Amending the Past
Europe’s Holocaust Commissions and the Right to History
Critical Human Rights
Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors
“A very important contribution to the interdisciplinary scholarship on
the broad theme of reckoning with histories of atrocity.”
During the 1990s and early 2000s in Europe, more than fifty historical commissions
were created to confront, discuss, and document the genocide of the Holocaust
and to address some of its unresolved injustices. Amending the Past offers the first
in-depth account of these commissions, examining the complexities of reckoning
with past atrocities and large-scale human rights violations.
Alexander Karn analyzes more than a dozen Holocaust commissions—in
Germany, Switzerland, France, Poland, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, and elsewhere—
in a comparative framework, situating each in the context of past and present
politics, to evaluate their potential for promoting justice and their capacity
for bringing the perspectives of rival groups more closely together. Karn also
evaluates the media coverage these commissions received and probes their public
reception from multiple angles.
Arguing that historical commissions have been underused as a tool for conflict
management, Karn develops a program for historical mediation and moral
reparation that can deepen democratic commitment and strengthen human
rights in both transitional regimes and existing liberal states.
“Historical commissions, Karn argues, have brought expert historical practice to bear on complex questions, adding new meaning to facts that have either been debated or glossed over. These commissions matter because they serve to amend history in cases in which social memory has impeded understanding of historical injustices and begin the amelioration of past human rights violations.”
“Charged with excavating and exposing competing narratives of mass atrocities and their consequences, historical (truth) commissions have emerged as an important forum for conflict resolution. Alexander Karn’s comparative scope stands out among a growing body of research providing a set of tools, relevant to both academics and activists.”
—Daniel Levy, State University of New York, Stony Brook
Of Related Interest
New in Paperback!
LC: 2015008382 D
336 pp. 6 x 9