Competitive or Multidirectional Memory? The Interaction between Postwar and Postcolonial Memory in the Netherlands

I.K.J. Raaijmakers, I.M.A. Van Ooijen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article explores the relationship between two cultural memories in the postcolonial Netherlands: of World War II and of the Dutch-Indonesian war of decolonization. Through two case studies we analyse what happens when both memories encounter each other in public space. The first case concentrates on the early postwar commemoration practices centred on 4 May, the Dutch Remembrance Day of World War II. We show that the focus on heroes and national unity in the cultural memory of World War II enabled Indies veterans to articulate their own interests. The Indies veterans, on their turn, managed to change the content and ceremony of 4 May. The second case focuses on Camp Vught, a former concentration camp that was reused after the war as a reception centre for Moluccan soldiers of the colonial army and their families. This case illustrates that the site provided a platform for the Moluccan inhabitants to strive for recognition and speak about their history while at the same time increasing the site's silent hierarchy of suffering. We argue that there is an important resonance in the Netherlands between both cultural memories. In viewing them as part of the same memorial landscape, we state—in line with Michael Rothberg's concept of ‘multidirectional memory’—that these memories have a competitive relation as well as a strengthening impact on each other.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-483
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Genocide Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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