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Nicole Immler

Nicole Immler

Prof. Historical Memory and Transformative Justice
Department 'Citizenship and the Humanisation of the Public Sector'



English biography

Nicole Immler studied History, Media and Kulturwissenschaften at the University of Graz. She wrote her PHD on Das Familiengedächtnis der Wittgensteins (2005), a (meta)biographical study of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the concept of family memory. After working in the restitution panel at the 'General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism' in Vienna, she did research as a Post-doc at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IKT) in Vienna and Utrecht University (OGC) on The Afterlife of Restitution, examining with trans-generational interviews the effects of Austria's restitution and compensation processes for victims of National Socialism and their families in four countries. With her research on Narratives of (In)Justice, supported by an ASPASIA fellowship from NWO, she was also a Marie Curie Fellow in the research program Understanding the Age of Transitional Justice: Narratives in a Historical Perspective at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam.

Immler is member of several international networks: 'Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory' (AHDA); Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies; 'Oral History and Life Stories' at the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC); and 'Oral History and Digital Humanities' (CLARIN).


As historian I am working on the afterlife of historical injustice (World War II, colonialism, slavery) in todays society, the relation between memory, identity and justice. My PhD theorized the concept of family memory (Das Familiengedächtnis der Wittgensteins), further developed in my Post-doc The afterlife of restitution, examining how former victims of National Socialism and their families experienced Austria’s compensation practices: analysing the dynamics between family memory and reparation policies. With my Marie Curie research on Narrated (In)Justice I moved from Holocaust and Memory Studies into Transitional Justice; exploring reparations to Dutch Jewry and post-colonial groups next to each other, showing how narratives of (in)justice are re-narrated across generations. Supported by a NWO-ASPASIA I explored the ‘Rawagede case’, a court case on Dutch military actions in Indonesia, with the puzzling question: ‘How to acknowledge colonial injustice?’ To date I focused on reparation questions in regard to historical injustice. My new project on Dialogics of Justice allows me to explore with an interdisciplinary team how recognition and repair works across cases.

Dialogics of Justice (VICI-NWO, 2000-2025) is an interdisciplinary investigation into (legal) recognition after human rights violations and the question: when do people feel recognized? Over the last decade, we have witnessed a rising demand for recognition by victims of colonial violence or slavery, failed peace missions, sexual abuse and ecocide worldwide. This recognition of suffering is increasingly looked at in legal terms and then resolved with financial compensation. However, do those procedures provide the recognition and the repair these claimants hope for? With a team of six we explore civil court cases concerning (historical) injustices in the Netherlands, Indonesia, the Caribbean, Nigeria, Bosnia, and Iraq, studying the social dimension of recognition claims to answer the urgent need for more knowledge on making recognition procedures more effective.

Narratives of (In)Justice examines how post-war and post-colonial memories in the Netherlands affected each other in the last decade and developed into a new form of legal claim culture. In the last decades worldwide apologies and compensation payments have become a crucial language for the recognition of victims of historical injustice. This research studies its effects on societies; analysing the implications for individuals and communities. Therefore this project looks at three Dutch case studies, exploring how the recognition of Dutch Jewish victims became a reference-point for present (post-colonial) claims of victims of the decolonization war in Indonesia (the so-called 'Rawagede case'), and for descendants of formerly enslaved people, Surinamese and Dutch Antillean's.

Trauma & Resilience is an intergenerational Holocaust research from an existential perspective, reaching beyond the trauma discourse. The three-generation interview research with  Dutch Jewish families explores experiences of trauma, resilience, (moral) injury, generation, and recognition, analyzing processes of preserving or recovering a sense of meaning in life in the face of dehumanisation.

'How to open spaces to address intergenerational legacies of violence? is a comparative pilot-study together with Indonesian partners (ANGIN-project): It examines how legacies of past mass violence affect the quality of family and community life in Indonesia and in the Diaspora.

'Going back with a mission' is an interdisciplinary research on the effects and the meaning of return trips by veterans to former Yugoslavia. This interdisciplinary study extends perspectives of psychiatry and psychology towards humanistic studies, spiritual care and ritual studies; and instead of focusing on individuals also the home front - the family perspective - is included in the analysis. Aim is to gain new knowledge about the various forms of injuries and the potential role of rituals in regard to healing.

Keywords: Reparations, recognition, transitional justice, generation, family memory, oral history, rituals; the 'making' of Europe, (meta)biography, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Selection of publications

Immler, Nicole (forthcoming) What is Meant by ‘Repair’ when Claiming Reparations for Colonial Wrongs? Justice for the Dutch Slavery Past. Slaveries & Post-Slaveries, Special Issue on Reparations, ed. by Magali Bessone.

Immler, Nicole (June 2021) Colonial history at court: Legal decisions and their dilemmas. In: Time for Reparations. A Global Perspective, ed. by Jacqueline Bhabha, Margareta Matache, Caroline Elkins, Penn Press Pennsylvania.

Immler, Nicole, Hans Sakkers (2021) The UN Sustainable Development Goals going local: Learning from localizing human rights. The International Journal of Human Rights, April, 1-23.

Immler, Nicole, Siri Driessen (2021) Geef erkenning aan Dutchbatters én hun omgeving, Trouw, 8 maart.

Immler, Nicole (2021) Het slavernijverleden als erfnisWijsgerig Perspectief, Thema nummer: Generaties, No 1, 24-33.

Immler, Nicole (2020) Erkenning: Her herstel van sociale relaties. Impact Magazine, ARQ Nationaal Psychotrauma Centrum No. 4, 5-7.

Immler, Nicole (7 November 2020) Historical injustice, recognition and the art of dialogue. Online-Lecture, Conference Netherlands-Japan-Indonesia Dialogue Foundation (NJI).

Immler, Nicole en Jackie June ter Heide (2020) ‚Kan dit onrecht zomaar passeren?’, geinterviewed door Bart Nauta over rechtsherstelprocedures voor het Special issue 'Omgaan met historisch onrecht', WO2 Onderzoek Uitgelicht.

Immler, Nicole, Stef Scagliola (2020) Voorbij een nationale geschiedschrijving. De massaexecutie in Rawagede verteld als vervlochten geschiedenis. Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 133.2, 169–203 (Enriched publication; extended version for Dutch audience with acces to primary sources).

Immler, Nicole, Stef Scagliola (2020) Seeking justice for the mass execution in Rawagede. Probing the concept ‘entangled history’ in a postcolonial setting. Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice.

Immler, Nicole (2020) Geef ons koloniaal verleden een gedeelde taal, opinie, NRC, 11 maart.

Immler, Nicole (2019) Hoe koloniaal onrecht te erkennen? Geïnterviewd door Anne van Mourik,

Immler, Nicole (2019) Oral History und Narrative Theorie: Vom Erzählen lernen. BIOS, Zeitschrift für Biographieforschung, Oral History und Lebenslaufanalysen.

Immler, Nicole (2018) Hoe koloniaal onrecht te erkennen? De Rawagede-zaak laat de kansen en grenzen van rechtsherstel zien [How to acknowledge colonial injustice?] BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review 133(4), 57–87; (Low Countries History Award 2019)

Immler, Nicole (2018) Narrating (In)Justice in Form of a Reparation Claim: Bottom-up Reflections on a Post-Colonial Setting - The Rawagede Case, in: Understanding the Age of Transitional Justice: Crimes, Courts, Commissions, and Chronicling, ed. by Nanci Adler, Rutgers University Press, 149-174.

Immler, Nicole (2018) Human Rights as a Secular Social Imaginary in the Field of Transitional Justice. The Dutch-Indonesian ‘Rawagede Case’, in: Social Imaginaries in a Globalizing World, ed. by Hans Alma and Guy Vanheeswijk, De Gruyter, 193-222. (Reviewed in: Onderzoek uitgelicht, 28-33)

Immler, Nicole (2018) Trauma & Resilience: Intergenerational Holocaust research from an existential perspective. DANS. (with Carmen Schuhmann).

Immler, Nicole (2017) ‘De Weduwen’ (The widows), exhibitionportraits by photographer Suzanne Liem, with interviews by Nicole Immler, curated by Dirk Staat. National Military Museum, Soest, April-August 2017.

Immler, Nicole (2016) Gefühltes (Un-)Recht im Familiengedächtnis. Zum Aspekt der „Generation“ in der Entschädigungspolitik, in: Generationen. Shoah und Nationalsozialismus im Familiengedächtnis, ed. by Martha Keil/Philipp  Mettauer. Studienverlag.

Immler, Nicole, Nancy Jouwe (2015) Koloniaal verleden gaat ook latere generaties aan,.Trouw, 1 april, 21.

Immler, Nicole, Hans Sakkers (2014), (Re)Programming Europe. European Capitals of Culture: Rethinking the Role of Culture, in Journal of European Studies 44 (I) 3-29.
Immler, Nicole (2013) Die Anwesenheit des Abwesenden. Schweigen im Familiengedächtnis, in Sandra Markewitz (ed.), Jenseits des beredeten Schweigens. Neue Perspektiven auf den sprachlosen Augenblick, Bielefeld, 73-99. 
Immler, Nicole (2013) Individual desire or social duty? The Role of Testimony in a Restitution Procedure. An Inquiry into Social Practice, in Nanci Adler, Selma Leydesdorff (eds) Tapestry of Memory:  Evidence and Testimony in Life Story Narratives. Transaction Publisher, 219-236.  
Immler, Nicole (2013) ‚The history, the papers, let me see it!’ Compensation Payments: The Second Generation between Archive Truth and Family Speculations, in Marie Louise Seeberg, Irene Levin, Claudia Lenz (eds.), Holocaust as Active Memory: The Past in the Present, Ashgate, 113-137.
Immler, Nicole (2012) Compensation Practices and the Dynamics of Memory: A Trans-Generational Approach, in A. Mihr (eds.), Transitional Justice: Between Criminal Justice, Atonement and Democracy. SIM Special 37, Utrecht, 154-183.
Immler, Nicole, Rigney, Ann and Short, Damien (2012) Special Issue: Reconciliation & Memory - Critical Perspectives, in Memory Studies 5(3).
Immler, Nicole (2012) ‚Too little, too late’? Compensation and family memory: Negotiating Austria’s Holocaust past, in Memory Studies 5(3), 270-281.

Immler, Nicole (2011) Das Familiengedächtnis der Wittgensteins. Zu verführerischen Lesarten von (auto-) biographischen Texten, Bielefeld.

A complete publication list with links to some articles in pdf, see research gate or
selection of publications

Ancillary activities

Immler is member of several international networks: 'Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory' (AHDA); Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies; 'Oral History and Life Stories' at the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC);  'Oral History and Digital Humanities' (CLARIN), SIMAGINE.