Hamburg´s storm surge – a myth between heroism and climate change

05.03.2012

On February 16, 1962 Hamburg was hit by a storm surge that cost many people their lives. In a workshop held on the fiftieth anniversary of the flood, Dr. Corinna Lüthje from KlimaCampus gave a talk about media-influenced community memory of the storm and the myth arising between heroism and climate change.

The workshop, which took place last week, was organized by the Museum of Hamburg History and Helmut Schmidt University. Remembrance of the catastrophe and current risk awareness stood at the center of the event. The flood was viewed from various perspectives with themes ranging from technology to cultural history. More than 50 participants engaged in discussion with a panel of experts.

"The storm surge of 1962 was not a one-time occurance in Hamburg; we actually have a season every year with more or less heavy flooding," explains the culture and communications scientist who works at the KlimaCampus in the StarG project (storm surges as regional geohazards). She and her colleagues research how social memory of the flood has changed over the past 50 years, affecting how the event is perceived.

It is important to remember the flood catastrophe and place it within new contexts such as climate change, in order to be able to deal with this ever-present danger. The media is largely responsible for keeping the memory of the event alive within the community, says Lüthje. "Daily media are ´remembrance and memorial generators.´ But media memory doesn´t necessarily conform to the historical event as it actually happened. It changes. Myths are spun around the event."