When is it justified to destroy historical monuments?

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,279
here
It seems like we're all quick to condemn ISIS and the Taliban for desecrating ancient monuments and relics of the past, and rightfully so, imo. But what about something like the Tannenburg Memorial?





Was the dismantling of that monument wrong?

What about when the liberated Iraqis tore down Saddam's statue?

I can understand that some of these things may be symbols of oppression, but is tearing them down the right thing to do?

When and where should we draw the line?
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
When they are monuments to the Lost Cause, or were erected to signify defiance to the civil rights' movement. Some of the monuments to the Confederacy in the south have controversial histories, and shouldn't be mourned if they get moved or scrapped in the future.
 

Jake10

Ad Honoris
Oct 2010
11,960
Canada
When their presence is too painful for the majority of people to see.
 

ameteurhistorian

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
2,512
USA
If the monument, especially one that is on public land and maintained by public funds, celebrates some human or national atrocity like genocide, civil war, or a unlawful regime, that can warrant its own destruction. I as an American am not against destroying all Confederate monuments as it is part of our history, but I am all for getting rid of the ones that paint the Confederate generals or the force as a justified and noble cause. Even if slavery was or wasn't a factor, it's still a failed rebellion against the union.
 
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Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,604
Ontario, Canada
Going to say never. Trying to destroy monuments is practically an attempt to destroy history. What you can do is move it to another place or put it in a museum.
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,169
Lisbon, Portugal
Going to say never. Trying to destroy monuments is practically an attempt to destroy history. What you can do is move it to another place or put it in a museum.
So all those statues of Lenin and Stalin in former-Soviet countries and Eastern Europe shouldn't have been brought down and put in other places and museums? It's a lot of statues, they wouldn't have space to put all of them in museums.
 

Tuthmosis III

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
3,738
the middle ground
Memorials are sometimes more propaganda piece than history.
Memorials are often more propaganda piece than history. But what to do in this world of ours where the celebration of any victory by definition means someone else must remember a defeat (as we are less likely in the modern world to kill/enslave all the losers, raze the place, and sow salt in the fields...)? Beyond the specialists and those of us who read their work, the remembrance of history itself often reflects the same problem.

Which makes this interesting:
When their presence is too painful for the majority of people to see.
At first glance, this may sound "whiny" as a justification (not meant at all as a reflection on you personally, Jake10!), but the point is people change, and perspectives on the past change. Moreover, though difficult for us history-conscious people to accept, present needs are as legitimate as preservation of a sense of the past. So the counter-question is also important: what makes a historical monument too sacrosanct to ever come down?

I don't think there can be an absolute answer to these questions. But the history-conscious can examine motives. Moving or dismantling a memorial should be accompanied by thorough word and picture documentation of where it stood and what it was meant to signify to the people who built it. If not done in this spirit, an attempt to erase history can be suspected and opposed on that basis.