J. Franklin Williamson

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Major Field: Modern European History
Konrad Jarausch


University of Georgia, 2004 (History, summa cum laude)
MA University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2008
MA Thesis: “Whom to Mourn and How?: The Protestant Church and the Recasting of Memory in Germany, 1945–1962”
PhD University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013
Dissertation: “Memory with ‘no clear answers’: Volkstrauertag, Opfer des Faschismus, and the Politics of Publicly Mourning the War Dead in Germany, 1945–1972″

Research Interests

My dissertation explores the history of public mourning practices in Germany from 1945 to 1975, namely the Volkstrauertag (“National Day of Mourning”) holiday in West Germany and its counterpart, the Gedenktag für die Opfer des Faschismus (“Memorial Day for the Victims of Fascism”) in East Germany.  Facing a common challenge in mourning for the wartime dead, political and social elites in each Germany offered different frameworks for surviving families to express their grief, as well as unique explanations for why so many had died.  While audiences did not always leave such “top-down” formulations unchallenged, these national ceremonies of remembrance offer a window into the German public’s discussions about remembering their history. From the late 1940s until the early 1970s, Germans thought long and hard about the meanings of “death,” “suffering” and “victim” while simultaneously considering what lessons for the future might be suggested by this most recent experience with war.  

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