Cycles of Commemoration. Forced Labour in Europe during World War II. International Forum, Willy Brandt Center Wrocław in cooperation with the foundation „Rememberance, Responsibility and the Future” (EVZ), Wrocław/Poland, September 27-30, 2017 

The three day international forum provides the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences around the commemoration of forced labour in Europe during World War II. In various formats like public talks, workshops and excursions, participants are invited to exchange their views on the history of NS-forced labour and the ways of commemoration in European comparison. The event is interdisciplinary and addresses researchers especially from history, cultural and social sciences, and experts from the historical-political education, as well as representatives of institutions, which deal with the commemoration of NS-forced labour. Young researchers are particularly welcome. Moreover, the international forum is a platform for receivers of research grants by the foundation EVZ on “Forced labor and forgotten Victims”.

The analysis of NS-forced labour was subject to different attention cycles since the end of World War II. At the end of the 20th century the academic and public interest in the history of forced labour was on the rise. With the fall of the Iron Curtain the debates extended their reach to the whole of Europe. A wide range of institutions and organizations dealing with forced labour, paid tribute to the victims and erected monuments and memorials. Not least of all the payments to former forced labourers raised public awareness in many countries of Europe.

As contemporary witnesses pass away we are facing a critical juncture of commemoration, which changes the perspective and the narratives of NS-forced labour and public interest seems to decline. The time of World War II is about to pass from contemporary history to history. Despite the disappearance of the so-called experience generation the subject of forced labour has not stopped being important and contemporary. Violence directed against the civilian population, the exploitation of the occupied territory and its inhabitants, abduction and forced migration are only some historical aspects with current references to the present political development in Europe and the world.

The aim of the international and interdisciplinary EVZ-forum is the search for answers to some basic questions:

  • How can we explain that the topic of forced labour was subject to different cycles during World War II?
  • Which influence did these developments have on the social memory of forced labour and its victims in West, East and Central Europe?
  • How is this subject present in the public of the affected countries (in official symbols, in regions and villages etc.),
  • Is there a cross-generational commemoration in the families and in which form?
  • Which differences exist between the commemoration of the subject in East and West?
  • What is the role of the knowledge about the granting of financial aid to the victims of forced labor in different countries and commemorative cultures?
  • Can new media, especially addressing young people, give new impulses to the engagement with the topic and help to keep the memory alive?
  • How can this subject be anchored in the educational work in schools, museums and memorials?
  • Which links to present political tendencies and debates arise from the commemoration of NS-forced labour?
  • Which new approaches to research on NS-forced labour can be found, especially with regard to gender history and public history?

Experts of the above mentioned disciplines from Western, Eastern and Central Europe are invited to submit contributions which deal with the broad field of the commemoration of NS-forced labour, with forms of commemoration, commemorative cycles, programs of educational services or insights in the subject itself. Contributions with a country comparative perspective are particularly welcome.