Until the Second World War, remembering the past in Europe only served to glorify the nation, stir up revanchism and sanctify heroes. After 1945, the trauma of war, totalitarianism, and the Holocaust gave rise to a new ambition: that of learning from history. But has this succeeded?
A decade or two ago, that memory began to crumble, abandoned by indifferent younger generations and mutilated by falsifiers of history eager to impose new nationalist narratives based on hatred. As memory fades, so does vigilance. People forget that peace, democracy and freedom are a heritage that must be tirelessly protected and nurtured. People forget the countless sacrifices they have demanded of entire generations. You believe that these achievements are given unchangeably, like the air you breathe.
Then one morning you wake up and there is a war going on.
Géraldine Schwarz is a German-French writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker. After working as a German correspondent for the news agency AFP, she now publishes in various international media. For her book Les Amnésiques, she received many awards, including the European Book Prize in 2018. It is translated into more than ten languages, a.o. German: Die Gedächtnislosen and English: Those Who Forget.
In this book she follows three generations of her family. She traces back the painful process of coming to terms with the past in Germany, which she sees as a cornerstone of democracy. How did Germans transform collective guilt into democratic responsibility? Schwarz compares it to the work of remembering in France, Italy, and Eastern Europe. With populism and extremism on the rise in Europe today, she reflects on how society can become complicit in political crime and how to learn better from history.
Every year, Maastricht University and the City of Maastricht jointly organise this lecture in commemoration of Robert Schuman and the Treaties of Rome (1957) and Maastricht (1992). Robert Schuman (1886-1963) was the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and co-founder of the European Union.
You can register here
Franz Palm Lecture Hall
Tuesday 9 May, 20:00