Learning from the Germans? History and Memory in German and European Projects of Integration

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Journal Article
Portal, 2007, 4 (2), pp. 1 - 22
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In recent years, discussion of European cultural values has increasingly included the proposition that Europe needs to face up to its difficult past(s). For European projects of cooperation and integration considerable significance is now attributed to history and memory. This is a historical novelty. The determination to avoid another war among European nations has long been central to the master narrative of European integration. Yet at least until the 1980s, Europe in the sense of the European Economic Community and the European Community (EC) was a purely economic, legal-political entity. It had few shared values and symbols, and certainly was not a community of memory. As Tony Judt (2000, 293) argues, both western integration and that pursued under Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe were characterised by the erection of an unnatural and unsustainable frontier between past and present in European public memory (or better, in European public memories). Shared memories in the west were limited to the integration process itself and did not reach back beyond 1945, apart from the resolve of never again. A focus on the future rather than the past had also characterised older concepts of European integration (Speth 1999, 169).
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