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Memorialisation Transnational Resistance

“Resistance is not the cult of the past”

On  6 June 1994, many international heads of state and governments gathered in France  to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandie in 1944 and to underline the importance of this event to liberate Europe from fascism and to stop the war.

 

But at the same time, a new war was going on in Europe, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the international community remained widely indifferent to it, refusing to support those who were defending independent and multiethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina. In besieged Sarajevo, many were shocked by this attitude, and this was also the case elsewhere in Europe where civil society groups organized activities to show their solidarity with Bosnia and Herzegovina and to protest against the attitude of their own governments. One of these activities was a demonstration just before the official commemoration of the Allied landings, on 4th June 1994 in Caen (Normandie). The demonstration gathered around 10.000 persons and was organized by “Citizens for Bosnia Herzegovina against ethnic purification” and other French solidarity groups. By choosing this date and place, the organizers wanted to point at the contradiction between the government’s celebration of the resistance against fascism in 1944 and their current attitude regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina. In one their leaflets, with the title “On June 4 in Caen: Let’s demonstrate against a new barbarism / For a Europe in solidarity with Bosnia”, the organizers wrote:

 

“(…) RESISTANCE is not the cult of the past, the MEMORY of past massacres must not obscure those of the present. (…) We will go to Caen on 4 June to affirm, in this high place of the Liberation, that WE CANNOT ABANDON THE RESISTANCE FIGHTERS OF TODAY IN BOSNIA AND CELEBRATE THE RESISTANCE FIGHTERS OF YESTERDAY. They are fighting for the same cause: the refusal of the dismemberment of their country, of Europe, by racist nationalisms. It is alongside this resistance that our governments should have intervened. It is at its side that we are. (…)”

 

The demonstration was supported by several former resistance fighters, for example Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising  against the Nazis in 1943, and Jean-René Chauvin, former member of the French resistance and survivor of Mauthausen, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. When Jean-René Chauvin wrote a message calling for the demonstration, he ended it with the following words:

 

“All together we could take up these two slogans of the Yugoslav partisans who fought together against the Hitlerian occupiers:

BRATSTVO-JEDINSTVO: BROTHERHOOD-UNITY

SMRT FASIZMU – SLOBODA NARODU: DEATH TO FASCISM – FREEDOM TO THE PEOPLE

 

Nicolas Moll

Sources / Further reading
  • Nicolas Moll, “Spain, Munich, Auschwitz: The role of historical analogies in the protest movements in Europe against the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1992-1995”, in Memory and Social Movements, ed. by Stefan Berger and  Christian Koller, 2024.
  • “Wake up Europe! 100 stories about solidarity in times of war”, digital platform of the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina: https://wakeupeurope.ba/shop/?lang=en

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