Over historische excuses, morele genoegdoening en verzoening // [On historical appologies, moral satisfaction and reconciliation]

On Historical Apologies, Recognition and Reconciliation

Making historical apologies involves notions of forgiveness, recognition, reconciliation and compensation. Ethical beliefs, religious convictions and legal principles come into play, as do politics and emotions like grief, greed and generosity. As historians, we are apt to ask questions of origin. From where does the recent culture of apologies for historical wrongdoings stem? Is it really a post-national phenomenon? Next, we can discern many contexts of making apologies. Claimants might be individual victims or highly organised caretakers. The institutions they address range from national governments to churches, private associations and small communities. In the precarious process of reconciliation we see two rival mind-sets at work, that of the ethics of conviction contrasting with that of the ethics of responsibility. Combining these two attitudes and styles often results in disappointments in actual cases of demanding, offering, granting and accepting apologies.