The Stories Old Towns Tell

Marek Kohn


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Yale University Press
25 April 2023
ISBN: 9780300267846
344 pages

From the publisher

A fascinating journey through Europe's old towns, exploring why we treasure them-but also what they hide about a continent's fraught history

Historic quarters in cities and towns across the middle of Europe were devastated during the Second World War-some, like those of Warsaw and Frankfurt, had to be rebuilt almost completely. They are now centers of peace and civility that attract millions of tourists, but the stories they tell about places, peoples, and nations are selective. They are never the whole story.

These old towns and their turbulent histories have been key sites in Europe's ongoing theater of politics and war. Exploring seven old towns, from Frankfurt and Prague to Vilnius in Lithuania, the acclaimed writer Marek Kohn examines how they have been used since the Second World War to conceal political tensions and reinforce certain versions of history.

Uncovering hidden stories behind these old and old-seeming facades, Kohn offers us a new understanding of the politics of European history-making-showing how our visits to old towns could promote belonging over exclusion, and empathy over indifference.