Already at the last stages of the war discussions were under way as to what shape and form the memorialisation of the resistance to the German occupation of Denmark should take once liberation came. The right topics and artistic styles became an arena for debate all the while a host of local initiatives came into being all over the country shortly after peace broke out. By following the planning, reception, concrete form and subsequent use of some of these monuments, it is possible to identify several strands of narratives and to see diametrically opposed visions for the role of art and architecture in the building of a collective memory about the war, the resistance and the consequent remembrance of the occupation of Denmark.
In recent years the collective memory of the occupation and war years has been under scrutiny from both Danish historians, artists and politicians, and in the light of these continued attempts at revision, a critical focus on the role of the initial artistic memorialisation of the war in the 1940’s and 50’s has become relevant. How was the framing and narrativisation achieved with the help of art, and how do these compare to a present, somewhat contested, understanding of the war?
This presentation focuses on discussing several monuments to the resistance and the victims of war of the years 1940-45, when the country was occupied by Germany, by singling out two narrative themes - Sacrifice and Hope - that became the most dominant in the sculpted and built memorials ranging from unassuming plaques to the large Memorial Grove in Ryvangen, Copenhagen, and the 4th of May Student Housings in several major cities. The mixed choice of artistic styles, ranging from heroic naturalism to functional, modernist architecture, shows how no single, unified frame was achieved, but also that a consensus on the remembrance of the deeds and exploits of the resistance as the main theme was quickly reached.
From a present viewpoint many of the Danish WWII monuments seem oddly fashioned in an almost authoritarian vein, whereas others seem to almost disappear in their seclusion from daily life. The last part of the presentation will therefore focus on discussing the role of the artistic monuments and memorials as they do – or do not – contribute to a present collective memory of the German occupation of Denmark.
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