The problem with the era of victimhood we are currently experiencing in Europe is that acknowledging the crimes committed or supported by one’s own collective is experienced as standing in the way of the narrative of ‘our’ victimhood. Self-critically confronting the collaboration with the Nazis and/or economic profit from the Holocaust by the majority population of each respective country is then perceived as a threat to one’s collective and/or individual identity. The organizers of this event argue that, in the post-socialist space, the narratives of victimhood in the hands of the two totalitarian regimes of Nazism and Stalinism have dominated the politics of memory and that, therefore, “until recently, this has left the questions of local perpetration, collaboration and complicity largely unaddressed”. I confront this hypothesis with my findings from my research about post-socialist WWII memorial museums, in which I analyzed ten memorial museums from Estonia to former Yugoslavia and asked how they changed their permanent exhibitions in the course of EU accession talks, as well as, most recently, when several countries have been experiencing an authoritarian backlash. I will show that the issue of ‘our’ perpetratorship, collaboration or implication in the Holocaust as well as in socialist or Soviet crimes is addressed very differently in those museums, depending on which role the museum played in the respective country’s communication with ‘Europe’.
Ljiljana Radonić heads a project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) on “Globalized Memorial Museums. Exhibiting Atrocities
in the Era of Claims for Moral Universals” at the Institute of Culture Studies and Theatre History of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna (GMM – grant agreement No 816784). She wrote her habilitation on “World War II in Post-Communist Memorial Museums” (Berlin: De Gruyter, July 2021) at the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna, where she also has been teaching on antisemitism and antigypsism theory and conflicting memories in Central Europe. She was visiting professor at Gießen University in 2015 and at the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Graz in Austria in 2017. Her PhD dealt with the “War on Memory. Croatian Memory Politics between Revisionism and European Standards” (Frankfurt: Campus, 2010). Her other strand of work deals with feminist approaches to women as Nazi perpetrators and female antisemitism.
The keynote will be given in the framework of the workshop Victims, Perpetrators and Implicated Subjects in Central and Eastern Europe organised by the ERC project Translating Memories: The Eastern European Past in the Global Arena (project leader Prof Eneken Laanes, grant no 853385).