German Military History in Europe, 1945–1990: Representation, Organisation and Tradition of Armed Forces in Democracy and Dictatorship (60th International Conference on Military History)

Jörg Echternkamp's picture
Call for Papers
September 17, 2019 to September 19, 2019
Subject Fields: 
German History / Studies, Military History, Contemporary History, Modern European History / Studies


The interest in an integrated East and West German historiography has grown in addition to the ongoing trend towards historical studies from a transnational perspective. There is a discussion of whether and where it is useful to view the history of the Federal Republic of Germany and the history of the German Democratic Republic together and relate them to each other given the opposing state systems and social orders. Furthermore, it is necessary to clarify which concepts are useful for historians to write a German-German history. Finally, we have to ask how German military history after 1945 can be integrated into a European narrative.

So far, the military history dimension has hardly been taken into consideration in these debates. Nevertheless, initial works within the ZMSBwresearch project “German Military History 1970 to 1990” have shown the usefulness of a perspective integrating the two German states while considering the European framework. The conference will seize on this desideratum. Addressing the issues of representation, organisation and tradition, it will suggest approaches for this field of research which will serve as analytical guidelines and structure the conference. The concept of representation focusing on the self-image and the outside perception of the armed forces, on their position in society and the symbols they use offers links to the specific methodology used in cultural, political and social history. Organisation theory approaches allow for a view on the different armed forces legislation as well as on the alliance and internal structures of the military. The construction of tradition raises the issue of breaks and continuities in the twofold German military history after 1945 and 1949 respectively.

Against this background, the conference pursues three objectives. Firstly, it is dedicated to the military and security-political, civil-military and intra-military relations in the context of epochal trends. As a consequence, the panels will explore military history in different contexts: political (East-West conflict, reconstruction, establishment of new orders, alliance systems, national defence, reforms, security, images of history and nations, human rights), social (protest movements, individualisation, environment), economic (changes in the work environment, consumption, economy between boom and crisis, technology) and cultural (mass media, individualisation). Thus, the conference will relate current trends in contemporary history to military history issues and underline their relevance in these fields. Secondly, it will determine convergences and divergences between East and West – mutual perceptions, relations, parallels and differentiations – in a German, European and international context. Thirdly, it will verify the still existing teleological approach to the Federal Republic of Germany as a history of success and to the German Democratic Republic as a history of failure.

We welcome papers exploring relevant aspects of the representation, organisation or “tradition” of armed forces, preferably with an East-West German perspective. We are also interested in papers examining the topic in an international context. Conference languages will be German and English; venue: Seminaris-Seehotel in Potsdam/Germany. We will cover travel expenses and costs for accommodation. The publication of selected papers is intended. You are kindly invited to submit your proposal (max. 2500 characters) with a brief CV by 31 January 2019 to

Contact Info: 

Jörg Echternkamp and Christoph Nübel, Bundeswehr Centre of Military History and Social Sciences (ZMSBw), Zeppelinstr. 127-128, 14471 Potsdam, Germany