New Publication: The memories & myths of WWII civilian suffering in the railways beneath London & Berlin

I am really happy that my first publication of 2016 has been released. It is a development of a paper I presented in Rome back in 2012 and has been published as a contributory chapter in a book edited by Keir Reeves, Geoffrey R. Bird, Laura James, Birger Stichelbaut and Jean Bourgeois. The book, Battlefield Events: Landscape, Commemoration and Heritage (part of the Routledge Advances in Event Research Series), involves nearly thirty contributors and is compiled of sixteen empirical chapters, an introduction and conclusion. Its front material describes it as:

“an investigative and analytical study into the way in which significant landscapes of war have been constructed and imagined through events over time to articulate specific narratives and denote consequence and identity. The book charts the ways in which a number of landscapes of war have been created and managed from an events perspective, and how the processes of remembering (along with silencing and forgetting) at these places has influenced the management of these warscapes in the present day. With chapters from authors based in seven different countries on three continents and comparative case studies, this book has a truly international perspective.This timely longitudinal analysis of war commemoration events, the associated landscapes, travel to these destinations and management strategies will be valuable reading for all those interested in war landscapes and events.”


My chapter, Negotiating the memories and myths of World War II civilian suffering in the railways beneath London and Berlin, attempts to add variety to the collection by targeted the taken-for-granted infrastructural networks of the London Underground and Berlin U- and S-Bahn as non-explicit landscape of war. Its introduction reads:

“In the spring of 1945 Londoners and Berliners alike emerged from beneath the ground to face the consequences of World War II (WWII). They surfaced from a host of subterranean spaces including air-raid shelters, bunkers and underground railways. But while the first two of these spaces are widely acknowledged to be physical reminders of the conflict, the latter are less regularly considered as former landscapes of war and are rarely analysed with respect to the wartime memories and myths that they reference (or fail to reference) through commemorative and heritage practices. This chapter remedies this situation by approaching the London Underground (Underground) and the Berlin Untergrundbahn (U-Bahn) and Stadtschnellbahn (S-Bahn) as former landscapes of war. It demonstrates how these landscapes witnessed and continue to play host to an array of WWII civilian exper- iences, memories and myths, which have repeatedly demanded public negotiation, been produced across and between the material, representational and experiential strata, and are influenced by the interplay of a range of mnemonic actors, processes and structures. It charts these subterranean railways’ WWII histories and characteristics before highlighting the dominant cultural tropes and mnemonic discourses that shape the remembrance and ‘heritagisation’ of subterranean experiences of civilians in wartime. Two cases illustrate the extent to which these experiences are commemorated and memorialised within the networks’ landscapes today. In Berlin, the commemorative absences and myths relating to the deliberate flooding of the U- Bahn and the S-Bahn at the end of the Battle of Berlin is considered, before attention is shifted to London and the earlier Bethnal Green Tube shelter disaster of March 1943. From here it is suggested that each case’s public negotiation can usefully inform the other in ways that highlight the potential for these landscapes to provide unique contexts in which to address the sensitive and often controversial subject of commemorating WWII civilian suffering.”

FIGMerrill3The small plaque commemorating the WWII bombing of Memlerstraße U- Bahn station at the station that is now named Weberwiese station. Photo by S. Merrill

FIGMerrill4The unfinished ‘Stairway to Heaven’ memorial on the 70th anniversary of the Bethnal Green Tube shelter disaster in 2013. Photo by S. Merrill

Further sneak previews of parts of the book (but sadly not my chapter) are also available on GoogleBooks. The book can also be ordered here. If you are interested in reviewing a copy let me know and I will put you in touch with the editors. Critical feedback always welcome!



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