Commemorating the Second World War in the "young 21st century"

Commemorating the Second World War in the "young 21st century"

Chair of Modern and Contemporary History (University of Bonn) and Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (University of York)
University of York
YO10 5DD
United Kingdom
Findet statt
Vom - Bis
20.07.2023 - 21.07.2023
James Krull, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaft, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

Booking via eventbrite is now open! The programme can be found below.

Commemorating the Second World War in the "young 21st century"

While the end of the Cold War in December 1991 arguably heralded the start of a new global epoch, the continuance of the „memory boom“ testifies to the fact that this did not include letting go of the past. Into the 21st century, our pasts are still of significant public importance, both individually and collectively, and the World Wars have proved to hold particular interest. Take for example the box office success of movies like „1917“ or „Operation Mincemeat“ and continuing acts of remembrance across the UK, Europe and the Commonwealth, which ensure that the horrors and huge losses of life during war are not forgotten. The new millennium saw the establishment of a UN-wide commemorative day and the construction of several new monuments, including the 2005 inauguration of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and the ongoing controversy around the construction of a UK Holocaust Memorial in London.

Nearly 80 years after the end of the Second World War, commemorative events, initiatives, customs and places have not lost (or have regained) their role in the shaping of national identities in Europe. However, over the last 30 years transformation processes have arisen that altered the way commemoration is performed, perceived and participated in. The digital revolution, the declining voice of contemporary witnesses and the increasing temporal and personal distance of younger generations to the commemorated past have led commemorative practices to evolve. Additionally, current political controversies (e.g. Brexit, 2015 European migrant crisis, climate change, Covid-19) as well as new conflicts (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine) have influenced the public image of past wars and war crimes.

How has the Second World War been commemorated globally since 1991? How has public perception of and participation in commemorative activity and consumption changed? What strategies have been used to mobilise new technologies and navigate geo-political challenges? What controversies were triggered, narratives adjusted, new formats developed, or new media utilised?

These questions, among others, will be discussed at this two day hybrid conference. Remote attendance will be possible. In-person free tickets can be booked for Day 1 or Day 2 of the conference, or for both days. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. An optional guided visit to the Yorkshire Air Museum, 2pm–4pm on Wednesday 19th July, can also be booked via Eventbrite. There will be a £5 charge for this on the day. Online attendees should book an online ticket only.


Wednesday 19th July (Day 0)

Visit to the Yorkshire Air Museum with Chair of the Trustees, Rachel Semlyen (Booking required, £5 fee)

Thursday 20th July (Day 1)

Registration (Tea/coffee)


Natasha Danilova: “The Second World War: Challenges of Remembrance and Nostalgia”

Break (Tea/coffee/biscuits)

Paper Session 1 – Memorials

Werner Suppanz: “Perpetrators in a positive sense”. The window of opportunity for memorials to deserters in the “young” 21st century in Austria

Rhiannon Seymour: “The evolution of memorialisation and the role of local authorities – a case study from Rhondda Cynon Taff” [online]

Tim Grady: “Constricted Remembrance: British War Memories and the Enemy Dead”

Tanja Kilzer: “Remembering the once forgotten. Memorials and culture of remembrance for the victims of Nazi “euthanasia” crimes in Germany in the 21st century”

Lunch (sandwiches)

Paper Session 2 – Colonial Legacies

Elisabeth Haines and Iqbal Singh: “Identity, translation and silence – linguistic legacies at the intersection of colonialism and the military in the Second World War”

Shreya Sharma: “Rest in Paper: India and the Second World War” [online]

Lucky Igohosa Ugbudian: “Commemorating World War Two: The Nigerian Perspective” [online]

Break (Tea / Coffee / Cake)

Paper Session 3 – Media Representation

Martin Tschiggerl: “Did my grandfather storm the beaches of Normandy for this shit?” Mnemonic Wars in Digital Games about the Second World War”

Daniel Cowling: “Re-remembering The Great Escape in 21st-century Britain”

Pia Schlechter: “#nowar – but which war? Voices of Ukrainians in Selfies on Instagram in The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin”

Friday 21st July (Day 2)

Registration (Tea / Coffee)


Paper Session 4 – Commemorative Politics

Blanka Matkovic: “Politics of War Commemoration in Croatia: From the on-going Historical Debates to the Impact of the recent Wars in the 1990s and current Political Influences” [online]

Natalia Matveeva: “Remembrance of WWII and the defeat of Japan in North Korea and the current Russian political narrative” [online]

Joseph Quinn: Making an “Irish Myth” of another unremembered past: Commemorating the Second World War in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Break (Tea / Coffee / Biscuits)

Paper Session 5 – Commemorative Politics II

James Krull: “Undertones of war commemoration: Historical grief and the death of a monarch”

Ben Huntley: “From the Few to the Many: Bomber Command and the National Myth of the Second World War”

Catherine Palmer: “Architecture of Memorialisation: the workings of memory and the Spitfire”

Lunch (Sandwiches)

Paper Session 6 – Personal Memory and Oral Histories

Harriet Beadnell: “Monty’s Men – British Second World War Veterans and their role in the Commemoration of El Alamein since 1991”

Terry Smyth: “Holding onto Memories in Japan” [online]

Victoria Mutheu: “Soldiers, Wives and The Silent Ones” [online]

Break (Tea / Coffee / Cake)

Reflective Panel