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Monuments for deserters: A particularity of German memory culture


Marco Dräger


This paper examines the changing face of deserters in Germany and the gradual entry of monuments dedicated to them into German memorial culture. The multiple changes in the perception of the Wehrmacht (united armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935-1945) deserters during the last 70 years from cowards and traitors to (anti-)heroes to victims is the result of generational shifts and changed political contexts. Deserters from the Wehrmacht were a taboo subject for a long time. Over the course of the past thirty years, their story has been reappraised. It now has a visual presence in the form of counter monuments which challenge notions of traditional heroic military virtues and the place of resistance in modern political German culture. Counter-monuments, which had their origins in Germany in the 1980s, were always intended to be provocative, for they sought to disrupt a discourse that had become anachronistic, even unbearable in the eyes of many. Whether they will continue to have a presence, whether further deserter monuments will be built, or whether a future retrospective evaluation will show these monuments to have been an ephemeral and singular phenomenon, is still uncertain. 


Counter memorials, Deserter memorials, Deserters, Germany, Memory culture, Nazi Germany, War, Wehrmacht

How to Cite:

Dräger, M.  (2021). Monuments for deserters: A particularity of German memory culture, Historical Encounters, 8(3), 85-92.


  • Published 22 December 2021

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License

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