Lecture: Ghosts of War. Nazi Occupation and Its Aftermath in Soviet Belarus

Do, 9.3.2023, 13.00, hybrid: Lecture by Franziska Exeler, in cooperation with RECET


Do, 9.3.2023, 13.00, University of Vienna/online

Lecture in cooperation with RECET and the FSP Global History


How do states and societies confront the legacies of war and occupation, and what do truth, guilt, and justice mean in that process? The talk examines people’s wartime choices and their aftermath in Belarus, a war-ravaged Soviet republic that was under Nazi occupation during the Second World War.

After the Red Army reestablished control over Belarus, one question shaped encounters between the returning Soviet authorities and those who had lived under Nazi rule, between soldiers and family members, reevacuees and colleagues, Holocaust survivors and their neighbors: What did you do during the war?

The talk analyzes the prosecution and punishment of Soviet citizens accused of wartime collaboration with the Nazis and shows how individuals sought justice, revenge, or assistance from neighbors and courts. It examines the many absences, silences, and conflicts that were never resolved, as well as the truths that could only be spoken in private, yet it also investigates the extent to which individuals accommodated, contested, and reshaped official Soviet war memory.

It is often assumed that in societies that experienced war, occupation, or violent conflict, the act of seeking justice and accountability contributes to the development of free public spheres and democratic societies (a process also known as transitional justice). In contrast, the talk asks how efforts at “confronting the past” played out within, and at times through, a dictatorship like the Soviet Union.

Franziska Exeler is Assistant Professor of History at Freie Universität Berlin and a Research Fellow at the Centre for History and Economics, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. She received her PhD in History from Princeton University and held postdoctoral fellowships at the European University Institute in Florence and the International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Her book, Ghosts of War: Nazi Occupation and Its Aftermath in Soviet Belarus, has appeared in 2022 with Cornell University Press. The book is the recipient of the Ernst Fraenkel Prize awarded by the Wiener Holocaust Library in London.


Format: hybrid

Room: 2R-EG-07 (Lecture hall of the Institute for Eastern European History), Spitalgasse 2, Campus of the University of Vienna, Hof 3

Registration is requested only from those guests who would like to be connected via Zoom. Please feel free to visit the seminar without registration if you plan to take part live.


RECET Research Center for the History of Transformations: www.recet.at