In response to troubling developments in political discourse in recent years, German elected officials and citizens' organizations have called for action to renew public commitment to democracy, Europeanism and internationalism. One of the activities being expressly encouraged is the discovery of so-called "Orte der Demokratiegeschichte" in Germany's built environment and their development into "Lernorte der Demokratie".
Against this background, the DFG-funded project Buildings of the Allied Occupation sets out to explore the historical legacy of built structures in Germany that attest to the Western Allies' efforts to 'democratize' their former enemy after the Second World War and to forge a European as well as a larger Western community based on shared cultural values. So far this legacy – which includes buildings for education and recreation, for science, history and art, for religion, for health and social welfare, and not least for grass-roots political organization and action – remains largely invisible to the public and little known to historians. The project will:
- identify and document these structures as they exist in the built environment today
- research and assemble the history of their conception and construction
- contextualize this history within the joint Allied and German democracy-building effort of the occupation period (1945-1955)
- analyze the new corpus of sites in terms of their potential for valorization as "Orte der Demokratiegeschichte" by applying theories of heritage practice and performance current in the field of Heritage Studies.
In so doing, the project will fill a significant gap in historical knowledge about German-Allied relations during the formative years of the modern Federal Republic. It will also add needed scope and nuance to the topography of "Orte der Demokratiegeschichte" currently being generated by German institutions – a topography that so far lacks sites of American-German, British-German and French-German cooperation in building Germany's post-war democracy, and thereby risks missing a key opportunity to achieve some of this effort's core programmatic goals. At the same time it will examine critically the notion that heritage sites can serve as "models" for thought and action, and will thereby advance the international discourse on the political role and functioning of cultural heritage.