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Colonialism and Decolonization in National Historical Cultures and Memory Politics in Europe

Modules for History Lessons

Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn

Colonialism and decolonization are historical phenomena that are part of the historical experience of many European countries. This volume offers students and teachers a new understanding of how colonialism and decolonization fit into our shared European past and contains teaching materials for history classes in European schools. The contributions have been produced by the EU project CoDec, involving partners from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Great Britain, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. Analyzing colonial pasts, processes of decolonization and memory politics in different European countries from comparative and transnational perspectives, the study presents useful sources and practical suggestions for cutting-edge history lessons in European schools.
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Switzerland and Rwanda: A Troublesome Partnership


Introduction to the Module

Rwanda gained independence from Belgium in 1962. At around the same time Switzerland was seeking to reposition itself in a new world order marked by the Cold War. The reason for this was that Switzerland’s neutrality had come under fire from the US after the end of World War II. The new super power maintained that the Swiss had economically collaborated with Nazi Germany. Although the US lost interest in Switzerland’s war-past as the conflict with the Soviet Union intensified in the 1950s, Switzerland’s image remained shattered. In reaction to this the Swiss government tried to redefine “neutrality” with “solidarity” in order to make Swiss foreign policy seem less “selfish”. One way of ‘performing’ Swiss solidarity was to engage in “technical development aid” for “third world” countries. In the late 1950s Swiss authorities began to look for an ideal development “partner”. When the young and newly independent government in Rwanda asked Switzerland in the early 1960s to help build new national infrastructures, this initiative was greeted quite warmly by Swiss government agencies. Rwanda was quickly selected to become Switzerland’s “key country” (Schwerpunktland) for development aid.

Switzerland’s dealings in Rwanda became the subject of a sudden heated public debate in 2008 when a novel by Swiss writer Lukas Bärfuss was published.1 Although fictionalised, Bärfuss’ thoroughly researched book disclosed troubling insights into how strongly Swiss development workers were caught up in the Hutu government’s genocide of the Tutsi minority in...

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