The Stalingrad Myth from 1943 to the Present in a Russian-German Comparative Perspective
The German war of aggression and annihilation in Eastern Europe took a decisive turn with the capitulation of the 6th Army in Stalingrad in February 1943. While in the German tradition the defeat in Stalingrad is to this day often regarded as a »synonym for apocalypse« (Jens Ebert), in post-Soviet Russia, the victorious »battle of the century« (Vassili Chuikov) is still seen as a prime example of heroic fortitude in the ›Great Patriotic War‹. In West Germany, ›Stalingrad‹ consolidated and served a soldierly victim imagination until the 1950s and 1960s, one that excluded as far as possible any thoughts of participation in war crimes or even genocide. In the USSR, by contrast, the collective symbolic power of commemorating the ›Great Patriotic War‹ gradually replaced the October Revolution as the founding myth of its own state, especially from the 1960s onwards. No other decisive battle or ›site of memory‹ has remained so oppositely coded for the parties fighting at the time nor has had to fulfil such different imaginative political tasks throughout the subsequent decades as ›Stalingrad‹.
Against this backdrop, the conference will pursue two goals. On the one hand, we will examine how the Stalingrad myth has changed on all sides over time and how the battle significantly shapes the competing views of World War II, and possibly of the war as a whole. On the other hand, we will focus on the social and memory politics functions that initiate and implement such change in the first place. The conference thus aims to remedy the national limitations of the Stalingrad myth by systematically confronting different literary, cinematic, and cultural representations of the battle with one another.
The keynote will be delivered by Nina Tumarkin (Wellesley College).
The conference language will be English.
Fig. above: German-Russian Museum Berlin- Karlshorst, Main hall of the Officers' Casino of the Wehrmacht School for Pioneers. On 8 May 1945, the High Command of the German Wehrmacht signed the document of unconditional surrender here in the presence of the representatives of the four Allied powers. Source: German-Russian Museum