The sorrows of Belgium. WWII memories and family transmission

Begin - Einde 
2017 - 2018 (lopend)
Vakgroep Geschiedenis
Andere instituten 
Université catholique de Louvain



While academics in the last two decades deconstructed several, persistent myths surrounding the national history of WWII in Belgium, its legacy endures as a divisive factor between the main political families and language communities. The striking absence of any unifying national or patriotic memory of the war contrasts with the still dominant but historically incorrect dichotomist perception of a collaborationist Flanders and a resistant Wallonia. Collaborators in Flanders and their sympathizers succeeded to consolidate and sustain a dominant discourse of victimization while a patriotic narrative connected to a general antifascist discourse took root in the French speaking part of Belgium. The origins and development of these divisive memories has been studied extensively in a variation of top down analysis, focussing on how memories were promoted and authorized into the public domain. To better understand the mechanisms and durability of these diverging memories this project will focus on a domain that has remained largely invisible until now: the intergenerational transmission of memories within families, placed within the evolving temporal and spatial contexts of Belgian society.Firmly placed in the field of memory studies and in particular the model of communicative and cultural memory, TRANSMEMO connects several disciplines: history, social and cognitive psychology and political sciences to analyse the mechanisms of intergenerational memory-transfer and its social impact. We also add a social component to the research, supported by insights pertaining to the failure or success of reconciliatory processes in post-conflict societies.TRANSMEMO will conduct semi-structured interviews with 3 generations of 80 families of Belgian collaborators and resisters, combining both the psychological and historical approach as an integrated and interdependent methodology for each interview. Innovative methods will be implemented, notably the group talks and the merged analysis of the new interviews with the existing heritage of historical oral sources. For the latter the unique federal heritage collection of historical oral sources at CegeSoma will be analysed and connected with the family interviews. 

TRANSMEMO aims for an academic output that will contribute to a better understanding of the functioning of collective memory and transition of memory within families.

TRANSMEMO also has the ambition to better understand reconciliation in practice by bringing together the descendants of the ‘opposite sides’ and create a framework for mutual dialogue.



Postdoctorale medewerker(s)

Externe medewerkers

Valérie Rosoux

Institut de Sciences Politiques Louvain-Europe (ISPOLE) Université catholique de Louvain - UCL

Olivier Luminet

Université catholique de Louvain, Research Institute for Psychological Sciences (IPSY)