The Glory of Death? German Memorials of the Great War in the North-Western Czech Borderlands after 1945


  • Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences


War memorials (in German, Kriegerdenkmäler) were built after World War I in almost every village and town in Czechoslovakia that had a German population, to commemorate those who had been killed in the war. After 1945, these memorials were either destroyed or recycled. The author shows how the new Czech inhabitants who replaced the traditional population of the borderlands coped with these memorials. Focusing her research on the Cheb and Mariánské Lázně regions, she considers the destruction of the monuments to be an example of managing a “dissonant heritage.” Some of the monuments were demolished altogether; others were re-used for new purposes as parts of new objects. Applying Reinhart Koselleck’s theory that war memorials serve the living more than they do the dead, by creating communal attitudes toward common social issues, the author analyzes patterns in the erection of German memorials of the Great War in the Czech lands. She also refers to Bernhard Böttcher’s analysis of German war memorials in Czechoslovakia, which regards them as monuments commemorating a country which had ceased to exist. Her main thesis is that the “new life” given to war memorials after 1945 is connected to a new and different perspective among Czechs on World War I, to their hostile attitude towards the German heritage of Czechoslovakia, and to a different perception of memorials inherited from the past.

Keywords: World War I; war memorials; dissonant heritage; Czechoslovakia; German minority

DOI: 10.14712/23363231.2019.10

© 2019 The Authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.