Eastern Europe and its Collective Historical Memories: Useful Means or Political Tools

By Austin Pellizzer

This week’s topic of a multicultural Europe has left me with many questions to ponder about the politics of memory and contemporary history. The most notable article which I believe sparked my interest is Dan Stone’s article, On Neighbours and Those Knocking at the Door: Holocaust Memory and Europe’s Refugee Crisis. Stone clearly and eloquently discusses how Eastern European nations of Poland and Hungary have had issues with remembering the past concerning their complacency in the Second World War and the Holocaust (231). In the same breath, the author points out how the authoritarian governments of communism in the mid-20th century used the Holocaust not just to push their ideologies of Socialism vs. barbaric fascism (236) but also to carry out selective historical memories, which has shaped their far-right politics today (233). In the contemporary age, this comes head-to-head in the wake of the 2015 refugee and migrant crisis which shook the EU (231). 

With the waves of migrants and refugees coming to the EU’s gates in search of a better life, Stone demonstrated how this comparison echoes the same sentiments of history between the Jewish refugees and post-war Europe (233). While he explained how it is essential to distinguish the horrors of the Holocaust and modern European attitudes to refugees (242), many questions still seem unanswered when looking at this nuanced and complicated issue.

Firstly, Stone describes how the communist nations of the East used the Holocaust to push their ideological agendas (236). With never acknowledging the horrors that took place over seventy-five years ago, I believe that for Eastern Europe to become more liberal and accepting, they need to recognize the communist past and how many of the era’s sentiments and traumas continue today. Secondly, the author discusses how the EU has spent millions on border enforcement versus implementing a more comprehensive migrant policy to let these populations into the Union (240). In this case, to what extent are nations and supranational organizations expected or obligated to accept refugees? In that same breath, what is the sustainable balance between compassion and economic and social sustainability for both member-Sates and organizations alike?

With these questions only touching the tip of the iceberg, it is imperative to ask how and what could be changed to ensure both parties can prosper to the best of their abilities within the European continent.

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