chapter  6
28 Pages

The Subversive Power of Historical Analogies

ByAntoon De Baets

Drawing historical analogies is the historian’s second nature. The mere chronological dimension of history begs for comparison over time and makes the use of historical analogies a spontaneous professional technique for historians. One can hear the echoes of the past in many present events, if the ear is only willing to listen. Anniversaries conjure up the victories and defeats that they commemorate: on November 11 we remember the end of World War I because on that day an armistice was signed between Germany and the Allies in 1918; on January 27, the Holocaust because on that day perhaps the most iconic extermination camp, Auschwitz, was liberated in 1945. Places are picked for their historical symbolism: the trials of Nazi leaders took place in Nuremberg, the city where these very leaders decreed anti-Semitic laws and used to hold their propaganda rallies. In many post-conflict countries, like Cambodia, former torture cellars were rebuilt into museums or spaces of commemoration.