THE GESCHICHTSBEWEGUNG AND CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISM IN GERMAN MEMORY POLITICS
Heisler, Martin O
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The Geschichtsbewegung, or History Movement, was a new left social movement focused on researching local German history. It took off in the early 1980s as a diverse but well-networked collection of citizens' initiatives in West Germany exploring particularly the Nazi period. I argue in my dissertation that this movement has been pivotal in transforming the German memory landscape and the institutions that govern memorial policy in the past thirty years. Though these activists began with the limited goal of digging through local history and laying bare legacies of forgetting, they collectively became one of the most important shapers of memory politics. To this day, their ideas on remembrance and memorial design profoundly influence the commemorative landscape. The state has skillfully embraced this memorial culture by adopting its most successful elements and harnessing its critical potential. I offer a critical assessment of this intermeshing of state and civil society and argue that the analytical distinction between these two spheres should be interrogated more generally.