85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History
Landscapes of War and Peace
April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky
Title: Recovering from War in Europe and the United States
Michael Pavelec, Air Command and Staff College
Steven Davis, Texas A&M University
Participant's Paper Title: Healing the Wounds of War and Expulsion: Grassroots German Expellee Activism and Post-1989 German-Czech Relations
Participant's Paper Abstract: Less than two months after Czechoslovakia's 'Velvet Revolution' the euphoria of its new democratically elected leaders had given way to the sober reality that steering their country's 'Return to Europe' was more problematic than hoped, particularly concerning reestablishing friendly relations with the Germans to the West. At the heart of the problem lay discontent over how to deal with the lingering wounds of World War II, and, for Czechs, how to confront questions of guilt and immorality in the postwar expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. Communist subversives littered villages in the German-Czech border region with flyers warning of an impending German return. Meanwhile, expellee organizations in West Germany were ramping up demands for monetary restitution and the reclamation of former property, and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl remained deafeningly silent on the matter. The new Czech leaders had grave concerns about how to deal with the growing anti-German sentiment in their country at the same time as they confronted Czechs with a new narrative that no longer labelled the expulsion as the final triumph over fascism, but as a moral tragedy and a failure of the principles of human rights and justice. To usher Czechs toward this new, critical moral appraisal of the expulsion and establish peaceful relations between Czechs and Germans the new Czech leaders relied on a network of friendship between Catholic expellees and Czech émigrés that was forged through Cold War cooperation and efforts for reconciliation during the preceding two decades. Using archival sources and interviews, this paper illustrates that this network played a pivotal role in bringing Czechs and Germans together on a political and social level and guided the two peoples toward overcoming the burdens of the past and building a peaceful and cooperative Central Europe for the future.
Denis Alfin, University of Wisconsin
Participant's Paper Title: Old Soldiers: Veterans' Homes and the Spectacle of Military Discipline, 1883-1917.
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper examines the lives of the men who resided in soldiers' homes at the end of the long nineteenth century. The state, represented by active military officers, subjected 'inmates' of the home to various forms of discipline and militarization. Despite some men having only been in the military for as little as a few months they lived under the authority of military regulations. Commandants required the inmates to wear military uniforms, awake at dawn to salute the flag, and conduct physical labor around the home. Men who violated these regulations were charged and tried before panels of active military officers. Those found guilty could be imprisoned on the grounds of the home, have their pensions taken, or could even be 'dishonorably' discharged from the home. A variety of homes existed at the Federal and state level, but this paper focuses on the United States Soldiers' Home in Washington, D.C. These institutions represented a new era of state enforced discipline. During an age when efficiency in the factory had become the status quo under Taylorism, the state tested a new regime of discipline in the homes where they mixed efficiency with militarism. But the home was a different place than the factory and the army. There was no product to be made, and war to be fought. Yet the state insisted upon creating a spectacle of military discipline grounded in efficiency. The result was a domestic space where men often chafed at the burdens of discipline, even while they enjoyed the relative comforts of some of the best welfare the state had to offer.
Christopher Goodwin, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Participant's Paper Title: Cultural Trauma and the Crisis of Prussian Masculinity during the Napoleonic Era
Participant's Paper Abstract: In the beginning was Napoleon,' commences Thomas Nipperdey's survey of Germany's nineteenth-century. Napoleon's victory over Prussia in 1806 ushered in reforms in many areas, especially within the Prussian army. It culminated in the Wars of Liberation of 1813-15, the campaigns that drove Napoleon from German lands. This was a Prussian army vastly different from that humiliated only a few years earlier. Not only was the standing army reformed, it was supplemented by the Landwehr militia and Landsturm irregulars. Prussia fielded 280,000 men, 45 percent of all males between the ages of 18 and 45. Recent research has shown that the Napoleonic invasion created a crisis of masculinity that was only overcome by the institution of a new hegemonic form: 'valorous' masculinity, the willingness to fight and die for the nation. My own work has shown the subjective dimension of this change through psychological trauma and societal pressure to conform to this modernized, militarized masculinity. Curiously, historians have yet to place the crisis of masculinity itself within a theoretical framework. Research has focused on the cause (the invasion) and the result (valorous masculinity), but not the formation of the crisis. I place the crisis within a sociological framework of cultural trauma, a status that relies on the meaning of a shocking event, the perception of its shattering effect. This perception is created in the trauma process. Romantic Nationalists, as a societal 'carrier group,' used their discursive talents to make a claim about the past, present, and future: Napoleon humiliated Germany, Germans suffer this humiliation every day, but valorous masculinity would reclaim German and male honor. Using various institutional arenas, this claim became widely accepted and passed into a master narrative?the creation of cultural trauma, the perception that Napoleon's invasion had destroyed masculine identity and it must be recovered through military means.