleasure
9.30-11.00am '"Mein Führer, I can walk!” References to the Nazi Past in the Making and Reception of Dr. Strangelove (1964)',  Peter Krämer (UEA)
  'The Past is Still Present: Representing the Second World War in Ordinary Fascism (documentary, Mikhail Romm, USSR, 1965)', Alissa Timoshkina (KCL)
  'Travelling to Remember, Travelling to Forget. German tourists in Europe and reminders of a disturbing past', Julia Wagner (UCL)
11.00-1.00pm 'Comedy – or more precisely: the pure joke – is the essential inner side of mourning which from time to time, like the lining of a dress at the hem or lapel, makes its presence felt.” On comedy and suffering in post-war German texts', Stephanie Bird (UCL)
  'Disturbing Laughter? Hitler’s Return to Contemporary Germany', Isabelle Hesse (Kent)
  'Disturbing Anselm Kiefer', Catriona Leahy (TCD)
  Chair: Helena Flam (Leipzig)
  Panel IV: (Dis)Placing Identities and Disturbing Memories
2.00-3.30pm 'Creating a better Future by Disturbing the Past? Young West-Germans as Reconciliation Activists in the 1960s and 1970s', Christiane Wienand (UCL)
  'Disturbing, Changing and Controversial Memories of the WWII in Belarus', Anna Zadroa (Strasbourg)
  'From Oblivion to Complex Memoryscape: The Changing Significance of the Łódź Ghetto for the Local Community after 1945 as a Result of Interethnic and Interinstitutional Transmission of Memory', Ulrike Lang (Munich)
'45ers and 68ers in France and West Germany', Dominik Rigoll (Jena)
  'Beyond “Fascist Sortie” and “Popular Uprising for Democracy and Rights”: Rethinking the 17 June 1953 unrest in East Germany', Alexey Tikhomirov (Frankfurt am Main)
5.15-6.15pm 'Survivor Testimonies and the Process of Coming to Terms with the Holocaust in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia', Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe (Berlin)
  'Disturbance and coherence in contemporary accounts of Germans and Jews from Bukovina', Gaelle Fisher (UCL)
  Chair: Susan Morrissey (UCL)
6.15-7.30pm Wine Reception
Public lecture and discussion: Lisa Appignanesi
Venue for public lecture: Gustave Tuck LT, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT

 Saturday 5 July 2014
Time Event
  Panel V: Redefinitions / reconstructing identities
9.30-11.00am 'Communication, Declaration or Negotiation of Historic Truth? The Presence of  a Concentration Camp – 1945-2013', Christiane Grieb (UCL)
  'The past is a foreign country? German American politics of memory and the Holocaust', Julia Lange (Hamburg)
  'Film, History, and the Search for Europe in Postwar Czechoslovakia', Jennifer Smyth (Warwick)
  ‘Too Unpleasant for Public Exhibition',  Julian Peteley (Brunel)
'"A sympathetic boy whom the years of suffering have not too heavily marked”. Identity construction, trauma’s perceptions and stereotyping of Holocaust orphans through social workers’ words in immediate Postwar Europe', Antoine Burgard (Lyons / Montreal)
  'Displaced Homes and Incomplete Narratives', Tamara West (Birmingham)
 12.30-1.30pm Lunch
Closing Discussion: Helena Flam (Dresden), Dorothee Wierling (Hamburg), Richard Overy (Exeter)
Chair: Stephanie Bird (UCL)
This event is supported by UCL European Institute's Call for Proposals