This is the short guide that I wrote for the purpose of introducing undergraduate
students to interpreting sites of memory, a frequent assignment in my classes. It is
not overly theoretical, based more on Loewen (see below) than on Nora, Koselleck et al.
This is a fascinating book about American memorials and historical sites. I have
drawn on it heavily for my own work. His introductory chapters on the societal roles
of memorials and how to interpret memorials are easy to follow. The rest of the
book is full of examples of good and, mostly, bad (inaccurate, misleading) memorials
from all 50 states. For help online, see
"Ten Questions To Ask At A Hisotric Site at the author's webpage.
Books And Important Articles On Cultures Of Memory
My recommendations are limited to some of literature that I am familiar with.
It obviously represents only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of titles which have been
written over the past 20 years. For even more scholarly references in English,
see the list of important references at H-Memory.
Assmann, Aleida: Der lange Schatten der Vergangenheit. Erinnerungskultur und
Geschichtspolitik. C.H. Beck: Muenchen, 2006.
This book traces the pathways and connections between individual and public ("official")
memory and commemoration. A sophisticated theoretical understanding of the topic,
built on a broad exposition of the entire spectrum of issues involved in historical
memory, is followed with chapters on concrete examples from 20th century memorial
Confino, Alon: "Collective Memory and Cultural History: Problems of Method,"
The American Historical Review 102:5 (December 1997), 1386–1403.
Erll, Astrid: Kollektives Gedaechnis und Erinnerungskulturen. J. B. Metzler:
Stuttgart und Weimar, 2004.
This is an invaluable handbook for collective memory and cultures of memory:
historiography, definitions of terms, major works and theories, etc.
Etienne, Francois; Schulze, Hagen (Eds.): Deutsche Erinnerungsorte. Eine Auswahl.
C.H. Beck: Muenchen, 2005.
Hawlbachs, Maurice: On Collective Memory. Chicago and London: The University
of Chicago Press, 1992.
Koselleck, Reinhart; Jeismann, Michael (Eds.): Der politische Totenkult.
Kriegerdenkmäler in der Moderne. Wilhelm Frank Verlag: Munich, 1994.
This is already a classical edited volume. It has several articles on the 19th
century, individual and comparative studies on France, Germany, the USA and the Soviet
Union. Of particular interest to American readers will be the article on differences
between Union and Confederate memorials in Baltimore by Michael Siedenhans and the
article on the Vietnam memorial by Robin Wagner-Pacifici and Barry Schwarz.
Lurz, Meinhold: Kriegerdenkmäler in Deutschland. 6 volumes. Esprint-Verlag-Heidelberg,
This impressive collection analysis of German war memorials from the early 19th
century up to the postwar period offers general analyses of the memorials as
well as individual case studies from each period. Vol. 1: pre-1870; Vol. 2: German wars
of unification; Vol. 3: World War One; Vol. 4: Weimar Republic; Vol. 5: the Nazi period;
Vol. 6: the Federal Republic of Germany.
Mills, Nicolaus: Their Last Battle. The fight for the national World War II memorial.
Basic Books: New York, 2004.
A straightforward recounting of the background and controversies which preceded the
construction of the World War Two Memorial, including
examples of previous controversies for memorials on the national Mall.
Mosse, George L.: Fallen Soldiers. Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars. Oxford University Press, 1991.
Focusing on Germany, the author draws on monuments and cemetery design as well as traces in popular
cultural items to to argue that the veresion of war created by intelligent
volunteers and the "cult of the Fallen Soldier" both contributed added to the rise
in nationalism feelings after the war.
Nora, Pierre: "Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,"
Representations 26 (Spring, 1989), 7–24.
Piehler, G. Kurt: Remembering War the American Way. Smithsonian Institution Press:
Washington and London, 1995.
This is a great overview of the history of American remembrance. He shows that the state
has rarely succeeded in imposing its version of memorial culture on the population and
that Vienam was not America's only military memorial controversy.
Reichel, Peter: Politik mit der Erinnerung. Gedächnisorte im Streit um die
nationalsozialistische Vergangenheit. Carl Hanser Verlag: München/Wien, 1995.
This is an impressive overview of the controversies surrounding the Nazi past in
Germany after the war. After an introductory chapter on the history of modern cultures
of memory and the role of politics in eastern and western Germany, the focus is on
places - such as the Reich party congress
grounds at Nürnberg and other ruins of Nazi architecture and former concentration
camps. But there is also an illuminating chapter on anniversaries and the various ways
that German politicians and others have chosen to mark important dates from the
Nazi past. It suffers only from being ten years old, so it does not cover the
controversies that have arisen since 1995, such as the Wehrmacht debate following the
Hamburg exhibition on crimes of the German army or the controversy surrounding the
book Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen.
Ulrich, B.; Ziemann, B.: Krieg im Frieden. Die umkämpfte Erinnerung an
den Ersten Weltkrieg.
This is a collection of documents that follows the
rhetorical battles fought in Germany after World War One. It shows how German
society polarized over the interpretation of 1914-1918 and the political consequences.
Winter, Jay: Sites of Memory,Sites of Mourning. The Great War in European
Cultural Memory. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
This is the book from which this website has borrowed its title. Winter borrowed the
term "Sites of Memory" from Pierre Nora who coined the term in French lieux de
memoire. But Winter's book is not about historical memory in general, but focuses
on European strategies for coming to grips with catastrophe in the aftermath of
World War One. There is a chapter on war memorials, but the coverage is broader,
going into film, literature, art and religion and other themes as well.
Online review available at h-net.org.
Winter, Jay and Sivan, Emmanuel (eds.): War and Remembrance in the
Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Cela uz neatkaribu. Brivibas cinu pieminikli. [The Road to Independence. Liberty and
Battle Monuments], Riga, 1997.
A systematic collection of 99 markers in Latvia with
photos and brief descriptions including artist, date of construction, date of
destruction (for those markers destroyed by the Soviets) and reconstruction.
Coombs, Rose E.B.: Before Endevours Fade. Battle of Britain Prints
I have only seen the 1970s version of this book. It has many
pictures of monuments and battlefield sites, recommended routes for visiting the
sites, and other information about the landscape of World War One as it looked at the
time the book was written. She revised the book repeatedly until her death in 1991.
Lismanis, Janis: 1915-1920. Kauju un krituso karaviru pieminai. Pirma pasaules kara
un Latvijas Atbrivosanas cinu pieminas vietas [1915-1920. Memorials to battles and
fallen soldiers. Memorial places of the First World War and the Latvian Liberation
War], Riga, 1999.
A very detailed collection of hundreds of monuments and other
markers. It includes those for Latvians and foreign soldiers in Latvia as well as
markers for Latvians in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia. The photos are few,
small and black and white, but the descriptions include the full text of the
markers, even the names of the fallen. Includes a preface in Russian, German and
This is a fascinating book about American memorials and historical sites. After
his introductory chapters on the societal roles of memorials and how to interpret
memorials, the book is full of examples of good and, mostly, bad (inaccurate,
misleading) memorials from all 50 states.
Strautmanis, I.; Asaris, G.: Padomju Latvijas memorialie ansambli. [Memorial
ensembles of Soviet Latvia] Zinatne: Riga, 1986.
This is a collection of
specifically Soviet memorials, mostly on the Great Patriotic War, but also including
the concentration camp memorial at Salaspils, most of which were built in the 1970s
and 1980s. Black and white photos, detailed descriptions of the markers.
Willmann, Georg: Kriegsgräber in Europa : ein Gedenkbuch. München:
This is a selection of only a handful of the thousands of cemeteries
and memorials in Europe. But it includes large, color photos of the sites. It is a
Gedenkbuch, a memorial book, so it is less systematic and analytical than
most of the others listed here. Includes sites dedicated to several nationalities.
This is obviously only a tiny fraction of the available print literature. These are
titles I use in my teaching.
Becker, Annette; Adoin-Rouzeau, Stephane; Temerson, Catherine: 14-18 Understanding the Great War. Hill and Wang, 2002.
I use this as a textbook in my War and Society class.
Focusing on France but with examples from several western countries, the authors
shed light on the seldom-seen civilian side of the Great War including themes such as
collective mourning and the experience of occupation. The great hatreds created
by war are also explored.
Best, Geoffrey: War and Society in Revolutionary Europe 1770-1870. McGill-Queen's University Press: London, 1982/1988.
Another textbook from my War and Society course. It is not steeped in
recent methodology, but does give a good overview of how societal developments interacted
with wars and conflicts over time.
Craig, Gordon A.: The Politics of the Prussian Army 1640-1945. Oxford University Press: London, 1955.
I use this classic in my German Military History
class.It is an excellent overview of the role played by the Prussian military
establishment in German history. Craig's book offers deep insight into why and how
Germany developed differently than other countries.
Fussell, Paul: Wartime. Understanding the Behavior in the Second World War. Oxford University Press: New York/Oxford, 1989.
Another book from my War and Society course,
this is likely to seem cynical to those used to "Greatest Generation"-type literature
on the United States in the Second World War. Subjects include the effects on society
of mass-military training, soldiers' attitudes about the war as expressed in their
in-official songs, wartime propaganda, racism and the effect of war on language.
Hirschfeld, Gerhard; Krumeich, Gerd; Langewiesche, Dieter; Ullmann, Hans-Peter (Eds.):
Kriegserfahrungen. Studien zur Sozial- und Mentalitätsgeschichte des Ersten Weltkriegs.
Klartext Verlag: Essen, 1997
This is an edited volume of articles on various aspects of wartime experience in Europe,
primarily in Germany. The sections on the home front, the war and economic life and
images of the society and enemies (Feindbilder) offer a wide variety of
perspectives and levels of analysis.
Smith, Leonard V.; Audoin-Rouzeau, Stephane; Becker, Annette: France and the Great War 1914-1918. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2003.
A textbook from my French Military History class,
this book covers the whole of the war with a strong emphasis on societal and
political developments behind the front lines. The national disaster of mass death,
the internal divisions of French society, the crisis of 1917 and ambiguity of
the final French victory are among the themes.
This site has few photos, but gives the exact address and brief description of hundreds
of American memorials sorted by state and city. A great site to consult if you want
to hunt for a submission to make to this site.
911memorials.org has a list of over 100
911 memorials with photos. There is a also a main page with a blog about the controversies
surrounding some of the memorials and the discussion about what to do with the "ground
http://www.denkmalprojekt.org is a German
site which is systematically trying to list all the names on all German war memorials. There
is one photo per memorial and all text in html for access through search engines.