The Monument Culture of the Federal Republic: An Inverted Mirror of Old Germany?

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 4:30 PM
Wilson Room B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Helmut W. Smith, Vanderbilt University
This paper queries the direction of the monument-building of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1950-1990, and compares it with the monument-building of the Imperial era from 1870-1910. In a recent article, I catalogued veterans monuments, monuments to the Emperor and to Bismarck, and monuments to Germany’s intellectuals, scholars, artists, and musicians in the Wilhelmine Empire. My research noted important regional variations, a trend towards increasing nationalization, and a militarization of monument life that culminated in the 1890s. It also, however, noted countervailing tendencies, such as the increasing number of monuments to intellectual life, especially in Imperial Germany’s final years. In my paper for the AHA, I intend to query the monument-building of the Federal Republic in the same way, and then ask when and where the forty year period saw a shift away from national monuments, and when and how the monuments became critical of the German past. My hypothesis is that, while the rate of monument-building during the Federal Republic was a pale reflection of the pace set in the pre-World War I era, this changed in the 1980s. At that point, monuments became more international in outlook and critical of the German past, creating the fundamental building blocks of what I call a “nation without nationalism.” To make my arguments, I build databases using inventories and excel sheets, and to illustrate them geographically I map out the monuments using arc-gis. From an empirical standpoint, this will be the first time anyone has made such a detailed comparison of the monument cultures of the two Germanies, one prior to the three decades of extreme violence, the other after.
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