In This Review

The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe
The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe
Edited by Richard Ned Lebow, Wulg Kansteiner, and Claudio Fo
Duke University Press, 2006, 384 pp.

This rich volume examines the "politics of memory" in postwar Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, and Russia. What emerges is how differently each country has coped with its memories of World War II. In Austria, for example, it has taken a long time to shake up the myth of Austria as Nazism's first victim. Regula Ludi's fascinating study, "What Is So Special About Switzerland?" shows how the debates about Swiss behavior during the war "revealed how deeply ingrained received representations were and testified to the function of wartime memory as a framework of the ongoing quest for a national identity." What is striking in all these essays is, in Kansteiner's words, how "difficult it is to determine to what extent" each one of the historical cultures examined here "reflected the historical consciousness of the population -- rather than of small elites, of politicians, scholars, educators and media people." This makes one worry about the concept, so widely used in this book and many others, of collective memory.