During the 20th century, Europeans fought each other in two World Wars which originated in the idea of deadly hostility between national communities. Long-term consequences of these antagonisms cannot be measured simply in the sheer numbers of the deceased and injured. All those who became homeless or traumatised, who lost loved ones or found their dreams shattered had strong motives to keep hating the wartime enemies. Collective patterns of identity and memory formation generalized these images into national narratives of great persistence.
On the other hand, in the Franco-German relationship individual initiatives created reconciliation approaches which resulted, for example, in numerous town twinning arrangements. Moreover, in the face of a new common enemy that arose in Eastern Europe as the relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated, governments sought new alliances as well. The Federal Republic of Germany and many Western European states that had fallen victim to Nazi aggression soon pursued a policy of reconciliation by public gestures and treaties. A little later, the Federal Republic of Germany also made attempts to reconcile with the states on the other side of the „Iron Curtain“, which had suffered the most under Nazi occupation.
But in collective memories concepts of an enemy are rather persistent, and only a vanishingly small percentage of the populations participated in direct encounters within the framework of friendship initiatives. So how could reconciliation work below the government level? How could citizens of formerly antagonistic nation-states meet each other in a peaceful and benevolent fashion? The most important sphere of contact seems to be international tourism which grew dramatically from the 1950s due to new mobilities, a rising standard of living, and the codification of holiday entitlements throughout Europe. Millions of holidaymakers visited neighbouring countries and from the 1970s on even more distant destinations became reachable by airplane.
According to a rather convincing hypothesis, it was no coincidence that after the war West-German outgoing tourism primarily addressed Austria, Italy and a little later Franco’s Spain. They all had been fascist allies of Germany – in contrast to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, where German tourists often met with refusal. The Foreign Office of the FRG explicitly warned them not to speak about their personal memories of the occupation in public. Inversely, Danish tourists avoided their formerly favourite foreign destination in the post-war period.
In socialist Eastern Europe tourists got in touch with citizens of “brother-countries” in the framework of mandatory friendship. The ruling Communist Parties expected their antifascist consensus to level the actual conflict lines of World War II. It was supposed to conceal not only the participation of later citizens of the GDR in the racist war of extermination throughout Eastern Europe, which had taken place only a few years earlier, but also the bloody conflicts between Ukrainians and Poles, the occupation of the independent states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, as well as population resettlements and border shifts. Was it really possible to superimpose national antagonisms and individual memories so easily by designing collective identity from above?
Against this background we aim to ask about the Alltagsgeschichte of European reconciliation. To what extent did tourist experiences contribute to the reduction of hostile attitudes towards former war enemies and to what extend were tourist experiences hampered by the persistence of these hostile attitudes? What contribution did international tourism make to reconciliation in post-war Europe and where did persisting wartime antagonisms stand in its way?
We welcome contributions on all European countries and regions, from qualitative case studies to quantitative analyses of tourism contacts that touch on this complex of questions. Beyond the conventional forms of tourism such as package tours, individual travel, camping, etc., many other topics are conceivable:
• Student exchanges and school trips
• Battlefield Tourism
• Foreign fans at international sports events
• Bilateral tourism agreements
• Heritage Tourism
• International Cruises
• International amateur sports
• Local border traffic
• Music festivals
• Town twinning
The workshop will take place from 24.3.2022 – 26.3.2022 in Lüneburg as a cooperation of the Chair of Eastern European History at Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg with The Institute for the Culture and History of the Germans in North-Eastern Europe (IKGN). Conference languages are German and English. The organizers will reimburse travel expenses and provide accommodation. However, considering the contribution of air travel to the climate catastrophe and balancing it against the truly painful loss of community, we decided not to reimburse costs for flights. Instead we invite participants with very long travel distances to join us via established video conferencing tools.
Please send an abstract of up to 300 words and a brief biographical note (including institutional affiliation) to David Feest (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jan-Hinnerk Antons (email@example.com) by 01 October 2021. Delegates will be notified by 15 October.
In order to deepen the discussion and to facilitate the publication of an anthology, we would like to pre-circulate the papers. We therefore ask all accepted participants to send in texts of no more than 20 pages by 01 March 2022. The deadline for the revised essays will be at some point in autumn 2022.
For any questions please contact Jan-Hinnerk Antons (firstname.lastname@example.org).