Cultures and Cultural Production

“Real Socialism’s memory in Germany 30 years later: Exhibition policy of the German Historical Museum and the processing of public monuments of the former Eastern Germany”

Teneketzis Alexandros

Research ProposalConferenceResearch ResultsShort bioPublications

Summary of the Research Proposal

The history of the temporary exhibitions and of the permanent collection in the German Historical Museum, which was founded only months before the Fall of the Wall, their rationale and their reception, provide an exemplary field of research to understand public history of Cold War era and the management of public memory in post-1989 Germany. Our project is interdisciplinary, as it will not only study the exhibitions and collections per se, but through them will examine the political use of the recent past, the state memory policies and their public display. It is also transnational, as we intend to proceed into a comparative study of similar issues in Europe before and after the end of Cold War. Our proposal intends to study the interplay of museology, art history, commemorative practices and public history.

The purpose of the research proposal is:

a. to explore the policies of the memory of communist past in Germany as presented at the German History Museum in Berlin, through the dozens of periodical exhibitions held since 1989 and through the permanent collection, opened to the public in 2006. Our proposal focuses on the building of a historical narrative, of a ‘collective’, public, national or official memory.
b. to investigate which aspects of the memory of Real Socialism and 1989 anniversary were acceptable to become visible in public art exhibitions commissioned by the German state and to examine and analyze museum’s contribution to the formation of a common German identity within an European context, but also to the simultaneous integration of the citizens of the former East Germany,
c. to examine whether this official German memory policy goes along with the official handling of monuments and buildings in the German Democratic Republic, such as the former parliament in Berlin and the Humboldt Forum,
d. to study whether the German commemorative politics converge or diverge with the European Union’s memory policies, concerning a european identity as the latest is displayed primarily in the newly built “House of European History” and the planned European Monument to the Victims of Holocaust in Brussels.

To view the conference’s program in Greek, click here and browse to the tab “Ημερίδα”.

Research: “Real Socialism’s memory in Germany 30 years later: Exhibition policy of the German Historical Museum and the processing of public monuments of the former Eastern Germany”

Researcher: Dr. Alexandros Teneketzis

The research project “Real Socialism’s memory in Germany 30 years later: Exhibition policy of the German Historical Museum and the processing of public monuments of the former Eastern Germany” was funded by the Research Centre for the Humanities (RCH) for the year 2021.

In recent years there has been a general rise in interest in modern European societies’ Public History and in traumatic memory of the 20th century. Subsequently, the impressive revival of memory studies in the last two decades has been accompanied by significant advances in the research methods of collective memory processes. Historical events like the fall of Real Socialism, the end of Cold War in 1989, the revival of nationalisms, the unstable international environment, the financial crisis of recent years, even the refugee and immigration issue, are key factors that fostered the interest in Public History, in traumatic memory and in historical justice. In this context, the memorial crises of European societies have been intensified and the construction of a common European identity came to the fore, often based on the negative consciousness of the consequences of totalitarianism or the ‘foreigner’, or even on the Holocaust as negative founding myth.

Cases like the German Historical Museum (GHM), which was founded only months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, provide an exemplary field of research to understand public history and the management of public memory in post-1989 Germany. Moreover, the history of GHM’s temporary exhibitions in the last thirty years and of its permanent collections, their rationale and their reception, demonstrate that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, reunified Germany, in accordance with the rest of the Western world, tried to shape a specific image of the German Nation, of Europe and European identity, affirming at the same time that museums deemed to be and used as leading agents in shaping German and European public history and memory. The research explores how a cultural institute interprets and displays the memory of the memory of Real Socialism in Germany. It specifically examines the construction of this memory and the political use of the cultural field and public history. In addition, it discusses how symbols and artefacts were used to interpret an ambiguous and divided historical past, in order to accomplish social and political cohesion within critical political and social conditions in Germany and Europe. Finally, it focuses on how Arts and Museology, in different times and during periods of crisis, can become part of the public sphere and public history, through a museum’s exhibition policy and how interpretation of Real Socialism and the idea of Europe is reflected in the permanent exhibition of the German Historical Museum.

The full academic report for this research’s results is available in Greek. To view it, click here and browse to the tab “Αποτελέσματα Έρευνας”.

Dr. Alexandros Teneketzis is an Art Historian. Currently, he is postdoctoral researcher of the Department of Cultural Technology & Communication, University of the Aegean and of the Department of History and Ethnology of the Democritus University of Thrace. He teaches Public History at the Hellenic Open University and Greek Art at Athens School of Fine Arts. He has numerous publications and lectures on public art, digital history of art, public monuments, public and collective memory, museums history and politics. He has worked as a Researcher at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies –Foundation of Technology and Research Hellas (FORTH), Rethymno-Crete in Greece and at the Ionian University.

Selected publications

  • “12th Documenta, The Globalization in Art” («12η Ντοκουμέντα – Η παγκοσμιοποίηση στην τέχνη»), Utopia (Ουτοπία), 76, Sept.-Oct. 2007, pp. 189-194.
  • “From the memory for the war to the war for the memory” («Από τη μνήμη για τον πόλεμο στον πόλεμο για τη μνήμη»), Mnimon (Μνήμων, Εταιρεία Μελέτης Νέου Ελληνισμού), 29, 2008, pp. 275-295.
  • “Conflict, Memory Transfers and the Reshaping of Europe” («Σύγκρουση, μεταφορές της μνήμης και η αναδιαμόρφωση της Ευρώπης (χρονικό)»), Historica (Ιστορικά), 50, June 2009, pp. 205-210.
  • “Art and Memory in 20th Century, Methodological Reconsiderations” («Τέχνη και μνήμη τον 20ο αιώνα: Μεθοδολογικές αναζητήσεις»), Art in 20th Century: History, Theory, Experience, Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, 2009, pp. 535-543.
  • “The Obscure Realm of Memory in Cold War West Germany: The Politics of Public Monuments”, Conflict, Memory Transfers and the Reshaping of Europe, Helena Gonçalves da Silva/ Adriana Alves de Paula Martins/ Filomena Viana Guarda/ José Miguel Sardica (ed.), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle 2010, pp. 36-52.
  • “Avant-garde and History in Cold War” («Πρωτοπορία και ιστορία στον Ψυχρό Πόλεμο»), Historica (Ιστορικά), 52, June 2010, pp. 235-240.
  • “‘Sentiment is a private thing’, Aspects of interwar in the post Cold War Berlin” («‘Το συναίσθημα είναι ιδιωτική υπόθεση’, Όψεις του μεσοπολέμου στο μεταψυχροπολεμικό Βερολίνο»), Utopia (Ουτοπία), 91, Sept.-Oct. 2010, pp. 121-134.
  • “Paths of Memory in Greece after the Civil War: the Representation of Memory of the War in Public Memory Art until ’74” («Μονοπάτια της μνήμης στη μετεμφυλιακή Ελλάδα: η απεικόνιση της μνήμης του πολέμου του ’40 στη δημόσια μνημειακή τέχνη μέχρι το ’74»), Nea Estia, (Νέα Εστία), 169/ 1845, June 2011, pp. 1222-1240.
  • “Stories on stone and bronze, The Holocaust Monuments in USA and Israel during the Cold War” («Ιστορίες σε πέτρα και χαλκό, Το Ολοκαύτωμα στα μνημεία Ισραήλ και ΗΠΑ την περίοδο του Ψυχρού Πολέμου»), Historica (Ιστορικά), v. 56, June 2012, pp. 171-192.
  • “Public Art in the Balkans from Roman Empire to Yesterday: intention, interpretation, controversy” («Η δημόσια τέχνη στα Βαλκάνια από τη Ρωμαϊκή αυτοκρατορία μέχρι χτες: προθέσεις, ερμηνείες, αμφισβητήσεις»), Historica (Ιστορικά), v. 58, June 2013, pp. 221-225.
  • “The metamorphosis of memory, Public sculpture in Interwar Europe” («Οι μεταμορφώσεις της μνήμης: η δημόσια γλυπτική στην Ευρώπη του μεσοπολέμου»), Istoria tis Technis (Ιστορία της Τέχνης), 1, Winter 2013, pp. 65-88.
  • “Art and politics during Cold War, The International Competition for the Monument of the Unknown Prisoner” («Τέχνη και πολιτική στον Ψυχρό Πόλεμο, Ο Διεθνής Διαγωνισμός Γλυπτικής για το ‘Μνημείο του Άγνωστου Πολιτικού Κρατούμενου’»), Mnimon (Μνήμων), v. 33, 2013-2014, pp. 185-205.
  • Alexandros Teneketzis-Lefteris Spirou, “Berlin’s museums, Art-History-Propaganda” («Τα μουσεία του Βερολίνου, Τέχνη-Ιστορία-Προπαγάνδα»), Utopia (Ουτοπία), 109, Nov.-Dec. 2014, pp. 121-134.
  • “Fine arts and Resistance (critic of an exhibition)” («Εικαστικές τέχνες και αντίσταση (κριτική έκθεσης)»), Art History (Ιστορία της Τέχνης), 4, Summer 2015, pp. 99-105.
  • Alexandros Teneketzis (edit), O K. Theotokis and the ‘Fellowship of the Nine’ (Ο Κωνσταντίνος Θεοτόκης και η «Συντροφιά των Εννιά») (Proceedings of the Conference “O K. Theotokis and the ‘Fellowship of the Nine’” – Πρακτικά ημερίδας, Κέρκυρα 30 Νοεμβρίου 2013), National Gallery of Athnes – Apopsi editions (Εθνική Πινακοθήκη και Μουσείο Αλέξανδρου Σούτζου – Εκδόσεις Άποψη), Athens-Corfu 2016.
  • Markos Konstantakis, John Aliprantis, Alexandros Teneketzis, George Caridakis, «Understanding User eXperience aspects in Cultural Heritage interaction», in Proceedings of 22nd Pan-Hellenic Conference on Informatics (PCI’18), ACM, Athens 2018.
  • “Exploring the emerging digital scene in art history and museum practice”, Esboços: histories in global contexts (Special Issue “Digital and global history: New horizons for the historical inquiry”), vol. 27, no. 45, May-August 2020, pp. 187-206.
  • “Lazaros Lameras”, DER UNBEKANNTE POLITISCHE GEFANGEN, Ein internationaler Skulpturenwettbewerb zu Zeiten des Kalten Krieges (exhibition catalog, KUNSTHAUS DAHLEM, 30 October 2020 – 21 February 2021, Dahlem- Berlin), KUNSTHAUS DAHLEM, Berlin 2020, pp. 254-257.
  • The monuments of Second World War. iconoclasms in Cold War Europe (1945-1975) (Τα μνημεία για τον Β ́ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο, Εικονομαχίες στην Ευρώπη του Ψυχρού Πολέμου (1945-1975)), ,Asini, Athens 2020.