“Remembering Rituals and Rules: European Memory-Attitudes and Religious Education” Results from Germany, Latvia and Poland

August 9, 2015

What do young students (9-19 years old) from different countries know about memory cultures, how do they cope with own, family- and national experiences? A GermanLatvian-Polish project give some answers (http://lcm.lv/projekti/trimda-forums/231-trimda-forumausgabe-4-2015) and facilitates similar and further research, such as Estonian or Lithuanian context. Researchers, who are interested in this and similar projects, are invited to contact the coordinator Geert Franzenburg (gfranzen@kk-ekvw.de).

Prof. Dr. Reinhold Boschki (University Tuebingen) characterizes the project and its results in his preface:

Memory is a key factor for identity construction – be it on an individual or collective level. Without memory we would not know who we are, where we come from, who and what were persons and events that formed our selfunderstanding and our world-view. But memories do not fall from heaven, they are received and acquired and in lifelong learning processes. Especially young people are influenced and shaped by memories of their own life experience but also by memories that come from others, first of all their families, but as well from collective entities they belong to (ethnic, religious, social, national groups).

In Europe we have a great variety of collective and social memories represented in different nations and regions. The research project “Remembering rituals and rules: European Memory-Attitudes and religious education” is an exciting attempt to understand the different approaches to memory and memory based identity construction of young people in Germany, Poland, and Latvia. With the help of quantitative and qualitative empirical studies researches were able to investigate the social construction of selfunderstanding of young people being part of various groups. “Belonging” seems to be a key factor for identity formation. Individuals draw crucial elements of historical narratives told and transmitted by their in-group and adopt them in their own personality. This is true for positive events but also with respect to traumatic experiences of suffering. For young Germans, Poles, and Latvians the remembrance of NS-genocide, the Holocaust, has a crucial influence on their identity formation – but for each group in a different way. Results of the empirical investigation “underline that developing one’s own identity is embedded in an context of social challenges and knowledgetransfer, and depends on interests, experiences, stereotypes and purposes of the actors, particular in countries with common cultural heritage but different historical development, such as Germany, the Baltic States, and Poland.” (p. 11-12). Most exciting findings show that these collective memories are transformed in a pluralistic Europe because (young) people encounter young people from other social and historical background and thus learn different perspectives on historical events (“conflicting memories”). Encounter and dialogue seem to be a most appropriate way to open national, ethnic, and religious self-understandings towards a common European understanding of history and present. It is a means to overcome self-centred understandings of history and present. German, Latvian and Polish pupils agree that remembering the past might prevent traumata in future times. Dialogue and encounter (for example youth exchange) could help nations to overcome enmities deeply rooted in history and find ways to live together in respect and friendship. One more crucial aspect of the study concerns the role of religions in the process of memory. Religions are memory based. They derive their identity from focusing on past events and traditions. For this reason religious education itself is a predominant way in transmitting memories (narrations, traditions, symbols, rites, and rules) to future generations. Religious education help people to get sensitized for historical events and thus getting sensitized for events that happen in presence (e.g. discrimination, persecution, injustice, and violation of human rights) in order to find ways to build a society in future based on respect, tolerance, and human rights.