Call for Papers - European Literatures of Military Occupation 1938–1955
April 4−7, 2022
Villa Vigoni, German-Italian Center for European Dialogue, Lake Como, Italy
Conveners: Matthias Buschmeier (Bielefeld) / Jeanne E. Glesener (Luxembourg)
Europe – A History of Occupation
The history of Europe in the 20th century is deeply marked by the experience of military occupation during and after World War I and World War II. In the aftermath of World War I, the European political landscape went through a process of reordering and restructuring. As a consequence, many of the ethnic questions throughout Europe were neglected and passed over in favour of power politics. The severe impediment for national identity construction resulting from it in almost every European country had long-lasting effects throughout the remainder of the 20th century and beyond.
Although World War I and its aftermath confronted many Europeans with the reality of military occupation, its character remained mainly regional, and it had arisen out of special circumstances, which can barely be brought to comparison. This situation radically changed with the German subjugation of almost every European country during World War II. After the Thirty Years’ War and the Napoleonic Wars, Hitler’s expansive imperial policy confronted millions of European citizens with the experience of an enduring occupation, forcing states and individuals into the dilemma of deciding between collaboration or resistance.
Historical Research on Occupation – Desiderata for Literary Studies
For some time now, historians have been investigating the history of occupations during World War II within the history of national states and focusing on everyday experience under occupation within the framework of collaboration or resistance. More recently, however, they have started to argue that such a dichotomy does not do justice to the lived reality of everyday life in the occupied societies (Tönsmeyer/Dieckmann/Quinkert 2003; Tönsmeyer 2014, 2015). It turns out that, by their radical opposition on the battlegrounds, the experiences of occupiers and of occupied were by far more intertwined and complex as hitherto thought, especially considering the lasting temporal character of the occupations in Europe in the 20th century.
Each occupation opened a contact zone that also led to exchange and permanent communication, transforming the military front into a selectively permeable membrane of contact. Occupation was a “social process of everyday life” (Dlugoborski 1995, 15). Needless to say that, for millions, this contact zone turned into a death zone.