Jun 9, 2022 - News

New podcast aims to reckon with Confederate history

The graphic for memory wars, which shows historic Richmond next to  historic Germany

Memory Wars logo.

Richmond public radio reporter Mallory Noe-Payne spent last year in Munich, Germany, trying to answer a question: Could the post-Hitler era teach us how to reconcile our own wrenching history with racism?

What's happening: Noe-Payne and NPR affiliate WVTF released the first episode of her five-part podcast, "Memory Wars," on Thursday.

  • She told Axios the project was inspired in part by a common refrain she's heard during the debate over Confederate statues in Richmond: "You don't see statues of Hitler in Germany."

What she found: Indeed, there are not statues of Hitler in Germany.

  • But Noe-Payne said one of the most surprising things she learned through her interviews with historians, academics and everyday Germans was how complicated, long and difficult Germany's reconciliation process was.
  • "It took decades, and many Germans would say it's not done and far from over," Noe-Payne tells Axios. "And there were violent backlashes and protests and incredibly messy, difficult conversations."

Flashback: Post-WWII reconstruction in Germany emphasized societal shame and, later, responsibility. Meanwhile, the American South constructed narratives of heroism and pride after the Civil War.

  • Noe-Payne calls it ironic and hypocritical that the U.S. played such a strong role as an occupying force in setting Germany on a path toward reconciliation while, at home, the white establishment in the South was fighting the Civil Rights movement with water cannons and batons.
  • "It's so much easier to criticize someone else," Noe-Payne says. "My hope for the project is that it makes it easier for us to explore some of these challenges as they relate to our own society because the starting point is looking at it somewhere else."

Details: The podcast is co-hosted by Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams.

  • They are releasing new episodes throughout the summer on all major podcast platforms.

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