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  3 (2004), Nr. 1: Inhalt
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<1>
Many historical examples document to what extent the "death of a powerful person" often forms just the beginning of the staging of a monumental death cult, which in turn in its part reflect the ambitions and ideological appropriations of the heirs, starting with the ancient-world funeral ceremonies for deceased sovereigns down to state funerals sometimes organised as mass deployments in the 20 th century.

 
<2>
The last journey of a king - or a politician - has up until today always been a "spectacle for the senses" a "Theatrum Doloris", which with the systematic utilisation of medial and visual strategies should have a sustainable and lasting impact on the participants. Every state funeral is a highly official ceremony tied up in a complex, aesthetic framework, whose procedure is often enough defined by the attempt to politically idolise the deceased. Even the slightest, apparently spontaneous, gesture (such as the salute of the three-year-old John John Kennedy in front of his father's flag-covered coffin at the Arlington National Cemetery) are in such contexts calculated for effect and carefully rehearsed in advance. Just how burials can be systematically channelled into propaganda events was ostensibly demonstrated by the Russian dictator, Stalin, who by conserving the corpse of his predecessor Lenin, with formalin, glycerine and potassium acetate, stylised him as the popular figurehead of the Russian Revolution.
 
<3>
Beyond the act itself, it is not seldom that the instrumentalisation of "state funerals" or "heroic burials" is continued in the effort to inscribe the event in the memory of posterity in a certain form. Taking deliberate advantage of the emotional "state of emergency" caused by the "loss of a hero" the "death cult" is used to create or re-evoke specific memories, which are to serve certain social groups - be it First World War veterans and Verdun combatants or NS followers.
 
<4>
Which function is accorded to the obsequies within such scenarios? Which image of history and historical myths can be reconstructed in this context, and with which media are these conveyed? Which ideas, motives and staging intents were behind the action of the respective players? These central questions were the main focus of an interdisciplinary and international symposium on " Death cult, media and remembrance culture. France, Germany and Poland - a comparison", which we held with the kind support of the Volkswagen Foundation in December 2002 in the Gustav-Stresemann-Institut in Bonn. The objective was to trace the relation of death cult and social development comparing selected examples from Western and Eastern European history, spanning different periods of the 19 th and 20 th century.
 
<5>
The essays published in this edition of zeitenblicke originate from the Symposium in Bonn and have been supplemented by other articles - such as the interview with the historian, Rolf Reichardt, a specialist in French Revolution. Naturally enough such an ensemble of texts by so many different authors cannot achieve the self-containedness of a monograph. Nevertheless, we hope we have illustrated the central aspects of the historical death cult. Our heartfelt thanks go not only to the Foundation, which made our symposium possible in the first place, but also to the authors, and above all to Dr. Verena Zimmermann (Munich), whose wonderful organisation talent made the day a success.
 
Cologne and Heidelberg, May 2004
Gudrun Gersmann / Edgar Wolfrum
 


ZEITENBLICKE ISSN: 1619-0459