Silencing of Memories – Interactions Between Memory, Discourse and Social Changes

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Katinka MEYER, Center of Methods in Social Sciences University of Göttingen, Germany
In my PhD project I analyse the silencing and resurgence of memory of the resettlers to show the deep impact of discourses on the constitution of a collective and individual memory. This analysis is based on biographical-narrative interviews with Germans, who were relocated after WWII. The discourse of ‘flight and expulsion’ differed in West and East Germany. In Western Germany it was highly debated and created a myth of victimhood (materialised in organisations, memorials, films).

In contrast, the so-called resettlers in the GDR were assimilated into the socialist society. I am focussing on these resettlers in the eastern part of Germany and explore the transformation of individual and collective memory corresponding to hegemonic discourses of ‘flight and expulsion’ and social change.

Since 1950 the recollection of ‘flight and expulsion’ vanished as a topic from the public, the expellees were neglected and integrated into the antifascist foundation myth of the GDR. Resettlers that had contacts to the West, were excluded from the discourse of the GDR and considered as so called 'revisionists'. Thus the figure of the expellee did not (longer) exist in the new socialist society and was furthermore silenced in individual memory.

Throughout the process of social transformation in 1989, new opportunities of recollection arose. But also the post-1989-discourse about the 'flight and expulsion' was dominated – by the federation of the expellees. The shifted frame of remembrance enabled the East Germans to recollect former tabooed experiences of flight and expulsion. But it also canonized them and neglected narrations of experiences of 40 years in a socialist system – with all its problems and possibilities.

Again, the individual memory of the everyday woman became invisible in the public (space) or had to subordinate under hegemonic discourses.