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Memorialization and its Effects on National and Urban Identities

Natalie Hillerson, Yu Hou, Jasmine Kim, Anna von Ravensberg

Berlin and Jena - Summer 2015
University of Washington Honors Program

Memorials and monuments are lenses into the past, often depicting events integral to the
nations history and formation. Our group is interested in investigating different types of
memorialization in Berlin and connecting these structures back to national and urban identities. There
are several different types of memorials that we intend to explore, such as government commissioned
memorials, uncommissioned memorials, historical buildings, and unintentional memorials. Likewise, we
view memorials as non-static structures; monuments can change over time, both influencing and being
influenced by individuals who interact with them. Therefore, we plan on studying the ways that
memorialization practices affect the formation and constant reformation of both urban and national
identities. We hope to further our project by discovering to what extent these memorials serve as a
representation of the national or urban populace, and how this representation leads to practices of
exclusion and inclusion. Our project will focus on several different forms of data collection-- primarily
interviews with a variety of people, but also observations on memorial sites, and general surveys. We
also intend on speaking with students and instructors at Humboldt- Universitt zu Berlin and FriedrichSchiller-Universitt Jena to get their perspective on German and Berlin history. Hopefully through our
individual and group investigations, we will answer our main research questions: How do practices of
memorialization compare in the United States and Germany? To what extent do memorialization and
street art represent a changing Berlin identity? How do sites of commemoration resulting from the
East/West divide and the fall of the Third Reich both highlight and shape a shifting Berlin identity?
What is different people nowadays think about the Nazi architecture, and Hows that represent the shift
of German identity throughout these years?

Monuments and Memorialization
Monuments are broadly defined as anything that is enduring; an ancient building or site that has
survived... because of its historical significance (Mitter, 2013, p. 159). Likewise, Harjes (2005)
describes the main three functions of memorials: to mourn and commemorate the dead, to educate their
audiences, and to politically and socially represent contemporary German citizens (p. 139). However,
several different types of monuments exist and have different effects on those who interact with the
sites. For example, Mitter (2013) claims that there are two different kinds of memorials: durable and
ephemeral. Durable monuments are material ones such as sites, buildings, and images, while
ephemeral monuments are transitory and mobile ones made of fragile materials (p. 159). For the
purposes of our project, we will focus on connecting national and urban identities to four different types
of monuments found in Berlin and other countries: commissioned monuments, uncommissioned
monuments, historical buildings, and unintentional monuments.
National and Urban Identity
The formation of a nation has been highly documented in the literature, and Sharp (1996)
describes this process as the repetition of symbols that come to represent the nations origin and
uniqueness (p. 98). Likewise, even though it is not possible for all members of any nation to know
even a small fraction of the other citizens of the country, a sense of national identity is achievable
because nations are communities, [containing] very real bonds... perceived as linking distant
people in the same territory (p. 98). Mitter (2013) focuses extensively on the connections between
memorials and national identity, specifically focusing on the phenomenon of collective memory, which
has a dialectical relationship with historical reconstructions of the past because both contribute to the
idea of nationhood (p. 163). The idea of a nation is described as a construct that serves to forge a sense
of unity and the feeling of us versus them. Nationhood, then, is upheld and constructed through

collective memory, which helps to fix our identity in the modern re-use of the past (p. 163). Through
this analysis, we can see that memorialization, which plays a role in establishing a collective memory,
has a huge influence on the formation and upkeep of a national identity, a topic which we will be
developing further through our individual research questions.
Commissioned Memorials
We define commissioned memorials as monuments that are constructed with consent or direction
from a governing body. Because a group that represents the large community, city, or nation builds these
memorials, a very specific and carefully planned narrative is constructed through these monuments,
often attempting to speak for an entire population. For example, Harjes (2005) describes in detail the
intricacies of the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, a publically funded memorial established
in 2005 (p. 138). She describes the purpose for this memorial as being the unified governments wish to
set a signal of integration: the integration of east and west German collective memory which eventually
became almost synonymous to a democratic form of collective memory (p. 141). In a similar vein,
Sodaro (2013) writes about The Jewish Museum, established in Berlin in 2001 (p. 77). The Jewish
Museum was not intended to be a Holocaust museum, but instead to focus on a celebration of GermanJewish culture and history (p. 77). Sodaro hypothesizes that the construction of this museum, then, is
considered to be a countermemorial museum because it rejects the categorization of a Holocaust
memorial and thus challenges the typically self-reflexive purposes other memorial sites serve (p. 76-77).
Uncommissioned Memorials
While a governmental body publically funds commissioned memorials, uncommissioned
memorials are privately sponsored. Because the monuments then are representative of the goals of a
private group or individual, the narratives offered through the memorial are often different than a
commissioned memorial. Harjes (2005) describes one example of an uncommissioned memorial, a
countermonument known as the stumbling stone project by Gunter Demnig. This memorial features

metal plates and signs being installed in various places around Berlin, each with a reference to the
systematic killing of the Jewish population, such as plaques denoting a victim of the Holocaust installed
in front of their former place of residence (p.145). Because of the decentralized structure of the
monument, people do not seek out these commemorations like they would a commissioned memorial,
but rather something they stumble upon and are interrupted by (p. 144). As Harjes points out,
uncommissioned memorials have no obligation to support a particular vision of national identity and
in this way are able to create a more organic form of collective memory, one that sprouts from individual
interpretation rather than government construction (p. 144-5).
Historical Buildings and Other Unintentional Memorials
Many times, memorials are not intentionally created, but rather become memorials after they
had lost the purpose for which they were built (Mitter, 2013, p. 162). For example, Nazi architecture
riddles many German cities, including Berlin, even though they were once used to further Hitlers Nazi
regime. Despite this sordid past, many of the Nazi buildings, such as Zoologischer Garten rail station,
the 1936 Olympic Stadium, and many government buildings, are integrated into daily Berlin life, albeit
serving a different function now than in the 1930s (Nazi Past Lives on in Berlins Buildings, 2005.)
Thus, these buildings have become a sort of hidden memorial, as they are representative of German
history but are not distinctly marked as sites of remembrance. Perhaps the most striking example of an
unintentional memorial is the Berlin Wall, originally serving to divide East and West Germany, but has
since transitioned into a monument that is maintained through government funding. Likewise, street art
can function as an unintentional memorial, especially when considering the Berlin Wall. As described by
Eva Youkhana (2014), street art often serves as a way for marginalized or oppressed groups to have their
voices heard, and can be considered a memorial for their own experiences, often ignored in hegemonic

The Pleasure of Ruins: U.S. and German Identities (Re)Constructed Through Memorials
Natalie Hillerson
Both the United States and Germany are often considered as countries with great global
influence, and this clout may inspire strong senses of national pride and well-developed national
identities. Practices of memorialization have been found to contribute to the nationalism that permeates
the United States in particular. For example, Luke (2010) suggests that the National D- Day memorial in
Virginia, as well as memorials like it, is a material manifestation of nationalist sentiments (p. 558). As
Luke explains, public sites of memorialization have a huge influence on constructing a national identity,
and this link becomes stronger when comparing Germany and the United States.
Studying the ways in which national identities are formed and maintained is extremely important
when considering the implications that having a strong national identity have. A study done by Huddy
and Khatib (2007) found that American participants with a strong national identity were more likely to
vote and participate in other civic engagements, both of which influence national leadership and politics
(p. 74). Likewise, ethnicity and race can play a role in national identity and national pride, as black and
Asian individuals were found to have lower levels of national pride and symbolic nationalism,
respectively (p. 71-2). These are important factors to consider, as both Germany and the United States
have various immigrant communities that may be unrepresented through memorials, thus having an
impact on their national identity and pride.
To what extent is national identity intrinsically tied to the presence of memorials, the forced
remembrance of things past? In what ways does memorialization affect and shape national identity, both
in positive and negative ways? Im most interested in comparing U.S. and German national identities
and seeing the ways that memorials have an effect on how individuals identify within their nation state.

For example, does the Berlin Wall and excess of memorials/buildings from the Nazi and post-World War
II era foster negative feelings about identifying oneself as German, and therefore lessen the desire to
claim a strong national identity? Conversely, does the plethora of memorials in the U.S. that focus on
honorable figures and events create a strong sense of national pride because the citizens are forced to
selectively remember only good things about Americas past? I would also like, if possible, to connect
my findings to othering and investigate the connection between a strong, positive national identity and
the exclusion of others who might not understand the entire context behind memorials, and therefore are
viewed as being unable to fully identify as being a part of the nation state.
Cultural Sensitivity
Growing up in the United States, I have some bias as I have been exposed to American
memorials and do identify as American (though I cant say that I have a particularly strong sense of
national pride or a deep connection with being American). I also understand that while I have learned
many things about German and American history throughout my education, I have done so from a fairly
neutral position and am able to talk about events in history without shame, embarrassment, or
discomfort. However, this is not always true in other countries with different education systems. German
inhabitants may be wary to talk freely about the countrys tumultuous history, particularly in relation to
the monuments I hope to investigate. Therefore, I must be careful and respectful when broaching these
topics and understand that while I may feel comfortable speaking about German and American history,
others may still feel the open wounds from previous generations and be hesitant to share their thoughts.
Daily Schedule
My tentative research plan involves several different forms of data collection that will be spread
out over the course of the journey. First, I would like to visit several different memorials or monuments
around Berlin and gather observations with the physical space and how visitors are interacting with the
space or the memorial. At these spaces, I would like to interview people (ideally selecting German

people as opposed to tourists from other countries, though Americans could offer relevant insights as
well) on their thoughts on the memorial. These interviews might be guided by questions concerning
what the monument is for, what it represents or is supposed to represent, the interviewees feelings or
perceptions of the memorial, as well as the interviewees thoughts on national identity, specifically their
own. As a further instrument to collect data, I plan on sending out a survey (online so I can reach
American individuals). A physical copy of this survey will be handed out in classrooms at Humboldt as
well as to interviewees at the memorials to fill out. Hopefully, a joint survey can be constructed with
other members of my group. Speaking with professors in the American or German studies departments
will be equally as valuable to gaining academic perspectives and background information to prime my
other research tactics.

Title Here Yu Hou

Memorials are mean to be for people to remember something. But not all the people want to
remember what happened before. Especially for German. Although World War II had been gone for 70
years, most of the people that had been involved in that War had leave the world. But there are still
something that will not vanish or die, that are those building that still stand in the city of Berlin. Thought
out the history of human, architecture can be a symbol for different things and it has been always change
from time to time. Today when you walk at the street in Berlin, you will not think of that the building
right beside you could be covered of Swastika 70 years ago. What people think about these memorials
are important at this moment? Is it just some ancient history that not now days Germans business? Or
its still represent some German identity which people do not want to talk about. As Germany become
more and more important role in the EU, Berlin is becoming a international city. What about tourist or
immigrate think about those architecture are also something that I want to find out.
What different people (young, elder, immigrant, tourist) would think about theNazi
architecture(construct or modified in Third Reich period ) now day, and hows that represent the
changing of German identity?
Cultural Sensitivity
I believe in Germany, Nazi is still a not very welcome topic. I am from China, in WWII we
suffered and invaded by another axis country: Japan. There are still some people in Japan do not want
admit the history and most people think that WWII are something ages ago and do not have any relation
to do with them. But in Germany, as far as I know, people still do not want to talk about national pride
and afraid that Nazi or some other form of nationalism could happened again.

When I interview people, I think they might not want to talk about it in another language to me
about it. I need to be careful to avoid any kind of disrespect. It should be pure academic.
Daily Schedule
My research data collection will be in different form. I will visited different historical place to
interview people about different view about those architecture. I will also have a survey with all the
member in our group together. Most of the time I think I will be on the site to observe peoples behavior
and interview people about what they think.

The Dual Nature of Memorials: an Influence on and Reflection of a Changing Berlin Identity
Jasmine Kim
Historically, Berlin has been a breeding ground for sites of commemoration. Two major time
points paved the way for the growth of memorials: the rise and fall of the Third Reich and The Cold
War. The existence of Nazi Germany and its persecution of Jews caused not only an increase in the
number of memorials, but the separation of Germany into East and West. Berlin, by default, was also
split in this manner. Additionally, the events of The Cold War caused the former GDR (East Germany) in
addition to the former FRG (West Germany) to commission their own respective memorials in Berlin
(Ahonen, 2011, p. 138). More recently after reunification, there has been a shift in the types of
memorials that are being erected to commemorate the outcomes of these two points in German history
(Harrison, 2011, p. 78). Because the erection of these memorials that commemorate events of the past
are both a reflection of and an influence on the Berliner identity of the present and future, it is important
that their nuances are studied.
Memorials occupy a physical space. The spatial existence of memorials translates into a
reflection of identity. Conversely, the physical presence of memorials also influences identity. Therefore,
in addition to being a reflection of identity, memorials can also cause identity to change. By tracking
how memorials have changed, the more will be revealed about how Berlin identity has
altered as a result of Nazi Germany and the Cold War. In particular, I aim to determine how sites of
commemoration resulting from the East/West divide and the fall of Nazi Germany both highlight and
shape a shifting Berlin identity. To answer this question, I plan to look at various memorials resulting

from these events in history and attempt to link together their effects on Berlin identity and to further
expose the duality of memorials that is not just unique to Berlin.
The fall of Nazi Germany came with the realization that millions of individuals, in particular
Jews, had been persecuted. This collective German guilt called for a creation of numerous memorials
that are still being constructed to this day. The creation of East and West Germany and subsequent
reunification also resulted in the formation of memorials. After reunification, these distinct East and
West identities were forced to merge, and Germans themselves were far more interested in creating a
united future than in preserving a divided past (Harrison, 2011). The conflicting identities resulting
from these histories and memorials are what I aim to investigate.
Cultural Sensitivity
As someone who has grown up American with no real lens into German identity or connection to
German people, cultural insensitivity is definitely a concern. The nuances of the East/West divide will be
difficult to understand when I do not have the cultural background to contextualize this identity. It will
be especially important to ask clarifying questions on these matters.
Because I have a very one dimensional understanding of German identity, I will need to be
careful that these preconceived stereotypes and judgments of Nazi Germany and of communist and
fascist Germany do not offend those who I am interviewing, especially considering that these events
were not that long ago in history and that they did not only affect a minority of the German population.
Lastly, the language barrier will be an additional limitation to acclimate to. Because my primary
research will be limited to individuals who can converse in English, already this research will be
Daily Schedule
Before leaving for Berlin, I have already decided on the memorials I would like to focus on.
With regard to changing identity as a result of Nazi Germany, I plan to visit Stufen Underground

Sculpture, the Library memorial at Bebelplatz, and the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe. With
regard to changing identity as a result of the East/West divide, I plan to visit the Airlift Memorial, the
Bernauer Strasse Memorial (on the Wall) and private memorials on the East portion of the Wall
commemorating former GDR officers. These memorials are all located in Berlin so I plan on getting to
these locations by train.
At each memorial, I will take representative photos to use for my research. Additionally, I will
observe the audience that is present and their reactions upon visiting these respective memorials. I will
also pick up pamphlets from each visitor section in order to gain a sense of how Germans want others to
perceive them ie: their identity.
After making these initial observations, I intend to engage those visiting the memorials in
conversation regarding their thoughts on that respective site. In particular I want to ask if viewing this
memorial has made them learn anything new about Germany and consequently how they view Germans.
I also plan to ask the information center questions on each respective memorial in order to determine
how a German likes to portray their identity. I hope to be able to record all of this on my phone, but if
that is not possible for some reason, Ill only take notes in my journal.
I also hope to conduct a survey of Humboldt students on their opinions of the memorials I
visited. I will ask questions like describe in one word what this memorial evokes, how strongly
do you agree that this memorial is necessary/useful/relevant, etc. I also intend to connect with faculty at
Humboldt on their perspectives of these memorials, in addition to faculty and individuals in Jena. Most
of my research however will be done in Berlin.

Memorialization and Street Art Representing A Changing Berlin-Anna von Ravensberg

Berlin is world-renowned for its colorful yet often controversial street art. Over time, graffiti has
switched from aesthetically pleasing public art to collective and collaborative art with message. As Eva
Youkhana (2014) explains, creative activism and urban art are increasingly being used as an instrument
to collectively re-appropriate the urban space and thus articulate themselves as being part of the urban
collective, being an urban citizen (p. 175). An example of this appropriation is with the Berlin Wall,
which once signified a clear divide between the Socialist East Berlin and the Democratic West, but now
is a canvas for modern artists to express and bring to light important issues. In this way, street art and
memorialization work hand-in-hand to represent a changing Berlin identity. This is important as
recognizing a developing identity through art is the first step in understanding why and how a collective
identity is changing.
While in Berlin, I will focus on the connections between street art and memorials, and how these
relate to the identities of Berliners and Germans. Specifically, I would like to answer: To what extent do
memorialization and street art represent a changing Berlin identity? Berlin is a dynamic, global city,
with an identity constantly changing with its increasingly diverse population. I want to explore how this
identity is changing, in hopes of understanding what this urban identity resembled in the past (what
distinguished Berlin as Berlin?) and how this identity will eventually be developed. Memorials reflect
on the shared history of a population, and it will be important to find who identifies with the memorials
around the city, and just as important, who doesnt, and why. This will give insight into Berlin historical
identity, and this identitys perception today. Street art, on the other hand, is a way for minorities and
immigrants, who often are overlooked in society, to give a voice to the issues that impact them. In

relation to my research question, I will focus on the large Turkish minority group within Berlin, as they
make up the largest group of non-citizens within Germany, and are therefore an accessible body
considering my limited time abroad. These minorities are an integral part of Berlins modern, shifting
identity, and it is therefore important to understand where these perspectives emerge from, and why. Do
these groups identify themselves as Berliners? As Germans? Why or why not? To what extent do others
(such as government entity) define them as Berliners? As Germans?
Cultural Sensitivity
As an American experiencing Berlin for the first time, I need to be aware that the questions I will
be asking of the locals could be offensive. Eventually, I will ask people to not necessarily define their
identity, but explain why or why not they feel they are a Berliner or a German. What other social groups
do they identify with? I ultimately want them to comment on how they perceive certain cultural
memorials or art pieces. Do they feel connected to the piece? Why or why not? Based on how they
distinguish themselves, do they feel the piece reflects their identity and issues that affect them honestly?
I will present them with a definition of identity (produced from a group activity as explained previously)
as to not have unrelated data of interviewees who do not agree on a common definition. Often these
pieces depict painful pieces of Germanys history or contemporary culture, topics people may be
hesitant to discuss with a foreigner. When interviewing people, I must be aware of this concern, and
therefore allow at any time an interviewee to opt out of the conversation. In addition, I carry the
foreigner bias of what I believe to be German. I have heard over the years of many peoples
experiences in Germany, and the exploited stereotypes of the people. However, as my question involves
the questioning of how Germanys identity is changing, I must be open to several different
interpretations of what it means to be German. Awareness of this bias will be important when selecting
interviewees, and when drafting interview questions, in order to encourage open ended questioning and
honest responses from participants. I understand that immigrants might have questions about how I, as

an American, define legality under the law, as immigration is a political issue today. My understanding
of Americas own contradictions within this system are vital, as I want my interviewees to understand
that I am not attacking Germanys immigration policy with my outsider perspective, but rather
digressing from stating an opinion on the matter and rather focus on questioning its ties to
underrepresented groups. My goal is not to insert my opinion, but question to what extent the label of
legality ties into why or why not the Turkish minority group in particular assesses themselves as
Daily Schedule
I want to have a group activity in which we define identity, or at least lay the groundwork for
each of us to describe identity in our own terms. I have been reading up on Hybridity and Border
Identity Theory, as suggested by Julie and Manka, but identity is such an abstract yet fundamental
concept with multiple meaning, I feel defining identity as a group will be extremely beneficial.
The memorials ( a small range of commissioned, uncommissioned, and unintentional) I will focus
on will be the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Nazi architecture of
Charlottenburg's Bismarckstrasse, and the Baumhaus an der Mauer piece near the former wall,
and pieces of street art around the Berlin Wall and statement pieces, such as full wall murals by
the artist Blu (uncommissioned and commissioned alike) and take pictures of all. These pictures
must be clear enough so that I can easily refer to them in interviews, allowing to interviewee to
reflect on the pieces individually from sight, and not just from memory. In addition, I need to
carefully craft interview questions that do not appear confrontational to interviewees, but rather
invite critical thinking and reflection on why someone perceives themselves as a member of the
larger urban population, or why they feel disconnected and unrepresented by the city as a whole.
This will require sitting down with Manuela in order to go over how to approach certain topics in
Berlin, and phrase my questions to not be intentionally offensive for my interviewees, but rather
reflect my natural curiosity in my research as a student. My interviewees will be focused on

people who live in Berlin, but who were not necessarily born in Berlin, or even define themselves
as a Berliner. I also wish to interview street artists who created uncommissioned street art, in order
to understand their perspective on what commissioned street art actually is. Do they feel
commissioned street art, accepted by the government and the greater population, detracts from
their art form that gives a voice to underrepresented communities? Why or why not?

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Harrison, H. (2011). The Berlin Wall and Its Resurrection as a Site of Memory. German Politics &
Society, 99(29), 78-106.
Luke T. W. (2010). The National D-Day Memorial: Art, Empire, and Nationalism at an American
Military Monument. New Political Science, 32(4). 547-559.
Mitter P. (2013). Monuments and Memory for Our Times. South Asian Studies, 29(1). 159-167.
Sharp J. R. (1996). Gendering Nationhood. In N. Duncan (Ed), BodySpace (97-107). London:
Sodaro A. (2013). Memory, History, and Nostalgia in Berlins Jewish Museum. International Journal of
Politics, Culture, and Society, 26(1). 77-91.
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