Keep it Quiet! Family secrets in the aftermath of the second world war.
Travelling exhibition with stories hidden, but not forgotten
The project of The Vest-Agder Museum is a travelling exhibition called «Keep it quiet! Family secrets in the aftermath of the second world war». It is based on 23 personal testimonies which are rooted in experiences and untold stories from WW2.
The narratives we have received from 23 informants, reveal a wide range of experiences: Stories from women who had a romantic relationship with German soldiers and how that affected their children and even grandchildren; stories from descendants of the Nazi regime’s sympathisers or people who actively worked for and cooperated with the occupants; testimonies from descendants of people who went through traumatic experiences and incidents during the war, but did not get appropriate recognition or acknowledgement afterwards. Common within many of these experiences, are that they have been kept secret or embellished for a long time, with partly serious consequences, also for the descendants.
«Keep it quiet! Family secrets in the aftermath of the second world war» will be touring locally in the southernmost part of Norway and will later go national. We are also aiming to prepare school programmes that will accompany the exhibition. The educational activities will focus on openness concerning difficult and problematic experiences from the past and the long-term consequences of concealment.
The exhibition, which will be easy to transport and adapt to different venues, will be a construction of six cabinets that can be associated with confessionals. Each cabinet will contain a folding seat where the visitor can sit down and listen to extracts from testimonies, observe objects, and read quotations from the stories of our informants. The black cabinet has a mirror as floor and ceiling – to show that each generation’s stories can be mirrored in the next. The construction itself is decorated with historical pictures and information on I-ON, the project «Keep it quiet», WW2 and generation transfer. On the walls of the exhibition hall we will make posters with written abstracts of the interviews. There will most likely be arranged within a resting place with armchairs and a coffee table, equipped with books containing all the interviews, where the visitors can immerse themselves in the stories in full text. Keep it quiet description
Amongst Greenlanders in Denmark
The House of Knud Rasmussen will help to uncover issues of identity and identity creation in connection with migration. We are focusing on Greenlanders living in Denmark and the encounters and experiences, the meeting between the two cultures can bring. Greenland and Denmark share a common history, and today many people of Greenlandic descent are living, studying and working in Denmark. The House of Knud Rasmussen is involved in Identity on the Line, because it fits the vision of Knud Rasmussen and the obligation of the museum. Knud Rasmussen was a Danish polar explorer well known for documenting the Greenlandic identity and culture and disseminated his findings to Denmark and the rest of the world. At the museum, we want to bring this dissemination of knowledge up into present times. Through the subproject Amongst Greenlanders in Denmark, we are investigating what it is like to be a Greenlandic person living in Denmark. Many Greenlanders experiences preconceived notions of what they are and who they are. At the same time, Danes have a lack of knowledge of Greenlandic culture and history, and therefore a lack of knowledge of what it means to be a Greenlandic person living in Denmark. These issues can be difficult to talk about, understand and to communicate.
Forced migration among Sámi people.
This is an exhibition about forced migrations. You will meet people who share their own stories. A story difficult to tell. Absent in history books. You start at the invisible tent by the Norwegian coast. The today – barely visible – traces of the 100 years old settlements. You follow the invisible raid towards new lands. Then you sit down in the tent and listen to stories about the new, visible reality. Voices from those who came and those who were already on the land.
We also tell about other forced migrations in Sápmi and how displacements have affected our sisters and brothers from other indigenous peoples around the world. What does it do to us to be pulled up from the ground? Forced away, become someone else?
The difficult fate of Pomerania was especially bitter in the last century, when – after the second world war – huge masses of people of German nationality were forced to leave behind their homes and were replaced by Polish settlers who oftentimes – after the frontiers had been changed – had just lost their homes and lifetime possessions for the sake of preserving their national identity. Our Museum has been gathering the memories, stories, and objects from those people for years now, but there are still many areas of interest that have not receive proper attention and remained hidden as regarded shameful or inappropriate by some informants.
The settlers came to Pomerania from different backgrounds. All of them were Polish, but they could speak different local dialects and with different accents. They had different traditions, cuisine, and even folk costumes. Some of them were well-educated and some came from time-forgotten villages.
Therefore, the main goal of the project is to study and show the influence of those differences to the life of the settlers and their descendants. A lot of focus is put on ‘the next generation’ – people who were born and raised in Slupsk and Pomerania after the war. We will investigate how much they knew about their family history; how important it was for their sense of identity and well-being. We also talk with contemporary Pomeranian inhabitants on their knowledge about their ancestors and their sense of belonging.
During the implementation of Lithuanian project, interviews with the Holocaust survivors and their descendants, who are the participants of forced or voluntary migration processes, a will be conducted. The main goal of the project is to investigate the experiences of this group and find out how the traumatic memories are passed (or not) from one generation to another as well as to present the results of the research in the traveling exhibition. This kind of research and discussions are demanded by the poor communication of historical traumas in nowadays Lithuanian society: some difficult topics, such as the experience of sexual exploitation of Holocaust survivors’ women, have not been presented so far. There is also a lack of general reflection on the integration of Holocaust survivors into post-war totalitarian society. An attempt to talk about the experiences of those, who participated in the Holocaust, and their (as well as their families’) attempt to regain normal life after participation in the massacre is also generating fierce public reaction. The actualisation of migration processes and transmission of traumatic memory, caused by Holocaust, in the European context, will help to understand the motives of different peoples’ decisions and will give voice to the silent and traumatic memories. This research will help to analyse the challenges of nowadays migration processes and will contribute to the development of regional narrative as well as its’ integration to the context of European cultural heritage by showing miscellaneous links and possibilities to expand the boundaries of knowledge.
Up YU Go!
In the aftermath of the II World War, the so-called Second Yugoslavia emerged in South-East Europe: it was made up of six socialist republics – Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and two autonomous provinces within Serbia (Vojvodina and Kosmet)
Slovenia, the northernmost of the six federal republics, after years of emigration became an interesting destination in the 1970s. The most important immigration areas were the Croatian border area to Slovenia, a prevailing part of the peri-Pannonian Bosnia, the Negotin Krajina, the Southern Morava Basin and the Sandžak in Serbia and Montenegro.
It is estimated that up to 170,000 people moved to Slovenia between 1945 and 1990.
In this context, the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia researches the stories of people and their descendants who moved from the former Yugoslav republics to Slovenia after the Second World War and how the country’s independence in 1991 impacted their identity and sense of belonging. We aim to encourage reflection upon our own beliefs regarding identities, belonging, difference, exclusion/inclusion, multiculturalism and attitudes towards others within the concept of the nation state.
The migration of Italian Istrians
Period After World War II, 1945 and onwards.
The complex political history of the Istrian peninsula and its inhabitants involves a complex multi-ethnic population and history of 200,000 emigrants after World War II.
The exodus of Italians from Istria, which was a particular type of forced displacement of an autochthon national community, left Istria partially depopulated and lacking the cultural traditions of the semi-urban and urban populations. People that opted to emigrate would usually spend years in refugee camps throughout Italy waiting for job opportunities. The adaptation to new social and cultural realities was not easy as they were often regarded as second-class Italians or even fascists due to their decision to leave communist Yugoslavia.
Because of its political implications and other repercussions, the exodus was not the topic of conversations within families and in Istrian public spaces for decades. Silenced for such a long time, the new context and evaluation encouraged some to open up to researchers and speak up – which unleashes and provokes deep emotions at both sides. Second and third generation migrated Istrians are searching for their roots and identities.
The main findings and common features will be summarized and made available as a joint travel exhibition within Europe.