Europeans, both Eastern and Western, encountered a plethora of different experiences during the war, some positive but many negative due to the brutality of Nazism and the Red Army. Hardly a single family living on war-torn land was left untouched by their violence, losing family members, homes and, in some cases, their minds. This essay will seek to demonstrate that whether or not these experiences were forgotten hugely depended on the person and whether they actually wanted to wipe their past from existence: some simply could not forget, others refused to forget, and a number attempted to block out their memories in the pursuance of normality. Simultaneously, the use of national propaganda to reshape the ‘truth’ complicates the issue, adding an element of ‘institutional memory’ into people’s wartime recollections. Due to this, ‘memory’ will be regarded as what people think they remember rather than what they actually experienced. The memories of the Second World War continue to produce a multitude of histories, films and biographies and this essay will focus on evidence from two key texts, namely the screenplay Hiroshima, mon amour by Marguerite Duras detailing the love affair of a man from Hiroshima and a woman from Nevers and the memoir Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovály describing her suffering in Prague, to investigate the European success of forgetting the war before concluding that, for most survivors, the main problem was not the ability to remember but rather the inability to forget, especially in countries that were previously occupied by the Nazi regime. Divisions between neighbours, the continuance of Nazi anti-Semitic doctrines and the constant reminders of the destruction wrought by war made the events unforgettable and, thus, remembrance triumphed: the majority of Europeans were unsuccessful in forgetting their wartime experiences.
For many, the war was simply unforgettable due to the small reminders present in the post-1945, everyday world. The obvious place to begin is with the death toll: approximately 60 million people were killed, about 3% of the 1940 population, meaning that the majority of Europeans were related to or knew of someone who had died during the war. Thus, it was an impossible event to forget as lives were drastically altered. A similar comparison can be made to the utter devastation of the landscape across the continent in front-line fighting and air raids. From 1942 onward, the allied bombing of German cities resulted in the large-scale destruction of buildings, particularly in the cities, and, in 1945, around 4 million homes were destroyed in Germany alone. Consequently, homelessness became rife - it is estimated that 25 million people in the USSR and a further 20 million in Germany were forced onto the streets. Thus, there was the constant spectre of death and destruction, making it extremely difficult for Europeans to forget their experiences.
 Bessel, 27-8.
 Judt, 16-7.
- Quote paper
- Sam Hines (Author), 2019, How far did Europeans succeed in forgetting their wartime experiences? With reference to "Hiroshima, mon amour" and "Under a Cruel Star", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/980119