This paper uses (West) Germany as an exemplary case to analyse the formation of collective memories over a period of more than two decades after 1945. It traces the formation of collective memories in the German public through a decade of collective amnesia, followed by a period of regaining collective memories. It argues that the formation of collective memories is embedded in social and normative change, and identifies three causal factors that were responsible for the oscillation between amnesia and memory: the absence of victims in the imminent post-war period, that promoted the 'myth of innocence' (Fulbrook 1999); a series of major trials that started in the 1960s; and young elites who acknowledged moral and legal guilt and supported the trials, reconciliation and compensation. Data from public opinion polls covering the period from 1950-1970 are presented.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.