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The CityLab on the search for traces today –
Frankfurt and Nazism

CityLab Exhibition
9 December 2021 – 11 September 2022

In the autumn of 2020, 38 people from Frankfurt embarked on a search for traces of nazism. Their starting point was the present. They asked which places, things, or events reminded them personally of of the Nazi era. In which imprints, feelings, attitudes, or ideals do they find traces and continuations of the NS that still shape our society, even if the city's inhabitants have changed a lot?

In the CityLab exhibition, 25 different answers to these questions can be seen. The searching for traces begin at bunkers and memorial sites, in families or communities. Some of them open the view on other experiences of violence, which are not directly connected to the NS. And last but not least, they also lead to the repercussions of the NS, which express themselves as continued exclusion or racist violence.

Who belongs to the memory collective?

The CityLab "Searching for traces today" would like to encourage a critical examination of the "German memory culture". With its numerous memorial days and places, it is considered exemplary. However, there are also voices that criticize it as a "Gedächtnistheater" ("theater of memory") that serves to relieve society and prevents an active, individual assumption of responsibility.

The CityLab exhibition gives an impression of how plural today's memory collective is. Especially when it comes to the question of whom "German history" concerns and who should participate in it and in what way, homogeneous notions of "Germanness" become visible again and again. The project is intended to encourage us to think about remembering in an open and diverse way that corresponds to the reality in our city and our country. Our wish is to promote a community of memory in solidarity, in which everyone shares the goal of overcoming structures that are still marked by injustice.

The CityLab project takes up current impulses of memory research in culture science and the didactics of history. Both fields of research start from a productive understanding of memory: Everyone who lives here brings individual memories with him or her. And those who go in search of Nazi traces encounter local or established commemorative practices. This clash of memories does not lead to a competition for attention, but it releases new memories and historical references.

The project "Searching for traces today" explored what individual approaches different Frankfurt residents find to the Nazi history today. How can participation in German history be realized? Or to put it another way: What can a modern, contemporary and inclusive memory culture look like?

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