Memory and Commemoration in Czech Silesia

Public commemorative celebrations often become the focus of contests over meaning and different versions of history and identity. Indeed ‘memory wars’ are taking place in Central Europe today. Two years after the 2018 centenary anniversaries of Czech and Polish independence, a similar and yet utterly different event took place in Czech-Polish borderlands. The celebration in February 2020 marked the centenary of the liberation / annexation of the Hlučín Area. With their difficult Wehrmacht heritage and present-day Czech national affiliation, the Hlučíns have often struggled to balance these two temporalities.

This small community has had many different labels: Silesians, Germans, Poles, Czechs, Nazis, Communists, Catholics, Collaborators, Victims, or Perpetrators. These days, they are Czechs. However, their difficult heritage of fighting on the ‘wrong side’ during the Second World War continues to challenge official narratives and established identities. How can communities, such as the Hlučíns, celebrate their heritage, and give a voice to their ancestors, if their heritage is habitually silenced and delegitimized by the nation-state apparatus?

This original case study of the Hlučíns’ mnemonic politics and negotiations will provide a theoretical analysis of how the past can be selectively used to support or sabotage competing cultural identities. The primary outcome will be a monograph entitled Grandfathers in the Wehrmacht: the Identity of Memory in the Hlučín Area.

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