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UVA Sociologist Explains How Germans’ Memories of War Changed Over Time

Published November 29, 2016 in News

By: Anne E. Bromley | University Communications

When University of Virginia sociology professor Jeffrey K. Olick visited the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial a few years ago, he saw something unexpected: a second monument had been erected there. Next to the original that honored Jews who revolted against the Nazis in 1943, the new one commemorated the 1970 visit of German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who spontaneously knelt in a gesture of penitence.

Jeff Olick said German leaders have used different themes in talking about the Nazis and World War II. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

“It is about a memory of a memory,” Olick said. The plaque depicting Brandt kneeling was unveiled Dec. 6, 2000, the 30th anniversary of his famous gesture.

Olick’s new book, “The Sins of the Fathers: Germany, Memory, Method,” published by University of Chicago Press, analyzes how German leaders have addressed the country’s national memory of its Nazi past and the Holocaust since the end of World War II, and the changing approaches they have used, depending on time, place and context.


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