Historical Memory

Last year at uni, I studied a module in German history. We examined the Nazi ideology and dicatatorship under Hitler in the 1930’s and 40’s. 

At times, I came home from lectures and seminars deflated because of the intensity of the lessons. I’ve read about it and studied it a little before, but it doesn’t make it easier to come to terms with. Learning about how it happened and studying the horror of the Holocaust leads to a strange mix of emotions.

I would say I “enjoy” studying history, but that doesn’t seem like the appropriate word. Other times, I get quite upset. I was sickened at times, researching Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for a presentation we had to do.

Remembrance culture is a difficult matter. I remember having a conversation with someone after I told them I’d visited Auschwitz. I don’t want to misquote them, but they said words to the effect of: these places are prolonging Hitlers’ memory, so they shouldn’t be memorials.

I had to disagree. Quite the opposite. The fact that they remain as reminders, is why they’re important. We can’t just ignore pain of history. It seems to have happened somewhat whilst my generation went through the British education system. Why didn’t we study the Troubles in Ireland or colonialism in the British Empire, in the countries of Asia and Africa?

We need to look back on our own pasts with a critical eye, so we can learn from the mistakes that have gone before and so we strive to not make the same ones again.