Coming to Terms with the Past

    About Fikrun

    Fikrun wa Fann was a cultural magazine published by the Goethe Institute from 1963 to 2016 that supported and shaped the cultural exchange between Germany and Islamic countries. Together with the publishing of the last issue, “Flight and Displacement” (issue 105), in autumn of 2016 the maintenance and updating of this online portal was ceased.


    Very few societies have the good fortune to boast a truly unproblematic, non-violent past. Dark corners are often found even in exemplary democracies that have not fought in wars. By Stefan WeidnerMore ...
    Tourists posing at Peter Eisenman’s Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Photo: Stefan Weidner © Goethe-Institut

    Coming to Terms with the Past through Politics and the Law

    ‘Vergangenheitsbewältigung’ – coming to terms with, or (literally) ‘overcoming’ the past – is a word that is as popular as it is controversial. It is also imprecise. One is no longer in a position to come to terms with something that has already happened. By Peter ReichelMore ...
    Inscriptions on a cell wall in the EL-DE-Haus in Cologne, a former Nazi prison. Photo: Stefan Weidner © Goethe-Institut

    Stumbling Over Memory
    The Museum of the History of National Socialism in Cologne

    Since 1979 the German city of Cologne has been home to a unique memorial site and research institute that commemorates a specific element of the Nazi power apparatus: the bureaucratic and physical terror perpetrated by the state secret police. By Simone FalkMore ...
    Memorial site at a train station in the suburbs of Łódź in Poland in memory of the Jews of the Łódź ghetto who were deported and killed by the Nazis. Photo: Stefan Weidner © Goethe-Institut

    What Form Should Remembrance Take?
    Poland: A Victim State Coming to Terms with its Past

    ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ These words, a quote from the philosopher George Santayana, can be found on a plaque in the museum of the Auschwitz concentration camp. But what does ‘remembering the past’ actually mean when – as the written recollections of those who lived through it teach us – memory is a dynamic process? By Stanisław StrasburgerMore ...
    Anna Boghiguian: Drawings exhibited at the dOCUMENTA (13). Photo: Stefan Weidner © Goethe-Institut

    Confronting the Enemy’s Sorrow
    Arab Responses to the Holocaust

    The Arab perspective on the murder and displacement of the European Jews in the Second World War can only be assessed in connection with the Jewish settlement of Palestine. Periods of Holocaust denial have alternated with the acknowledgement of Jewish history in Europe. Now, however, there is growing recognition of the fact that only a mutual acknowledgement of the history of each other’s suffering will open up new perspectives for coexistence. By Götz NordbruchMore ...
    Berlin Wall memorial site. Photo: Stefan Weidner © Goethe-Institut

    Democracy Is a Prerequisite for Coming to Terms with the Past
    Coming to Terms with the Past Is a Prerequisite for Democracy

    As acting director of the agency overseeing the Stasi (state security) files of the former East German regime, Herbert Ziehm is very knowledgeable about coming to terms with a past under a dictatorship. In this interview he emphasises how closely democracy is linked to the careful re-examination of the past. By Herbert Ziehm / Albrecht MetzgerMore ...
    Workers colouring leather in the Old Town in Fes, Morocco.Photo: Stefan Weidner © Goethe-Institut

    Looking Back to the Future
    Morocco Struggles to Clarify its Post-Colonial Self-Image

    History does not have to be rewritten, but it is one of the most important bases for the restructuring of state and society after the Arab revolutions – as is the case in Morocco, where the so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission has initiated the process of coming to terms with the past from the top down. By Sonja HegasyMore ...
    Dalila Dalléas Bouzar: ‘Soldier, October 1988’. Pencil and crayon on paper. From the artist’s catalogue: Algérie année 0 ou quand commence la mémoire, Éditions Barzakh, Algiers 2012. © Goethe-Institut

    The Composite Past of the Future
    An Interview

    Fifty years ago, on 5th July 1962, Algeria officially became an independent state. The war of independence from 1954 to 1962 and the civil war in the 1990s were extreme collective experiences of violence, which so far Algerian society has scarcely been able to process. By Dalila Dalléas Bouzar / Martina SabraMore ...
    Supporters of the dictator display their allegiance: a woman holding a photo of Hosni Mubarak before the court where judgement was passed on 2nd June 2012. The judge sentenced the former president to life imprisonment. Photo: Philipp Spalek. © Goethe-Institut

    The Battle over Historical Memory in Egypt

    Egypt is no different from other countries where historical narratives mirror conflict and its resolution. The Mubarak regime, like those preceding it, effectively manipulated historical memory to serve its own purposes. By Judy BarsalouMore ...
    Demonstrators listening to a speech in Tahrir Square, 8th April 2011. Photo: Mosa’ab Elshami. From the exhibition Cairo: Open City at the Museum für Photographie in Braunschweig (until 23rd December 2012). © Goethe-Institut

    Iranian Literature – Coming to Terms with the Past Since the Iranian Revolution

    Given the absence of press freedom in Iran, both in the country itself and among Iranian exiles it is literature that is acting as a vehicle for discussion: about the path towards modernisation, about national identity, about the legacy that should be preserved on the one hand and the burdens to be got rid of on the other. By Kurt ScharfMore ...
    The coffins of soldiers killed in Syria are handed over to their relatives. Photo: Kai Wiedenhöfer © Goethe-Institut

    Challenges of Transition and the Dangers of a Slide into Civil War
    The Legacy of the Ba’ath and the Assad Regime

    ‘As a sect, the Alawites should be exterminated.’ This outlandish statement was recently posted on the Facebook pages of fanatical Syrian activists. This is not the first time such statements have appeared since the beginning of the protests against the regime in March of 2011. By Ahmad HissouMore ...


      Installation by Walid Raad at the dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel. Photo: Anders Sune Berg / dOCUMENTA (13). © Goethe-Institut

      Between Art and Politics
      Arab Positions at the dOCUMENTA (13)

      Many of the artworks of Arab origin at the thirteenth Documenta in Kassel are socio-critical and political, and explore the interaction with the media. The Arab revolutions also constitute a ‘nerve’ in the Documenta’s central exhibition hall, the ‘brain’, thereby emphasising the global significance of the Arab Spring. By Lotte FasshauerMore ...
      View of the dOCUMENTA (13) exhibition in Kabul. Photo: Martin Gerner © Goethe-Institut

      Art in a War Zone
      Why the Kabul dOCUMENTA Was Not What It Wanted to Be

      The dOCUMENTA in the German city of Kassel is said to be the world’s biggest exhibition of contemporary art. The 13th dOCUMENTA was held this year, and for the first time Afghanistan was a focus of the exhibition programme. By Martin GernerMore ...

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