The Project

Transitional Justice in Transnational Perspective

Long-lasting and yet almost forgotten: The dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain (1936–1975) and the Estado Novo of Salazar in Portugal (1933–1974) shaped the 20th century on the Iberian Peninsula. Coming to terms with these authoritarian regimes took place only much later and in a roundabout way.

Since March 2021, a research project at the Chair of Modern History at the University of Würzburg, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), has been analyzing transitional justice in relation to the Iberian dictatorships. Were the old elites of the dictatorships deprived of their power after the Carnation Revolution (1974) and Franco's death (1975), or did they remain in office under the new democratic system? Did lustration take place in the police, military, and intelligence services? How was the dictatorial past treated in the school curriculum? How was the topic covered in literature and film? Were the symbols and visual representations of the old regimes purged from the public sphere? Were memorials and museums established that dealt with the dictatorships and acknowledged the victims of the respective regimes? Which historiographical debates did the problematic past rekindle and how was the change in values manifested in the legal systems and public institutions? These and further questions shall be answered by the research project.

The project aims at transcending national boundaries, investigating how transnational influences shaped the transitional justice and culture of remembrance in both countries. The collapse of the Iberian dictatorships 1974/1975 was – other than in in the case of German national socialism – primarily the outcome of autonomous internal developments. Furthermore, there were no external factors like the Allied Denazification that prescribed how the past should be dealt with. Yet, democratic transitions hardly ever occur within a vacuum. Therefore, on the one hand, the project analyzes how the German Federal Republic exerted influence via the Chancellery and the Federal Foreign Office on the “democracies in the making” of Spain and Portugal. Likewise, the role of the major German parties SPD and CDU/CSU in the genesis of a democratic party system shall be examined. On the other hand, it analyzes transfer processes with the post-dictatorial states of Latin America – Argentina, Brazil, and Chile – with which Portugal and Spain share language and history.

The research project at the Chair of Modern History is supervised by Professor Dr. Peter Hoeres. The research fellows Dr. Lasse B. Lassen and Holger Kohler are entrusted with its execution. Dr. Lasse B. Lassen was awarded a PhD at the University of Bielefeld with the doctoral thesis “The Castro Doctrine: Cuban Diplomacy in Global Solidarity Organizations 1959–1967” on Cuba’s foreign policy networks in the first decade after the revolution. The dissertation was funded by a scholarship provided by the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes). He previously attained a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Bielefeld in British and American Studies and History, as well as a Master of Science in Film and Media Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Within the context of the research project, he investigates the transitional justice of the Franco dictatorship in democratic Spain since 1975 as well as transnational entanglements of Spain, Germany, Argentina, and Chile. Holger Kohler completed teacher training studies at the level of higher education in the subjects English, History, and Political Science at the University of Würzburg. He graduated with a study on the exiled Portuguese King Dom Miguel I., “Between Benevolence and Hatred: The Investigation of a Controversial Regent’s Portrait.” Furthermore, he assisted the third-party funded project “Merck 1668–2018 – From Pharmacy to Global Company.” He is currently writing his dissertation within the framework of the research project. This concentrates on the culture of remembrance of the Estado Novo in post-dictatorial Portugal since 1974, considering transnational entanglements with Germany, Brazil and the lusophone world.