Monumental shifts in memory the evolution of German war memorials from the Great War to the end of the Cold War

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Lavallee, Sarah Elaine
Dreifort, John

German war memorials post-1945 involved a complicated story of commemoration; the complexities ranged from war memorials adapted multiple times to fit contemporary needs, to military cemeteries which became controversial in the wake of World War II. The different memorial practices examined within this project include: Brandenburg Gate, Neue Wache, memorial sculptures by Gerhard Marcks, Bitburg cemetery, a memorial bell dedicated to Hermann Goering, and Neulandhalle (New Land Hall). The individual sites serve as examples of the combination of societal and political factors that influenced the original design and meaning of the locations, as well as the reinterpretations of them. The continually shifting character of German war memorials highlights the constantly evolving perception of German soldiers who participated in World War II. To differentiate between the actions of ordinary soldiers and the Nazi war criminals, Germans citizens attempted to attribute separate functions to these two groups. The result was that German soldiers increasingly began to share a status similar to other war victims. Other factors that influenced the development of war memorials included the different ideologies that dominated in the Soviet versus Western occupation zones, and debates about whether Germany was a defeated nation or a nation of victims liberated from the Nazi regime. Memorials function as a method for society to construct a shared history, educate future generations about their past, and create a common cultural identity. This purpose and significance helps to explain why these monuments can lead to debate and controversy. One of the main issues confronting German citizens in the aftermath of World War II was how to memorialize the soldiers who were killed while fighting for the Nazi regime.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of History