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“Burying the Alliance: Interment, Repatriation and the Politics of the Sacred in Occupied Germany”

Seth Bernstein's report at the scholarly seminar of the International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences

In 1945 Europe was a vast graveyard. The diaspora of the dead was perhaps most prominent in Germany, where the fallen of the four occupying forces, as well as other nationals, were spread across the country. As the allies worked through the postwar settlement with Germany and its allies, they considered another pressing question: How to treat the dead? This presentation explored how the dead became a point of contact, conflict and contrast in Germany that provide a window into the dynamics of power sharing between the occupiers. The politics of the sacred demanded that each of the four allies enter into uneasy interactions and compromises, even as the lines in the Cold War hardened.