Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Reads Event: U-M Professor Brian Porter-Szucs Discusses The Memory Wars: Competing Claims of Martyrdom During WWII In Eastern Europe

Thursday January 9, 2014: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This year’s Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads title, Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, is the story of a 15 year old Lithuanian girl during the time of the genocide of Baltic people, whose family is torn apart when Soviet officers invade her home. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother are sent to a Siberian work camp, where they must fight for their lives.

Find out more about this disturbing period of history as U-M Professor of History Brian Porter-Szucs gives rich background to the time period of this international award-winning bestseller by providing a broader context for understanding the ways different groups in Eastern Europe remember the traumatic decade of the 1940s.

Tens of millions of people died in Eastern Europe during the Second World War, and Lithuania alone lost approximately 14% of its pre-war population. The region suffered from not one but two occupation regimes, from both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and each brought its own distinctive forms of terror and suffering. During the following decades, the memory of WWII became a battleground of its own, as ethnic, national, religious, and ideological groups competed to claim the status of a collective victim, and to place the blame onto some other collective enemy.

The suffering of actual humans got lost in these squabbles, and empathy was pulled back to the narrow confines of one’s own community. Competitive martyrology continues to cloud the memory of WWII in Eastern Europe.

Brian Porter-Szucs is a professor of history at the University of Michigan, where he specializes in the history of Poland and modern Roman Catholicism. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the author of several notable works.