Action 10: Regional and integrated approaches to Dissonant Heritage

  • Leïla Morais profile
    Leïla Morais
    20 July 2020 - updated 1 week ago
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“Dissonant Heritage”, often referred to as “uncomfortable” or “undesirable” cultural heritage, generally stands for parts of the built heritage and excerpts from history that presently associate society or social groups with unpleasant memories or even with horror. This kind of heritage can be found in many eras in history, such as imperialistic, national-socialist, dictatorial and socialist heritage. Within this action, and in order to avoid deceptive misinterpretations, it is recommended to use the term “Dissonant Heritage”.

In the context of the CCH Partnership, this action focuses on the often controversial historical heritage of the 20th century, which is constitutive for 21st century Europe, such as tragic places and testimonies of war and genocide, persecution and resistance, escape and displacement or dictatorship and new democratic eras.

This could apply, for example, to battlefields, defense and combat systems as well as bunkers and barracks or cemeteries of the two World Wars in Europe, or the recent war of the ex-Yugoslavia, to monumental and memorial complexes as well as propaganda sites of now obsolete political systems, such as the dictatorships of Western Europe and the post-war regime in Eastern Europe.

In the current debate on “Black lives matter” and the consequent reinterpretation of colonial history and ensuing monuments, the discussion about “uncomfortable” or “controversial” heritage is particularly timely and opens up very relevant debates about the heritage relating to our future: Why is it important to keep the uncomfortable heritage? How to guide and maintain the heritage preservation and education in a long-term and stable manner? And how to make resources for them available, especially in smaller towns?

Whereas sometimes, attention is giving to dissonant heritage sites in larger, prominent cities, the CCH Partnership also aims to include small and medium-sized towns as well as peripheral regions in the EU and their controversial heritage in the study and show their development potential. After all, by connecting the regional elements, the shared history on supra-local level becomes more visible.

The touristic development of places and objects of the " Uncomfortable Heritage not only makes a fundamental contribution to cultural education and to the communication of history, which both nurture democracy building in Europe, but can also mobilize unexpected economic potentials for tourist development and the marketing of unusual memorials and sights. In the context of the tourist development of these sites, it is crucial to explain the (hi)story and to gain clarity on the context both on-site and online (virtual tourism). On the top of that, appropriate tools/toolboxes and innovative approaches to achieve this goal are needed.


  • To strengthen the values of dissonant historical heritage of the 20th century by integrating it into urban and regional development thus opening up more options for its preservation (e.g. listing them);
  • Embed dissonant heritage in sustainable tourism concepts, and connect local and regional heritage elements;
  • To contribute to the education of culture, history and politics à contributions to democracy building explaining real facts to future generations, avoiding biased misinterpretations and false revisions of actual history;
  • To identify relevant funding sources for supporting the socio-economic potential of dissonant heritage and enhancing tourist development in their buffer areas by means of implementing sound marketing actions to enhance/demonstrate the values of these unusual memorials and sights.

Please note: In addition to contributions to “better knowledge”, the action also aims to develop recommendations for “better regulation” and “better funding”.

Possible Outputs 

  1. Awareness raising and communication for “dissonant heritage” to increase its understanding and acceptance (including public participation) – e.g. by promoting the topic on annual “Europe Heritage Day” in September;
  2. Sharing of existing knowledge, e.g. by sharing experiences on methods and funding in NL and DE with colonial and fascist or communist heritage (such as a toolbox currently being developed in NL as well as participatory methods);
  3. Establishment of a network of urban and regional stakeholders and sites (e.g. experts, owners, investors, local initiatives, researchers);
  4. 2-5 local pilots (see below) to test regional and integrated approaches to dissonant heritage in parallel à sharing of experiences as knowledge bases for workshop and manifesto (see below);
  5. Identification of potential new uses of some dissonant monuments (maybe after rehabilitation) in order to better profit their architectural values and bringing them back to society;
  6. Implementation of workshop/symposium/colloquium culminating in a conference to be held at a dissonant heritage site (or virtual) in summer of 2021 à development of principles and recommendations;
  7. Development of a manifesto as the essence of the conference.

First selection of relevant local sites of interest (pan-European approach):

  • Kazanlak, Bulgaria (CCH member): integration of Buzludzha socialist monument, UNESCO World Heritage Thracian toms, national Rose tradition into regional approach.
  • NL –Nazi-heritage, e.g. „The Wall of Mussert“ as the last remains of an assembly area of Dutch Nazis, today a camp ground (wall is preserved as a monument, current investigation on how to preserve and meaningfully use this legacy while avoiding right-wing extremist tourism).
  • IT – Fascist and World War II sites (e.g. 1930s holiday camps on the coast (link 1, link 2, link 3); villages/towns of complete destruction).
  • Former Yugoslavia/Slovenia: Memorials of partisan battles on rural sites (ATRIUM) (Ljubljana CCH member). - The Revolution Square / Republic Square)
  • CY – encumbered past and present legacy.
  • ES, Valle de los Caídos, controversial Franco memorial Franco and his regime, containing more than 33 000 remains of people killed from both sides during the Civil War 1936-39; Prison Modelo in Barcelona, that hold political prisoners since the very beginning of the XX Century and is going to be completely re-converted into social sues.
  • RO, Sighet – Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance.
  • DE – former Iron Curtain greenbelt (e.g. with the town of Hötensleben as a good example of a participatory process in the 1990s) as a vehicle for cultural and ecological heritage, Army testing ground Peenemünde, Vogelsang, National political educational institution Ballenstedt (Link), current debate on the 1936 Olympic grounds in Berlin with its figural sculptures.
  • Pan-European: Nazi sites and camps; Atlantic Wall (Denmark-France).

Partners involved

Action Leader: Germany

Members: Federation Dutch Heritage cities, City of Kazanlak (tbc), European Investment Bank Institute

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