Teaching the War. Reflections on Popular Uses of Difficult Heritage

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Today many young people travel to former battlefields and death camps, they visit war museums and play war video games. It is important to keep an eye on these popular trends because they can generate distorted or simplistic images about World War II and the Holocaust. The purpose of this chapter is to stimulate research into the relationship between popular uses of "difficult heritage" about World War II / Holocaust and history teaching. Remarkably, we know little about the interaction between popular culture and school history. How can both fields benefit from each other to enhance historical understanding of young people in a pluralist democracy? This chapter is a first attempt to answer this question. It starts with clarifying the meaning of difficult histories related to hierarchies of war memories and the implications for multiperspectivity. Next, difficult heritage of perpetrators, collaborators and victims will be discussed against the background of the quest for immersive experiences in popular culture. The chapter calls attention to the concept of historical distance, which will be elaborated into three layers: temporality, locality and engagement. Finally, with this concept in mind a brief analysis of two small Dutch exhibits about World War II / Holocaust will be presented. Its personalized set-up offers opportunities for historical thinking and allows, although in a limited way, reflection on difficult heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching and Learning Difficult Histories. Global Concepts and Contexts. A Critical Sociocultural Approach
EditorsT. Epstein, C.L. Peck
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781138702479
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

SeriesRoutledge Research in International and Comparative Education


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