from 14 th to 19 th September 2010
As a prototype for “A City in Europe” the Lithuanian Tomas Venclova and the Pole Czesław Miłosz have described and shown that national claims from Lithuania, Poland and Belarus forcefully collide with one another in the multicultural, multifaith and multilingual Vilnius/Wilna/Vil’na/Vilne. Karl Schlögel summarised this as he coined the phrase “Horror einer schönen Stadt” (the horror of a beautiful city) describing the 20th century of Eastern Europe.
When focusing on the inter-war period the “Vilnius question”, and with that the so-called conflict surrounding the Vilnius area, comes to the fore. This area fell in the newly-formed neighbouring states of Lithuania and Poland in 1918 and by 1920 Poland had decided to take it for its own; the result being that Kaunas/Kowno/Kauen was made the provisory Lithuanian capital. The Hitler-Stalin-Pact brought with it the Soviet occupation of Vilnius in September 1939 and also to the Stalin directed retransfer of the city to Lithuania just a few weeks later. This situation lasted just a few months however as the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania, and Vilnius with it, in the summer of 1940.
The “Horror einer schönen Stadt” applied then and now to the “Jerusalem of the East” as the Jewish Vilnius was the religious and cultural centre of the East Central European Jewish population. Simon Dubnow founded the European-wide influential Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut (YIVO) in Vilnius in 1925. Since 1940 it has continued its work in New York as YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Here to, however, the effects of the Holocaust were devastating.
“1940” serves as the East Central European point of remembrance whose 70th anniversary falls this year exhibiting the consolidation and overlapping of a number of different processes: the cultural blossoming of Jewish cultural and science in the Polish as well as in the Lithuanian Vilnius ended abruptly and brutally; the newly formed Lithuanian state which had won back Vilnius as its capital in 1918, subsequently lost its statehood; the whole of Lithuania and East Poland were forcedly integrated into the Soviet Union; Lithuanians, Poles, Jews and Belarusians were all affected by Stalin’s various repressive provisions and measures of deportation, before the German armed Forces invaded and enforced a national socialist regime of occupation in the summer of the following year.
Today Vilnius is the capital of the Lithuanian state, reassembled in 1991. Above all, it is a city of Lithuania, whilst still one of Poland, of late stronger again than Belarus (on account of what is associated with the Belarusian regime), yet now hardly associated with Jews. However, architecture, a scenery full of memorials and the study of toponymy continue to retain a part of the “old” Vilnius, in Lithuania, in East Central Europe, in other parts of Europe, in Israel as well as overseas.
Wednesday, 15th of September at 6 pm
Lecture “Between Dreams and Reality, Public Action and Private Despair:
Jewish Culture and Politics in Vilnius Between the Two World Wars”
by David Fishman
(University Vilnius, Aula Parva, Universiteto gatvė)
Thursday, 16th of September at 5 pm
Lecture “Vilnius, Lithuania, Poland and the USSR in 1940” by Alfred E. Senn,
followed by Panel Discussion with Alfred E. Senn, Česlovas Laurinavičius,
Georgiy Kasianov and Siarhei Novikau
(University Vilnius, Aula Parva Universiteto gatvė)
Saturday, 18th of September at 6 pm
Lecture “Vilnius: The City as object of nostalgia” by Tomas Venclova
(Town Hall Vilnius, Didžioji gatvė)
The German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact included a secret additional protocol which laid out the division of Poland. This protocol has long been neglected in historical research and has only recently begun to attract greater attention. Its translation can be found here.
The Forum will take place on 16 – 20 September 2009 in Wroclaw / Poland. The thematic focus is the year 1939 and, in particular, the „Hitler-Stalin-Pact“. The pact had far-reaching consequences which are still firmly embedded in the remembrance landscapes of Germany and Poland. The symposium will deal not only with the German-Soviet Nonagression Pact, but also the current debates about the form and contents of contemporary memorials to 1939 in Germany, Poland, Moldova, Lithuania and Russia.
The Third Reich’s revision of the post-war Versaille order culminated in late summer of 1939: within five weeks Hitler, with Stalin as ally, transformed both political power relations across Europe and the political landscape of east central Europe, thereby igniting the Second World War. On 23 August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a Nonagression Pact complete with a Secret Additional Protocol on the „territorial-political reconfiguration“ of eastern Europe. On 1 September, the Third Reich attacked neighbouring Poland and within a few weeks was occupying both Poland and the Free City of Gdansk. On 17 September, the Red Army marched into eastern Poland and advanced as far as the demarcation line stipulated in the Hitler-Stalin Pact. On 28 September, the Third Reich and the Soviet Union signed a borders and friendships treaty on the restoration of „peace and order“ in the region of „the hitherto Polish states “. With this the two dictators in Berlin and Moscow had, in accordance with the Prussian-Tsarist tradition of a negative stance towards Poland, destroyed the Second Polish Republic and divided it amongst themselves. The German-Soviet occupation of Poland lasted until Hitler’s attack on his former ally Stalin on June 22, 1941.
Thus in August and September 1939 the foundations were laid for the briefly successful attempt at establishing a „new Europe“ along Nazi lines from „Narvik to Crete“. The main elements of this were occupation, territorial redistribution, forced displacement, forced labour, Holocaust and Porrajmos. By spring 1939 Czechoslovakia had been destroyed by Germany and a Slovakian Republic established as a vassal state of the Third Reich, and the Memel region in Lithuania had been surrendered to Hitler. In October the USSR forced „mutual aid pacts“ on Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, sanctioning the establishment of Soviet military bases. In November the Soviet Union was attacked by neighbouring Finland.
By taking the triad „Hitler, Stalin and eastern Europe“ as our theme, we focus attention on the German and Soviet policies, coordinated and delimited by one another, in the spheres of influence in north eastern, east central and south eastern Europe. The theme also raises questions about the influential groups in politics and society in these European regions and their reactions to the intervention of the dictatorial empires. Alongside forms of active and passive resistance, we will discuss other behaviours, such as indifference, conformity, opportunism and collaboration.
Finally we will investigate the widely differing east and west European significances of 1939 as an object of commemoration: while from the Polish and Baltic viewpoints 1939 marks the beginning of the troubled 50 year period of occupation, loss of souvereignty and dictatorial rule which only came to an end in 1989 (or 1991), in Slovakia emphasis is placed on the beginning of statehood, although remembrance of this is ambivalent. In western European perceptions of the shocking aspects of 1939 are counterbalanced by 1945 – this is also partly true from the Czech perspective. From Russian perspectives 1939 is either entirely absent as an object of commemoration because priority is given to the year 1941 as a marker of the end of a period, or, from a nostalgic Soviet position, it represents the conflict within the ‚imperialist faction’. An engagement with 1939 inevitably leads to the central question in the history of Europe and the world: did the Second World War begin in 1939 or 1941?
An introductory address will lead into the main part of the symposium – interviews by contemporary historians with prominent contemporary witnesses from Poland, Germany, Moldova and Latvia – and the symposium will close with a plenary podium discussion.
1938-1949 – Decade of Violence
Leipzig, Germany, 12-17 October 2008
Europe’s „short“ 20th century was characterized by three ten-year periods of war--1912-1922, 1938-1949 and 1991-1999. The most dramatic and tragic of these decades was the one in the middle of the century. From the annexation of parts of Czechoslovakia by the Third Reich in 1938 up to the end of the Greek Civil War in 1949 excessive violence was the signature of a whole decade. In World War Two, the unprecedented peak was the Holocaust, followed by the losses caused by German aggression against Poland and the Soviet Union, by the Porrajmos of the Roma ordered by Berlin, by brutal and often exterminatory politics of occupation by the Wehrmacht in Eastern Europe and the Balkans as well as in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Italy and parts of Africa. Forced migration, forced labour, deportation and ethnic cleasing, but also industrial annihilation, mass killings, administrativ hunger catastrophes and terror by justice were integral parts of German rule. Similar methods were applied by collaborationist and satellite regimes in Vichy France, Croatia and Slovakia as well as in allied countries like Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Finnland, Spain or Hungary. Almost parallely, in the Soviet Union the GULag camp system was growing rapidly since 1937 while during World War Two many non-Russian peoples were collectively deported from the European part of the USSR to Central Asia and Siberia.
In Central Europe, the end of national-socialist rule resulted from 1945 on in a gigantic wave of flight, expulsion and emigration. Germans and Poles as well as Finns, Ukrainians, Italians and others were forced to leave their homes. And the Sovietization of Central and Eastern Europe was accompagnied by political repression and show trials against the political opposition. Finally, decolonisation led to processes of forced migration from overseas to Europe like the ones of Frenchmen and Algerians into France. The harbinger of the Cold War then was the last “hot” war of the decade, the civil war in Greece between Western oriented monarchists supported by Great Britain and the by the USA on the one hand and pro-Communist republicans supported by Tito’s Yugoslavia on the other from 1946 to 1949.
The following fourty years were on both sides of the Iron Curtain shaped by the memory of the preceeding decade of violence—and by its concrete ethnodemographic consequences. It is a bitter irony of history that the end of the East-West conflict marked by the peaceful revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe of 1989 and by the silent implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 coincided with the beginning of the third decade of war in 20th century Europe, in former Yugoslavia.
The fierce debates on the “correct” interpretation of a historical date like the 60th anniversary of the unconditional surrender of Germany on 8/9 May 1945 in 2005 in the various parts of Europe have demonstrated that the deepest cleavages in contemporary Europe’s culture of remembrance are exactly the ones of the years from 1938 to 1949.Till the present day it is this decade of violence which constitutes the framework of reference for European identity-management, for the politics of history in Europe’s nation-states, for the civic remembrance of European societies and for the private memory of many Europeans—in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in Northern, Western and Southern Europe.