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Dynamics of Memory: WWII Heritage & Memory

The research group addresses the ways in which the memory of the Second World War has developed and shall possibly develop in the future as well as which position material and immaterial remains should have within this.

Description of the research group

The Second World War took place more than 60 years ago. However, the memories of this in the broadest sense of the word are still alive and well in social circles as equally in politics and culture. Interest in the War among younger generations has diminished less than people thought possible 20 to 30 years ago. The significance attached to these events has also changed over the years. After 1945 the war has been remembered, portrayed an experienced very differently by different population groups. These changes also reflect how we deal with the surviving material and non-material remains, the heritage of the war.

The generative question behind this research program is: Which patterns can be unraveled in the history of the memory, which impulses have continually fed the remembrance culture right up until this day? Consequently, Dynamics of Memory is not aimed at investigating the history of the Second World War but rather the post-war remembrance culture in the broadest sense of the word. With the passing of generations and the immense changes taking place in society (increasing ethnic diversity and globalization) and in particular the cultural media (digitization, visualization), the heritage from the Second World War will enter a new phase. With this the 'guardians' of the heritage – government, heritage remembrance and educational organizations, archives and museums, but also artists and filmmakers – will be confronted with new questions such as what must an open air museum or remembrance site do with the new generations that come to their gates, generations brought up in a world that revolves around 'authentic experiences'? The themes tackled are related to diverse aspects of the historic culture: war films, youth education, museum presentations, sites of remembrance, the passing on of stories from one generation to the next, dealing with the heritage of victims and perpetrators, and the history of the remembrance communities in the former Dutch colonies. These themes will always be studied in relationship to each other and in the light of developments elsewhere in Europe.

Envisaged Results

Monthly seminars and lectures, PhD dissertations, 7 edited volumes, conferences, grant proposals for future research. The program is a collaboration between NWO's Division for the Humanities and the following organizations and funds: ​​​

Societal relevance

Although the Second World War is sixty-five years behind us now, memories of this epoch are still vivid and alive, not only in education and research, but above all in politics, ethics and art, in the Netherlands, as elsewhere. However, the meanings conferred upon these events have dramatically changed since 1945. In the public sphere memory culture – be it dominant or alternative – is created to a large extent by professionals, in education and research, media, literature, cinema and museums, but also through a deliberate politics of memory, by national and local administrations and institutes.  For this reason, this research project is closely related to policy and science. With a systematic and more wide-ranging approach it is possible to  (1) Achieve greater scientific depth, (2) Support the policy of organizations in this area at a fundamental level, (3) Perform case studies which throw light on a variety of scarcely studied themes. Moreover, the first program achieved considerable societal impact and a diverse audience with a wide range of publications. The continued program will benefit from and extent these previous network and awareness raised by these publications.

Research Group Type: Network & Project group
Duration: 2021-2025

Group Coordinators

Prof. dr. R. (Rob) van der Laarse

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen

Prof. dr. F.P.I.M. (Frank) van Vree

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

Members of the research group

  • Dr. Rob van Ginkel (UvA)
  • Dr. Bart Wallet (UvA)
  • Dr. Ralf Futselaar (NIOD)
  • Dr. Esther Captain (UU/Committee 4-5 May)
  • Roel Hijink (Independent Researcher)
  • Dr. Dienke Hondius (VU)
  • Dr. Guno Jones (VU)
  • Dr. Kees Ribbens (NIOD/Erasmus University)
  • Dr. Erik Somers (NIOD)
  • Dr. David Duindam
  • Dr. Claartje Wesselink
  • Dr. Iris van Ooijen (VU Amsterdam)