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Dutch Wednesday, 29.01.2020: Traces of Trauma: Two cities and the Second World War: Nijmegen and St. Petersburg

Dutch Wednesday Lecture 29.01.2020

2020 marks the 75th commemoration of the end of the Second World War on the Western and Eastern front.

In the Netherlands as well as in Russia, the end of the war will be commemorated on a national, local and individual level. It is therefore interesting to compare how WW2 is commemorated today in a Russian and a Dutch city. Are there similarities, differences? Moreover, how can (the approach of) history explain this? What can we learn from each other?

Nijmegen, the 10th city by population in the Netherlands, is regarded as the oldest city in the country. In its long history as a strategic border fortress, the town has been invaded many times, for the last time during the Second World War by the invading German army in 1940 and by the American and British army in 1944. After the only partly successful allied military operation Market Garden, Nijmegen became the most northern ‘liberated’ city on the Western front until the offensive against Germany in February 1945. The town was under fire for months, but not evacuated. Nijmegen was, so to speak, ‘liberated, but not free’.

The year 1944 had already started disastrous for Nijmegen. The city was chosen as a target of opportunity and hit by an aerial bombing raid by the United States Army Air Forces on 22 February 1944. During one year, approximately 2000 inhabitants died, one of the highest amounts of civilian casualties in one city in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, not many people in the Netherlands know about this history. The question is: why? And what makes the comparison between St. Petersburg and Nijmegen, Russia and the Netherlands, such an interesting one?

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