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Perpetrator Studies Network


Damsma, Josje. “Los van nieuw fout en grijs”

Historian Josje Damsma distinguishes between two forms of historiography concerning WWII in the Netherlands: what she calls the “new wrong” paradigm, i.e. the finding of ever ‘new’ groups of perpetrators to study on the one hand, and the “grey” pradigm, which is characterized by the emphasis on circumstances instead of character on the other. Several problems arise if a one-sided perpetrator history is written. Firstly, complex processes of the time are ‘forgotten’, secondly, the dynamics of certain periods are lost (Damsma names the dynamics of punishing political offenders shortly after the war, which was done with violence, but only for a short period). In short, Damsma states that using the old labels of good and bad does not provide new insights. She also argues against the “grey” paradigm. She states that it is clear that people made choices so they were not perpetrators ‘because of circumstances’ and that the grey paradigm can lead to normalizing WWII.

Damsma, Josje. “Los van ‘nieuw fout’ en ‘grijs’: de geschiedschrijving van de Tweede Wereldoorlog.” Tijdschrift Holland (2011): 98-107.