Cover Osteuropa 4-6/2005

In Osteuropa 4-6/2005

The presence of the past
History as arena for politics

Harald Welzer

Deutsche Fassung


History and memory are two quite different things. The writing of history is oriented towards facts and the truth, whereas memory always has a concrete connection with identity. Hence remembrance is a matter of coping with the present rather than a search for enlightenment about the past. We are currently witnessing a boom in the literature of memory, because the generation whose formative experiences in their childhood and youth coincided with World War II are now taking stock of their lives. Simultaneously, the politics of memory have become a central political issue. The past is therefore very much alive at the level of feelings, identity, and political orientations. This is not history in its factuality but history as an interpreted past, the meaning of which is oriented towards the perceived requirements of the present.

(Osteuropa 4-6/2005, pp. 9–19)