Over the last 25 years we have been able to witness how countries that maintained brutal dictatorships and bred bloody genocides chose to set an end to oppression, violence or exploitation in order to build up a new relationship between victors and losers, perpetrators and victims, on the way towards an integrated society. The transnational advance of the norm of human rights and the emergence of a watchful global community have provided the larger framing condition for such changes. The new credo is that countries noted for injustice and violence may be
, or rather that they may
from autocratic regimes to democracies. The contemporary political landscape is continuously undergoing decisive changes which are propelled, instigated and reinforced by a whole new set of instruments and institutions that are employed to overcome totalitarian and violent pasts. These changes have been bolstered by a new search for justice, which has been implemented by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), truth commissions and the International Criminal Court. The historical truth about the political crimes of the past — uncovered from archival sources or oral testimonies of victims — is today considered to have great ethical and transformative power. Memory has become a central issue in our discussions about transition, as this truth is directly related to the memory of the victims, and it is the medium of a new shared narrative of the past that integrates formerly divided perspectives. In these cases, as Andreas Huyssen has emphasized, memory forges a new powerful link between past atrocities and a peaceful future:
As particular nations struggle to create democratic polities in the wake of histories of mass exterminations, apartheids, military dictatorships, and totalitarianism, they are faced, as Germany has been and still is since World War II, with the unprecedented task of securing the legitimacy and future of their emergent polity by finding ways to commemorate and adjucate past wrongs.