Berlin (Germany) and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

  • The context
  • Aims of the platform
  • Target group / Associates
  • Development of activities since 2010
  • Structure

The context

Dealing with the past (DwP) is a very sensitive issue in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as the wounds of the wars of the 1990s are still fresh and linked with often conflicting memories. In Western and Central Europe, although there has been no war in the last sixty years, memory questions also remain sensitive, for example concerning the Second World War and the crimes linked to communism or colonialism. Even if each country has its specific situation and if the distance of war differs in Western/Central Europe and the Western Balkans, a lot of questions are nevertheless similar: How to deal with difficult past(s)? How to face the reluctance of people to deal with the past? What are the place and the role of memory sites in DwP-processes? What are the possibilities and challenges of pedagogical and educational approaches at and around these places, especially for young people? To what extent can memory sites bring conflicting memories together?

If international cooperation in the field of DwP is quite well developed within the EU, exchanges in this field within Southeastern Europe and also between Southeastern Europe and the EU-countries remain rare. This mutual absence of relations and knowledge is reflected in the still existing gaps between the countries of former Yugoslavia and between these countries and the rest of Europe.

Also in the perspective of the European integration of the countries of former Yugoslavia, it appears to be urgent to create more opportunities for initiatives committed to a constructive DwP to meet, to exchange and to work together.

Aims of the platform

  • Connecting. Memory Lab brings together initiatives in the field of dealing with difficult pasts from different countries of Western/Central Europe and South Eastern Europe.
  • Exploring. Memory Lab explores memorialization processes through the visit to memory sites with the actors in the field, survivors and museum professionals.
  • Exchanging. Memory Lab establishes long-term dialogue and cooperation in order to facilitate contact, the exchange of experiences and a mutual learning. It enables the questioning of different interpretations and perspectives on memory as well as it analyses and makes more explicit the choices made in memorializing difficult pasts.
  • Empowering. Memory Lab strengthens constructive dealing-with-the-past-approaches as means for a sustainable peace and democracy-building. It aims at the integration of the former Yugoslavia countries into a common European civil society and active memory space through the developing and carrying out of common projects in the field of memorialization.

Target group / Associates

The platform enables exchanges between representatives of memorial centers, history Museums, NGOs and other organizations/initiatives as well as individuals from Western/Central Europe and from South Eastern Europe, all acting concretely in the field of dealing with the past, especially around memory sites and in the educational field.

Geographically, concerning South Eastern Europe, the focus lays on the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as we judge it as particularly important and valuable to integrate their experiences into a common European dialogue. Concerning Western/Central Europe, a specific focus lays on France and Germany, because of the particular history and relationship between those two countries. But the platform is also open to people and organizations working in other European countries and is including their experiences in its exchange.

Thematically, “Memory Lab” gathers organizations working on different periods and events related to the 20th history of Europe, as this reflects the complexity of European realities and also allows to analyze how memories of different periods are often interconnected.

Development of the platform and its activities since 2010

The platform is structured around an annual workshop and study-trip; the program of these annual gatherings include field explorations of memory sites, lectures and presentations, group discussions, exchange on the activities of the participating organizations, and group work to deepen topics and to plan future activities.

The working languages at the annual gatherings are English and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, with simultaneous or consecutive translation.

The first workshop took place in June 2010 in Sarajevo, and a second in October 2011 in Prijedor in BiH, which was preceded by a two-day study mainly in Croatia, in order to integrate more field explorations in the program. During this workshop it was decided to organize these gatherings on an annual basis. These gatherings had been initiated by the following persons and organisations: Alma Masic / Youth Initiave for Human Rughts BiH, Tamara Banjeglav / Documenta, Lejla Mamut / TRIAL, Frank Morawietz / Franco-German Youth Office, and Nicolas Moll / Centar André Malraux. During the workshop in Prijedor it was decided to organize these gatherings on an annual basis. After two years in the Western Balkans, the third annual workshop and study trip took place in France, in October 2012, and the fourth in October 2013 in Germany and at the German-Polish border. In October 2014, the annual gathering took place in Kosovo and Macedonia, and in October 2015 in Belgium. Since 2014, it is foreseen to alternate each year one program in South Eastern Europe and one in Western/Central Europe.

For more information about each workshop/study trip click here.

The contacts which have been established through the platform and especially during the annual gatherings have contributed to develop other activities by different associates of the platform.
To see examples of these joint activities click here.

The platform is a work in progress which has grown through its annual activities and on the basis of the needs and interests of the actively contributing participants. Launched under the name “Dealing with difficult pasts in the Western Balkans and Western/Central Europe” in 2010/11, it was renamed “Memory Lab” in 2013, with the subtitle “Trans-European Platform for Exchange on History and Remembrance”.


“Memory Lab” is an informal platform which is based on the cooperation and commitment of different organizations and associates. The platform was launched in 2010/11 by a team gathering four organizations: the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) BiH, Documenta – Centar for Dealing with the past (Croatia), the French-German Youth Office (FGYO) (Berlin/Paris) and the Centre Malraux Sarajevo (BiH/France). The annual gatherings are organized by a coordination team in direct cooperation with members of the platform from the country where the gathering is taking place. Currently the coordination team is composed of: Alma Masic (YIHR BiH), Tamara Banjeglav (independant historian), Frank Morawietz (French-German Youth Office), and Nicolas Moll (historian and Partner of crossborder factory).

In January 2013, a “strategy group” held a meeting in Berlin in order to develop proposals concerning the future development of the platform which are discussed at the annual gatherings. This meeting gathered the coordination team plus the following associates who had expressed the wish to participate: Laura Boerhout, Griet Broosens, Frederick Hadley, Matthias Heyl, Melina Sadikovic, Jacqueline Niesser, Juliane Tomann.

In the first six years, the funding of the annual gatherings of “Memory Lab” was assured by the support of the following organizations: French-German Youth Office (2010-2015), Robert Bosch Foundation (2011, 2013, 2014), CCFD-Terre Solidaire (2011 – 2015), French Embassy in Croatia (2012), French Embassy in Kosovo (2012), German Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Stability Pact (2013), Forum ZFD (2014, 2015), Suedosteuropa-Gesellschaft (2014), King Baudouin Foundation (2015), Belgian National Institute for Veterans and Victims of War (2015), Belgian Federal Organizing Committee for the Commemoration of the First World War (2015), and Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs (2015).