Law and Memory

Hanna Arendt warned that the fragile truth of historical facts was vulnerable not only to being forgotten but also to manipulation (Arendt, Human Condition, Chicago University Press 1958, p. 232). However, she was probably not referring to a necessity to introduce so-called memory laws, which represent an attempt by governments to legally preserve the memory of the past. The adoption of such legislation is closely connected with the phenomenon of transitional justice, which involves the legal accountability of fallen regimes and their officials. Examples of this type of regulations include lustration laws. However, “memory laws” are a much broader category, encompassing a wide array of laws from acts penalizing genocide denial, through bans on insulting the state or bans on the use of symbols of totalitarianism, to parliamentary declarations about the legal qualification of a given historical event. There is no clear definition of memory laws, and their categorization suggested in literature is also far from rigid. Despite this ambiguity, there is no doubt that the existence of memory laws impacts not only the legal situation of individuals and groups, but also – if not above all – shapes the historical narrative of a given place and community. These narratives are increasingly codified in criminal law provisions.

Holocaust denial – a lie different than any other?

Those who strongly oppose legally regulating historical truth do not make an exception for regulations penalizing the propagation of Holocaust denial ...

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