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History of Communism in Europe

Volume 1, 2010

Politics of Memory in Post-communist Europe

Jean-Claude Polet
Pages 49-58
DOI: 10.7761/HCE.1.49

Histoire, Mémoire et Eschatologie

History, as part of the “humanities department”, establishes facts, by way of investigating the sources. However, historians also pass a judgement over the moral attributes of past events. Given that the act of memorialisation is always incomplete, could one envisage an ideal horizon where justice and forgiveness are simultaneously restored? This eschatological perspective would require the reunion of past, present, and future tense. Without future, there is no hope. Without past, there is the risk of amnesia and the danger of minimizing the facts, actions, and responsibilities of the perpetrators against their victims. The present, in its turn, must be made fertile through the practice of recognition and repentance. It is only repentance that breaks through the iron cage of hatred and revenge (“eye for eye, tooth for tooth”). Peace is the event whereby reconciliation is enacted freely, by an appropriation of the past without external compulsion. Seen from an eschatological perspective, history and memory come to serve the common good.