Aleida Assmann’s session on the “Cultures of remembrance – the German model” gave a chronology of the social frameworks for collective memory after 1945. In the first two decades after World War II, people in many countries (including Germany and Israel) embraced a culture of forgetting in order to make room for a brighter future. In the late 1960s, attitudes and frameworks changed. The Eichmann trial opened the door to what Aleida Assmann termed the “identification mode” (a period when attention turned to the witnesses and the victims of the holocaust), which was followed by an “ethical mode” (a period stressing the responsibility of the perpetrators), followed finally by an “empathy mode” (a period when suffering was conceived of as a universal predicament accessible through empathy).
Aleida Assmann’s session on “counter monuments” reflected on the “memorial to a memorial” by Horst Hoheisel and Andreas Knitz (Buchenwald 1995), the grey busses (a memorial moving from pertinent city to pertinent city, remembering the first gassings for the sake of purifying the Germanic race), the installations in Berlin’s Bavarian Quarter ‘re-enacting’ the legal restrictions imposed on Jewish life during the Nazi era, and the “Memory Loops” in Munich.
The session ended with a walk through Bielefeld that traced the local cultures of remembrance, in particular, the memorial in front of the main railway station and the Stolpersteine [stumbling stones] in the old parts of the city.