Accepted paper:

Post-communist counter-memories


Michael Shafir (Babes-Bolyai University)

Paper short abstract:

The post-communist "competitive martyrdom" (Holocaust vs. Gulag) is the struggle of two different "post-memories," the latter using similar terms of reference as the former, but a different "master commemorative narrative", as is demonstrated by applying concepts borrowed from Holocaust studies.

Paper long abstract:

"Competitive martyrdom" is the attempt to exonerate one's political community from guilt or responsibility for having participated in the Second World War as a Nazi ally and from having perpetrated genocidal crimes against the Jews. It is a complex issue, influenced not only by the immediate Communist past and its treatment of the Holocaust in official history, but also, and above all, by socio-psychological factors linked to collective memory and to the social frameworks of the memory of specific groups within society. My paper employs concepts borrowed from Holocaust memory studies such as "communities of memory,""cultural traumas," "master commemorative narrative,""cognitive and mental mapping" and others to demonstrate why and how competitive martyrdom works. Unlike Holocaust denial, competitive martyrdom is bent on establishing that whatever sufferance perpetrators belonging to one's own community caused to victims of the Holocaust, this was merely a natural reaction to the earlier sufferance induced by the victims on that community. If Holocaust denial and Holocaust trivialization are by now likely to stir negative reactions at international regime level, competitive martyrdom is not only likely to squeeze in unsanctioned, but manages to enlist the support of figures who can hardly be suspected of antisemitism (as in the case of the deniers) or of subjectivity, ill-will or ignorance (as in that of the trivializes). This ongoing process is leading to what Dovid Katz has called "Holocaust obfuscation." The main pillar on which both competitive martyrdom and Holocaust obfuscation lean is the "Double Genocide" theory or the "Symmetric Approach."

panel P006
Intimacy of social memory and the construction of self-identity linked to the Holocaust and forced migrations in the current interconnected world