Collective Memory of Political Events: Social Psychological Perspectives

By James W. Pennebaker; Dario Paez et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Commemorating

Nico H. Frijda Amsterdam University

People commemorate emotionally significant events from their public past. In Holland, for instance, several commemorations have marked the 1953 flood that took 1,400 lives and a plane crash in Amsterdam that killed 500 people. The end of World War II is commemorated each year on May 4, the day the German troops surrendered. The 50th anniversary of the war's end was extensively celebrated in 1994 in France, and in 1995 in the Netherlands, in many towns and villages on the day the Allied troops entered there. Commemoration ceremonies were held in churches, at the foot of war monuments, at places where people had been shot or the executed buried. American and Canadian men of 70 years of age went to Europe and held reunions in the places where they had been as 20-year-old soldiers.

Commemorations of such public events like disasters and war are usually organized by governments, city boards, or citizen committees. Yet, participation is often massive. Individuals also hold private commemorations. They visit the graves of their relatives or friends, or, on their own, pass by a sign or a marker of an emotional memory, such as a plaque on a street corner indicating where someone had been shot. They watch television programs that review the past events or the public ceremonies.

These commemorations rest, to a large extent, on the emotions of those who suffered from the remembered events or who lost people in them. These emotions are still there, or wait for occasions to manifest themselves. Television programs broadcast people's expressions of grief during the public ceremonies and during the visits to the graves of those who died

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