Prof. Dr. Tatjana Tönsmeyer (Wuppertal): Occupied Societies and Their “New Normal”: Everyday Life during World War II


Mo. 23.05.2022 | 17:00 Uhr

Should one not have been aware of it, media coverage from today’s Ukraine makes it blatantly obvious: Occupation is a kind of deeply asymmetrical relationship with direct as well as indirect encounters between “the occupiers” and “the occupied”. It is these encounters and their consequences during World War II that the lecture addresses. Locally, the occupying forces often outnumbered the local population, consisting to a large degree of women, children and the elderly as many men were absent for war related reasons. Contact with “the occupier” was often difficult to avoid, e.g. due to quartering. In addition: Occupation interfered in many ways with the everyday life of the occupied – housing markets broke down, supply with everyday goods was severely limited. Millions were deported for forced labour. Violence was omnipresent, especially in Eastern and South Eastern Europe, and the Jewish populations were persecuted in a genocidal manner. 

Based on these features, the lecture reflects on the “new normal” of occupation: It shows occupied societies as societies severely under pressure, its members painfully under stress since being occupied generally meant that people lost their everyday routines as well as convictions they had held as self‐evident and they often no longer knew whom they could trust. In this context social norms and accepted behaviour shifted. 

Tatjana Tönsmeyer is Professor at Wuppertal University in Germany. Her research fields are Modern European History, especially history of World War II occupation and National Socialism. She is a principal investigator of the research and editorial project World War II: Everyday Life Under German Occupation. Her books, among other publications, are: Das Dritte Reich und die Slowakei 1939–1945. Politischer Alltag zwischen Kooperation und Eigensinn, Paderborn 2003 and Adelige Moderne. Großgrundbesitz und ländliche Gesellschaft in England und Böhmen 1848–1918, Vienna 2012. 

Title: Occupied Societies and Their “New Normal”: Everyday Life during World War II. A European Perspective
Moderator: TBA
In cooperation with the University of Vilnius und Lithuanian Institute of History
Location: University of Vilnius, Faculty of History, Room 211

Workshop: „The Circle of Life” – Birth, Dying, and the Liminality of Life since the Nineteenth Century
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