duty to remember [English]

Syndetic Relationships

InterPARES Definition

n. ~ An ethical obligation to actively preserve and keep current events of the past, especially social evils such as genocide and slavery, so that they may serve as a moral compass and prevent repetition of similar acts.


  • Mistal 2003 (†893 p. 144): The issue, however, is not to recall and reconstruct feelings but to give evidence to truth in order to preserve the moral order: ‘The moral order requires memory and memory in turn demands certain narrative forms’ (Kugelmass 1996: 195). Therefore, the enormity of the Holocaust cannot be forgotten and the forms in which it is given expression are important histor- ical phenomena in their own right. The dominant rhetoric of Primo Levi’s testimonial writing supports this argument. His phrase ‘the duty to remem- ber’ means that remembering the Holocaust is an ethico-political problem because it has to do with the construction of the future: ‘the duty to remem- ber consists not only in having a deep concern for the past but in transmit- ting the meaning of the past events to the next generation’ (Ricouer 1999: 9). The duty to remember is a duty to keep alive the memory of suffering by the persistent pursuit of an ethical response to the Holocaust experience. (†2686)
  • Tien 2008 (†892 ): “Duty to remember” is translated from the French expression “Devoir de memoire”. It normally means the duty, the advice or the obligation, for the sake of human conscience, not to forget Nazism’s horrendous genocide which killed 6 million Jews in the Second World War. This crime was so enormous it went beyond what was considered human behavior to become completely inhuman. Humanity should never be allowed to forget this tragedy, this crime committed by man against man. The younger generation in Europe has been constantly reminded of this genocide by German Fascism. This tragedy, called Shoah or Holocaust, has been part of the curriculum at European schools so that students wouldn’t forget. ¶ Europeans convincingly say that they did so not because they simply “hate Hitler” or just to “remember the past”, but because they worry about the present and the future. They believe that if the younger generations are given complete information to realize how an insane and a murderous ideology has resulted in millions of innocent people being destroyed, there will be more chance of this tragedy not being repeated. (†2685)