Returning Memories

September 2015
5 black and white illustrations
362 pages
9x6 in
German History in Context
ISBN: 9781571139047
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC HIS014000, HIS037070, LIT004170

Returning Memories

Former Prisoners of War in Divided and Reunited Germany

Christiane Wienand

Provides the first comprehensive analysis of the history of returning German POWs after the Second World War, explored as a history of memory both during Germany's division and after unification.
Millions of former German soldiers (known as Heimkehrer, literally "homecomers," or returnees) returned from captivity as prisoners of war at the end of the Second World War, an experience that had profound effects on German society and touched almost every German family. Based on extensive archival research and oral history interviews, this book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the history of the German returnees, explored as a history of memory, both during Germany's division and after unification. At its core lies the question of how the experiences of war captivity were transformed into individual and collective memories. The book argues that memory of the experience of captivity and return is complex and multilayered and has been shaped by postwar political and social frameworks.

Christiane Wienand is a historian and works in Heidelberg, Germany. She holds a PhD in History from University College London.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Writing the History of Returnees
Depicting Returnees: Contested Mass-Media Representations in East and West Germany
Negotiating Victim Status: The Presence of the Past in Compensation Debates
Giving Meaning to the Past: Narratives of Transformation and Conversion
Interacting with the Past: Memory Projects of Returnees
Epilogue: Transmitting Memories-Shaping Postwar Presents


The book is worth reading for its analysis of the narratives [of prisoner-of-war returnees], which is on the whole quite successful. The service it provides is in its at least partial reconstruction . . . of the complex formation of memory. FRANCA-RECENSIO

Wienand argues that returnees constitute an ongoing and recurring issue, and aims to demonstrate that individual and collective memory intersect at multiple points and are in?uenced by concurrent interpretations of the past. . . . [H]er work deserves praise for providing extensive empirical evidence to support her argument. . . . She undertakes the daunting task of documenting how narratives by and about the returnees intersect at an individual, local, and national level, from the postwar era up until today. MONATSHEFTE

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