07 Nov 2019 – 09 Nov 2019

The Stalingrad Myth from 1943 to the Present in a Russian-German Comparative Perspective

Venue: Deutsch-Russisches Museum Berlin-Karlshorst, Zwieseler Str. 4, 10318 Berlin
Research project(s): Historicizing today (2019/2020)

Organized by Claude Haas, Matthias Schwartz, in cooperation with the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst and the German War Graves Commission

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 German cultural memory, the defeat in Stalingrad is to this day often regarded as a “synonym for apocalypse” (Jens Ebert), in post-Soviet Russia, this victorious “battle of the century” (Vassili Chuikov) is still seen as a prime example of heroic fortitude in the “Great Patriotic War.” No other battle or “site of memory” has been so oppositely coded for the parties involved throughout subsequent decades as “Stalingrad.” In West Germany, “Stalingrad” epitomized the collective imaginary of a soldierly victimhood until the 1950s and 60s, excluding as far as possible the idea of participation in war crimes, or even genocide. In the USSR, by contrast, the collective commemoration of World War II victims and heroes gradually gained more public significance than recollections of the October Revolution as the founding myth of the socialist state, especially from the 1960s onwards.

Against this backdrop, the conference will pursue two goals. Firstly, we will examine how the Stalingrad myth has evolved on both sides over time and how the battle has significantly shaped the competing views of World War II, and possibly of war as a whole. Secondly, we will focus on the functions of social and memory politics that initiated and implemented such evolvement 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