Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Robert Blobaum

Committee Co-Chair

Joshua Arthurs

Committee Member

Elizabeth Fones-Wolf


Memory of the traumatic Soviet past has both dominated the politics of history in Estonia and been a key determining factor in building a national post-Soviet European identity. As a result, the Holocaust in Estonia has played a less substantial role in both scholarship, and public debate, specifically regarding the nature of local participation in the elimination of Jewish life in Estonia. The subject was catapulted onto the national political agenda in alignment with integration to both NATO and the EU, which clearly viewed Estonia's coming to terms with the event as a matter of importance upon its arrival into the Western community. The lack of discussion over the Holocaust, which had lasted throughout the Soviet occupation and early stages of re-independence, left many Estonians surprised when the nation became the subject of international pressure, and, on occasion, condemnation, for its perceived lethargy or failure to come to terms with this aspect of its uncomfortable past. There now exists a conflict of memory which places the Estonian political elite in a difficult position in terms of reconciling their nation's victimhood status and the demands of the international community, which seeks an honest and open discussion about the meaning of the Holocaust in Estonia. This paper will highlight and analyse this conflict through a study of political memory found in speeches, commemorations and the museums of Estonia, which demonstrate how contemporary historical narratives are being represented, shaped and constructed. The debate surrounding memory of the Holocaust and coming to terms with both Nazi and Soviet occupations and their respective crimes is not unique to Estonia. Thus, the implications of this study extend further than national borders and should be seen firmly within their Central-East European context.