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Between Pathos and Populism. Politics of Memory and Culture of Remembrance in Modern Germany

The study trip of a  students group of the History Department to Berlin from May 2 to May 9 was organized with the support of DAAD associate professor Dietmar Wulff and the manager of the Center for Historical Research Vadim Popov. The seminar entitled «Between Pathos and Populism» was devoted to studying the conceptions of the memorial culture and historical policy in modern Germany.

The study trip was organized by the Department of History of the Higher School of Economics St. Petersburg and the DAAD associate professor Dietmar Wulff with the support from the Humboldt University of Berlin.
The students visited important places of memory and took part in discussions on the construction of the historical memory of National Socialism, the Holocaust and the Second World War. 
The first sight visited by the students was The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The seminar that followed the visit to the memorial was devoted to the practices of the commemoration of the Holocaust. Berlin – Hohenschönhausen, a former DDR prison, became another place of interest for the group. Students had an opportunity to visit a temporary exhibition called "Stalin and the Germans" and discuss the influence of Stalinism and practices of communist propaganda on Germany under National Socialism. 
Additionally, a short visit to Potsdam was one of the highlights of the trip. Students went to Sanssouci (a palace of Frederick the Great), a small Russian village, Alexandrovka, built by Wilhelm III, Zehlendorf, the Glienicke Bridge, and the House of the Wannsee Conference. Special attention was paid to the analysis of the state of the historical sites in the context of the contemporary discussion on their preservation and development.
May 8 is the day when the German Instrument of Surrender was signed in Karlshorst, Berlin. Students had a chance to visit the place where this important treaty was endorsed exactly on that date. The German-Russian Museum is located in the same building, so the students learned about the ways of the representation of the memory of the Second World War in Germany there. 
Students were also invited to the meeting with Dr. Stefan Karsch, the regional coordinator of the international office for Middle and Eastern Europe at Humboldt University. Dr. Karsch talked about study opportunities for both Bachelor and Master students. Additionally, the group also met with representatives of the Free University of Berlin. 
One of the most important findings of this study trip was that the manipulations of memory in the context of historical policy are generally perceived negatively in contemporary Germany. Apparently, the modern culture of memory in Germany makes people reassess the past, understand its origins, and prevent similar events from happening in the future. 
Students discussed topical issues of historical memory with students and specialists who work at museums and memorials. All these meetings and talks with people from Russia, Germany and Italy contributed to deeper understanding of the practices of preserving memory and reproducing the past. 

Report: Veronika Petrukhina

More about the seminar series here.