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Cultural Memory of World War I & II


Admission requirements

Not applicable


The two World Wars created a traumatic rupture in the modern sense of continuity between past and present. Despite Winston Churchill’s 1946 call to “turn our backs upon the horrors of the past” and “look to the future”, the war past continued to haunt societies across the globe and its disturbing memories seemed to become even more vivid as the years went by. On the other hand, war memories were constitutive for new cultural and political identities. The imperative “Never again” became, in its negativity, a supplier of meaning and ethic orientation in itself and comparisons with political developments of the past continue to serve as patterns of a moral geography until today.
This course focusses on the comparative analysis of material and immaterial memory practices of the two World Wars. Departing from a transnational and comparative perspective, it explores the various ways in which the war past shaped post-war societies in Europe, Asia, North America and North Africa and examines how film, literature and architecture but also political and academic debates transferred the past into the present. Starting with a thorough introduction to contemporary memory studies, this course uses central theoretical concepts from this field as frames for each individual case.

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with central theoretical and methodological concepts of contemporary memory studies

  • apply analytical concepts to concrete historical memory practices

  • contextualize 20st century memory practices within their social and cultural surroundings

  • demonstrate familiarity with the dynamics of remembering and forgetting in modern post-war societies.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Assessment method


All learning objectives of the course will be assessed through two subtests:

  • Midterm assignment (short paper)

  • Final examination (written examination with short open questions)


  • Midterm paper: 40%

  • Final exam: 60%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. To pass the course, the weighted average of the partial grades must be 5.5 or higher.


Students are allowed to resit the midterm paper and final exam.
Please note that students can only take a resit when their final grade is insufficient. Subtests that were marked sufficient cannot be retaken.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Richard Ned Lebow et al., The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe, (Durham/NC: Duke University Press, 2006)

  • E-reader with articles on Brightspace


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal.


Not applicable.