Weten of vergeten? - Historisch onderzoek in archieven van geheime diensten van voormalige dictaturen | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 125, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163


The question of how nations should deal with a difficult past is one of the great subjects of our time, as is confirmed by the uninterrupted flow of scholarly publications and conferences on transitional justice. In this context Germany and Spain have often been recommended as models. The German model is based on the abolition in the early 1990s of the former German Democratic Republic and its incorporation into the Federal Republic of Germany, and in particular the exemplary way that the archives of the Stasi were dealt with. The Spanish model is founded on the transition from Franco’s dictatorship to parliamentary democracy. Based on a comparative study, this article reveals that the two models are diametrically opposed regarding the treatment of delicate archives as well as privacy policy. While the German paradigm is based on the right to know, the Spanish paradigm hinges on the right to forget. It is argued that, though the latter is an individual right, it can never be extended to become a collective right across an entire society, for in democracies the right to know – i.e. the search for truth – should always prevail. This conclusion not only concerns former dictatorships but also applies to the archival and privacy policies of countries with long-standing democratic traditions.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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