Contemporary European History 23 (2014), 3

Contemporary European History 23 (2014), 3
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Contemporary European History
United Kingdom
Mielbrandt, Björn

Volume 23 – Issue 03 – August 2014

Table of Contents and abstracts:

Table of contents



The Construction of a Masculine Warrior Ideal in the Italian Narratives of the First World War, 1915–68
Contemporary European History , Volume 23 , Issue 03 , August 2014, pp 307 – 327
doi: 10.1017/S0960777314000162 – Published Online on 26th June 2014
In Italy from the 1920s to the post-1945 period, soldiers’ autobiographical writings represented the ‘theatre of memory’ to the new generations: they handed down the meaning of intervention, mobilisation and sacrifice. They are characterised by two shared elements. The first one is the recurring theme of self-sacrifice. At the core of all war stories there is the experience of fighting and death; this is a liminal experience that fixes one's relation to war. The second one is the author's profile. The narrator of the ‘warrior phenomenon’ is almost invariably a young reserve officer, which means, in the majority of cases, a twenty-year old middle-class man, often a high-school graduate or a university student. The most powerful leitmotiv running through the mixed array of texts and genres that make up the ‘narrative field’ of the Great War is the metaphor of the military community as a ‘family’. Young officers, typically former students from a city background and interventionists at heart, consistently referred to their admission to the ‘family’ of soldiers at war as a life-changing transition: they had left behind their ordinary bourgeois existence, comfortable and safe (and therefore ‘unmanly’), to step into a new world, a dimension of death and suffering, but also comradeship and solidarity. Pure and unshakeable, genuine and disinterested, brotherhood in arms is so deeply felt that it borders on the intensity of a homoerotic relationship, although the latter is rarely made explicit.

‘Woe Betide Us If They Win!’: National Socialist Treatment of the Spanish ‘Volunteer’ Workers
Contemporary European History , Volume 23 , Issue 03 , August 2014, pp 329 – 357
doi: 10.1017/S0960777314000174 – Published Online on 26th June 2014
During 1941 the need for workers in Germany increased. As a result, the National Socialists requested allied and neutral countries to recruit volunteer workers. The total number of volunteers from these countries employed by the Nazis during the Second World War was similar to the total number of the civilian workers from occupied Poland. In spite of the better conditions offered to these volunteers and the efforts to indoctrinate them, the National Socialists failed to attract them to their cause. This article examines the reasons for this failure, taking as an example the case of the Spanish volunteers. The research is mainly based on the documents of the German-Spanish Society (Deutsch-Spanische Gesellschaft, DSG) of Berlin, which was the principal intermediary between the Spanish volunteers, and the National Socialist and Spanish authorities.

Professionalism in the Final Solution: French Railway Workers and the Jewish Deportations, 1942–4
Contemporary European History , Volume 23 , Issue 03 , August 2014, pp 359 – 380
doi: 10.1017/S0960777314000186 – Published Online on 26th June 2014
Why did railway workers never sabotage the deportation trains? This article examines the role of French railway workers in the Holocaust by historicising the concept of railway professionalism. It argues that the actions and behaviour of French railwaymen, whether blue-collar, white-collar or Jewish, were rooted in long-standing professional identities and values which were difficult to shift, even during the occupation. So whereas the professionalism of Holocaust bureaucrat perpetrators is often demonised, this article points to its socio-cultural importance and offers a more nuanced interpretation of ‘perpetrators’ in the Holocaust.

Anti-Semitism and Urban Development in France in the Second World War: The Case of Îlot 16 in Paris
Contemporary European History , Volume 23 , Issue 03 , August 2014, pp 381 – 403
doi: 10.1017/S0960777314000198 – Published Online on 26th June 2014
Examining an ordinary town-planning decision made during an extraordinary period, this article highlights the interaction between the local urban redevelopment policy and the state policy of racial persecution in 1941. However, it argues that this interaction was far more complex than the implementation of an anti-Semitic ideology by two separate administrations to which it is usually reduced. Instead of trying to assess the ‘reality’ of the ‘representation’ of the housing area (îlot) as a ‘Jewish quarter’ the article takes as fact the notion that representations are realities, and vice versa, and attempts to understand if, and by what mechanisms, an ethno-religious characterisation of the îlot played a role in the redevelopment operations under consideration here. In 1921 a memo from the Seine prefecture had been presented to the city council, identifying seventeen insanitary îlots in Paris as having above-average mortality rates from tuberculosis. These îlots were to be razed to the ground and rebuilt. The sixteenth îlot on the list was located in the southern section of the fourth arrondissement. This ‘îlot 16’ was apparently known as an area where the majority of its inhabitants were foreign Jews. In October 1941, when the persecution of the Jews was at its height, the Seine prefecture began a massive redevelopment of this urban space. The issue of areas of bad housing had been nagging at officials since the beginning of the century: but how are the actions of the Seine prefecture to be explained from 1941 onwards? Why, during the Second World War, were city officials so determined to prioritise, indeed to focus exclusively on, îlot 16? Why was it that a Paris construction project of a scale not seen since Baron Haussmann's time was planned at this point, when the actors themselves described the economic and political situation as unfavourable?

City Mayors, Raion Chiefs and Village Elders in Ukraine, 1941–4: How Local Administrators Co-operated with the German Occupation Authorities
Contemporary European History , Volume 23 , Issue 03 , August 2014, pp 405 – 428
doi: 10.1017/S0960777314000204 – Published Online on 26th June 2014
During the occupation of Ukraine, city mayors, raion chiefs and village elders played a substantial role in implementing occupation policies. Based in large part on primary sources from regional archives in Ukraine, the current article analyses the role of these local administrators, so far largely neglected in research on the occupation of Ukraine. Whatever their original motives were for joining the local administration (Hilfsverwaltung) – economic, nationalistic, or ethnic reasons, or a desire for better governance, local administrators nevertheless supported forced labour measures and the murder of the local Jewish population by identifying the local Jewish inhabitants, by administering the property of the murdered Jews or by facilitating Jewish forced labour duties. The article treats the city administration in Kamenets-Podol’sk in Podolia as a case study of the involvement of the local administration in the crimes committed under the occupation regime.

‘Unwilling’: The One-Word Revolution in Refugee Status, 1940–51
Contemporary European History , Volume 23 , Issue 03 , August 2014, pp 429 – 446
doi: 10.1017/S0960777314000216 – Published Online on 26th June 2014
This article details the origins of the human right to international asylum. While previous works locate its beginnings in East–West political conflict in the 1950s, I note the importance of American opposition to the Soviet invasion of Poland and the Baltic countries in 1939–40 and its later consequences for relief work with post-war Displaced Persons from those countries. Given that Eastern European states at the UN claimed to protect people displaced from these non-recognised territories, British and American delegates were forced to create a new refugee definition that allowed DPs to reject state protections and to seek asylum as refugees.

The Persistence of the Past: Memory, Generational Cohorts and the ‘Iron Curtain’
Contemporary European History , Volume 23 , Issue 03 , August 2014, pp 447 – 468
doi: 10.1017/S0960777314000228 – Published Online on 26th June 2014
Despite considerable evidence of the link between generational cohorts and mnemonic persistence in other social and historical contexts, existing research on memory in former state socialist countries tends to focus primarily on evidence of mnemonic change. In contrast, this article seeks to develop a more nuanced understanding of post-state-socialist memories, one capable of accounting for both mnemonic change and persistence. Methodologically, the article combines the analysis of personal memories across several generations with a reconstruction of the changing contours of everyday life in different historical periods, based on archival and secondary sources. To demonstrate the usefulness of such an approach, the article examines the memories of life at the Yugoslav border with Italy, as recounted by the inhabitants of the Slovenian border town of Nova Gorica in 2008.

Review Articles

Crisis, Normalcy, Fantasy: Berlin and its Borders
Contemporary European History , Volume 23 , Issue 03 , August 2014, pp 469 – 484
doi: 10.1017/S096077731400023X – Published Online on 26th June 2014

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