In 1993, German chancellor Helmut Kohl declared that the Neue Wache (The New Guardhouse)—a nineteenth-century building in Berlin, and formerly a GDR memorial for victims of fascism—was to become a national memorial for victims of war and dictatorship with a sculpture by Käthe Kollwitz to replace the eternal flame scultpure of the GDR memorial. Kohl’s decision was not uncontroversial and generated heated debate.
In his presentation, Mélyi draws on parallels between the debates in Germany in the early 1990s and the debates of present-day Hungary around the disputed “Memorial to the Victims of the German Occupation” erected on Budapest’s Liberty Square in 2014. Parallel to official monuments erected by the Hungarian government, new grassroots memorials have been initiated. These memorials embody a new conception of collective memory and historical narratives and often define themselves in opposition to memorials performed by the state.