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Dealing with Ghosts of the Past

12 January 2024 12:30 - 17:00

Dealing with Ghosts of the Past. On the Limits of Understanding the Legacy of Modern Violence and War

For almost 80 years, post-war Europe has been dominated by two world wars, the Cold War, decolonization and, above all, the Holocaust. While the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 gave hope for an escape from what has been called the 'age of extremes', the 'Wild Continent', or simply the 'House of the Dark', the legacy of 9/11 and the 2001 War on Terror has created new fears of a future increasingly similar to the unwanted past. For while the past had changed in European memory from something to be proud of to a 'foreign land' of which one can only be ashamed, every new 'crisis' since then has been interpreted as a return of history. But if the past still permeates 'our' present, while the present simultaneously defines 'our' past, is it not time to ask ourselves the uncomfortable question of how far we are actually removed from 'the era of the camps'? What role do the heritage of the camps and the memory of the Holocaust play in giving meaning and context to historical injustices and to present circumstances that we may have seen wrongly too much as different? One of the remarkable features of war heritage is that it enables visitors to experience a dark past by invoking reflection, beauty and silence. How can we guard against this uncomfortable connection to an unwanted past, other than by erasing the legacy of perpetrators and appropriating that of victims?

Such questions will be addressed in short presentations by speakers from different disciplines and countries who, together with Rob van der Laarse, have been at the forefront of research and musealization of memorial camps over the years.


12.15 - 12.30: Walk-in

12.30 - 15.00: Symposium, Auditorium Vrije Universiteit

15.00 - 15.30: Refreshments

15.45 - 17.00: Farewell speech, Aula Vrije Universiteit

About Dealing with Ghosts of the Past

Starting date

  • 12 January 2024


  • 12:30 - 17:00

Organised by

  • CLUE+


  • English