The Past in the Present: World War II Memory in Asia and Europe

Photograph: 国家公祭网

Notwithstanding the global nature and impact of World War II, attempts to develop a transnational understanding of the war and its regional and global legacies are scarce and remain in an embryonic state. This project seeks to assess, contrast and connect national (local) commemorations of World War II in Asia and Europe and to explore approaches towards developing a transnational understanding of the war.


The initial aim of the project is to develop exchanges between academic and/or policy experts from China and The Netherlands on World War II commemoration cultures and their role in constructing local, national and regional narratives. The intention is to then expand the project to involve other countries and localities in Asia and Europe.


A first expert meeting, including a symposium and joint visits to heritage sites, was held in the fall of 2019 in Chongqing with participants from the key project partners: Southwest University (China) and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (The Netherlands).

A follow-up seminar will be held in the Netherlands as soon as conditions allow, with project participants and possibly new partners invited to discuss and explore joint research opportunities on questions such as the following:

  • How is WWII commemorated in the project countries? How have public and official commemorations and related national debates evolved over time?
  • Who are the key stakeholders of public commemorations, and how do these stakeholders shape the scope, object and discourse of such commemorations?
  • What events, people or values are being commemorated in public and official remembrances? Who or what is excluded?
  • What are the main themes, gaps and controversies involved in commemorations?
  • How do these commemorations relate to broader narratives and identities of the relevant stakeholders? What achievements and losses are commemorated?
  • What aspects of commemoration culture are currently evolving or being debated and what ‘unresolved’ issues remain?


  • Center for the Research on China’s Rear Area during the War of Resistance against Japan, Southwest University, Chongqing, China
  • NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, The Netherlands


An overview of project publications can be found on the Project Details sidebar.

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Published On: October, 2019