(A2-2) The Reappraisal of the Past and Reconciliation in Questions of Historical Guilt

In the light of the crimes of National Socialism, calls for a coming to terms with the past have gained great importance. Its urgency came to the fore again after the end of Communism. It became clear that historical constellations of guilt are reappraised on different levels: legally, politically and mentally. The call for reappraisal, however, must not be overburdened with expectations that cannot be met. Realising guilt is bound to a climate of the willingness to reconcile. Conversely, if reconciliation is to succeed, guilt must necessarily be recognised and named.

The project investigates how guilt is dealt with in situations of social conflict. It also explains when and to what extent strategies to pacify them take effect, and the conditions under which the past will be successfully reappraised in terms of a mental reconstruction process and learning process. The clarification processes after the peaceful revolutions of 1989 in Central and East Central Europe will serve as a guiding paradigm. Selected examples from the situations of radical change in German history after 1918 and 1945 will be drawn on for comparison, instances such as the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt by the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany issued in October 1945 and its history of reception. By interrelating historical, philosophical, socio-ethical and theological levels of reflection it will be elaborated on how guilt is realised, why guilt is (normally) denied, what constitutes a measured approach to situations of guilt, what the crucial steps to reconciliation are, which insights and what practices emerge from the Christian understanding of forgiveness. Likewise, religious and rational potentials for the escalation and de-escalation of situations of guilt are to be investigated and their relation determined. It will also be examined how the knowledge of reconciliation in dealing with conflict scenarios, which is inherent in religions to a greater or lesser degree, may be encouraged and stabilised. The investigation of the role Christian churches play in Central and Eastern Europe deserves particular attention here.

There is a close cooperation with Prof. Dr. Sándor Fazakas of the Debrecen Reformed Theological University and with a circle of theologians from Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia on issues of reappraising the past in Central and East Central Europe. An international symposium with relevance to Karl Barth’s theory of reconciliation, which will be attended by the most notable Barth researchers from all over the world, is being prepared for 2014. The symposium will primarily deal with the role Karl Barth’s theology played in the East-West conflict during the 1950s and 1960s and will address the influence of his theory of reconciliation.

The Project is part of coordinated project group The implementation and enforcement of norms.