75 years after WWII: Peace under Construction?

Look back, think ahead – this is the motto of the two linked events of histoCON 2020 organized by the Federal Agency for Civic Education/Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (bpb), funded by the Federal Foreign Office/Auswärtiges Amt, from May 6-9, 2020 in Berlin. histoCON 2020 aims at two different target groups of different ages. It will not only commemorate the end of the war on the 8th of May, but also bring together 500 young people aged between 18 and 35 from all over the world, in order to discuss narratives about the Second World War, its continuing effects and lessons that can be drawn from its history. The central question of the event will be: 75 years after WWII: Peace under Construction?

histoCON 2020 combines two events at the EUREF-Campus in Berlin-Schöneberg: The histoCON Laboratory as well as the histoCON Campus.

What are the differences, what are the similarities?

In short: Although the two events aim at two different target groups, the events are closely interlinked and share common items on the programme.

The histoCON Laboratory addresses young people aged from 18 to 25 – called Newcomers. Altogether we’ll have 250 young attendees from all over the world who, apart from their school education, had little or no contact with the discourse on the perspectives on World War II and its consequences. They will get the possibility to reflect on the significance of war and peace in past and present. The Laboratory will provide an opportunity to discuss topics related to war and peace in the context of World War II and to gain new insights into its history and aftermath.

The histoCON Campus addresses young people between the ages of 25 and 35 – called Young Professionals. These will be 250 participants with previous knowledge in the field of historical education, for whom the conference provides an opportunity to reflect on the significance of World War II for contemporary historical images and receptions, for historical learning and cultural projects. The programme includes high-quality contributions from the fields of science, education and culture and offers networking opportunities which may lead to new projects.

Independent but not separated: The Laboratory and the Campus will be brought together at central points (e.g. opening, closing, meeting with well-known representatives from the fields of politics and science). Besides, Young Professionals of histoCON Campus organize certain programme items for the histoCON Laboratory event.

The histoCON at a glance: A great opportunity for young people to discuss with their international peers the matter of war and peace in workshops, panel discussions, lectures, open spaces and excursions in Berlin – including the invitation to the German Federal Government’s official commemoration ceremony on the 8th of May.


The two events histoCON Laboratory and histoCON Campus focus on three main topics:

  • After the Holocaust
  • Global Memories of War
  • Hopes for Peace, Liberty and Human Rights

After the Holocaust
The history of the Holocaust is closely entangled with the history of World War II. Following the end of World War II, the full extent of the systematic murder of six million Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany was revealed to the global public. The primary objective of this thematic focus is to discuss cultures of Holocaust remembrance and to reflect upon the responsibilities placed on us both today and in the future. Due to its singularity, which distinguishes it from all other genocides and mass murders in history, there is always a certain amount of tension between the memory of the Holocaust and that of other groups victimised by the National Socialists. This thematic focus therefore also provides an opportunity to discuss the history and experiences of other victim groups in relation to the systematic murder of Jews (the Shoah) and to reflect on the term “Holocaust.” Here are some exemplary questions which will be dealt with in the different programme parts:

  • What specific forms have survivor traumas taken – and how do these traumas affect future generations?
  • How is the Holocaust commemorated in different countries around the world?
  • What role did information policy and the media play at the time and what is the current situation in the digital age?
  • How is remembrance likely to change, given the fact that there will soon be no more contemporary witnesses left?

Global Memories of War
The term “World War” is well chosen – various theatres of war encompassed the entire globe. Nevertheless, most people are only familiar with a small subset of events, namely those with the greatest relevance to their own respective countries, as it is those events that are communicated and commemorated in schools and public spaces. This thematic focus therefore emphasises the global significance of World War II, making clear that all six continents were affected in different ways. Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North- and South-America – they all have their own historical points of reference in the collective memories of various social groups as well as different cultures of remembrance. Multi-perspectivity will be the central aspect of this focus so as to facilitate an understanding of World War II as a global war. For this reason, this focus will encompass transnational approaches, the concept of entangled history and places of World War II that have been “overlooked” in European or national narratives. The following exemplary questions will be dealt with in the discussions:

  • What is the significance of commemorating World War II in the respective country or region?
  • Which historical-scientific insights have been gained about the development of the respective culture of remembrance?
  • Which figures play a central role in remembrance (heroes, soldiers, victims, perpetrators, displaced persons)?
  • What were the political and social consequences of the end of the War in different regions?

Hopes for Peace, Liberty and Human Rights
Never again – this was the world community’s greatest hope after a war that caused 55 to 70 million deaths, immense human suffering and a destruction of incomparable dimensions. The immediate post-war period was animated by the desire to build structures for more peace and cooperation – for example with the help of international institutions like the UN and the (Universal) Declaration of Human Rights. Also the establishing of what was later to become the EU was driven by this desire to avoid future wars on the continent. What is more: The Second World War has also long been regarded as a catalyst for the worldwide wave of decolonisation that began after 1945 – by fuelling aspirations for freedom and self-determination in the affected countries. Nevertheless, many hopes associated with the end of the War have never been realised. The emergence of human rights norms stagnated with the onset of the Cold War, and the massacre of Sétif in Algeria on the 8th of May 1945 demonstrates that not everyone associates peace with this date. Therefore, this thematic focus asks about the outcome of the dreams and hopes related to the end of World War II. Exemplary questions are:

  • Where has the UN been successful and where has it failed?
  • How might future wars look like and how could they be prevented (e.g. climate wars)?
  • Which of the former colonies’ aspirations were realised after the end of the war and which were not?
  • What does Europe look like today? Is it still the peace project it originally started out as?