International Youth KAS panel: Contested Collective Memory in Contemporary Europe

On June 14, 2023, jointly with our partners at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest we organized a Konrad Adenauer Foundation Canada Youth Panel at the Zachor Foundation for Social Remembrance. During the four-hour session of exchanges and debates, 18 students from the University of Victoria had the opportunity to reflect on their prior experiences on the Study Tour in Memory Politics in Europe. The Youth Panel started with a site visit at the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial in Budapest, commemorating the Jewish victims of the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross militiamen. The self-guided tour (I-Walk) to this memorial provided the students with yet another opportunity to reflect on the legacy of Fascism, National Socialism, and the Holocaust as well as the distinct ways in which this dramatic history is commemorated in different national contexts.

For the subsequent two hours, the students were invited to the Zachor Foundation where they were joined by twelve experienced scholars in memory politics. During the intense afternoon session, the students were guided by two experienced educators (Gabriella Komoly and Vivien Turza both at Zachor Alapítvány) to share reflections on what they have learned in Budapest and at the other site of commemoration during the study tour. They worked in small groups discussing how and through which means dictatorships and genocides are most effectively commemorated by contemporary generations of youth. As prompts we used photographs from sites of commemoration based on which the students were encouraged to debate what resonated with them and why it had a particular impact on them. Focussing on particular incidents of social remembrance allowed the small groups to anchor the complexity of commemorating the past in distinct state- or civil society-driven initiatives.

During the last part of the afternoon dedicated to the KAS Youth Panel, the students shared their insights and personal experiences with the larger group. This broader discussion offered a fruitful venue to think collectively about the distinct challenges that the recent generations face in commemorating a past often without being able to rely on the lived memory of eye witnesses. This final sessions also allowed the participants of the KAS Youth Panel to relate their findings to the discussions of the panel at the Budapest panel: Commemorating the Past Across Europe: Remembrance and Memorialization in Education.

Beate Schmidtke, EUCAnet Co-Lead and Project Manager of the Jean Monnet Network European Memory Politics

Read more about the three weeks Study Tour in Memory Politics : Contributions by students and participating scholars