Prague, 29 June – The international conference “Roads to 20th Century Totalitarianism – the Turning Points”, organised by the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, took place in Prague on 28 June. The purpose of the conference was to examine the critical turning points in 20th century European history, the situations and political decisions leading to the onset of totalitarianism and the lessons learned from history.
The conference was opened by Laura Trebel-Gniazdowska, deputy director of the Polish Institute in Prague (host of the event) and Dr. Łukasz Kamiński, president of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience. HE Dr. Miklós Boros, Ambassador of Hungary, honoured the event with his presence. A representative of the Swedish Embassy was also present.
The first paper was delivered by Prof. Klaus Ziemer, who presented an overview of definitions of totalitarianism in political science, stressing the word’s evolution over the decades. Dr. Kamiński focused on the issue of responsibility of various milieus for allowing totalitarian movements to take power.
The second session was named “Applied totalitarianism” and speakers presented experiences of various countries. Two papers were devoted to the issue of genocide, using the examples of the Holodomor in Ukraine (Yana Hrynko) and the German occupation of Poland (Eryk Habowski). Gabriella Müller described the way the Communist system was installed in Hungary.
The last two panels were dominated by the problem of the ineffective process of dealing with the past, especially in the context of punishment of those responsible for the crimes committed during the Communist period. Dr. Pavel Žáček discussed mistakes made in the post-1989 transformation time, stressing the importance of access to the archives. The last four speakers (Boštjan Kolarič, Catalin Constantinescu, Miroslav Lehký, Martin Slávik) focused on the problems of legal assessment of the crimes of the past in Slovenia, Romania, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. The Platform’s Justice 2.0 project was also presented.
The closing remarks were provided by Dr. Alexandr Vondra, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. The most important message referred to the future of Europe and the role that should be played by the remembrance of totalitarian experience.