Since 1990 many Germans travel to the former German regions in Eastern Europe from which they or their relatives had been displaced in the course of World War II. Studying the case of Nida on the Curonian Spit in Lithuania – the former Nidden in East Prussia and the Memel district, respectively – the article examines the role of ‘roots-tourism’ (Heimattourismus) for the visitors as well as for the town Nida. Visits to the former homeland spark the examination of one’s own life story. This enables the former inhabitants to overcome their homesickness so that they gradually become ‘normal’ tourists. In this process they reinforce the ‘place-myth’ of this region as an idyllic paradise at the Baltic Sea. Tourism, thus, provides for continuity by reconstructing the past in the mind of the visitors as well as in the tourist place. The article points out how the tourism industry tunes its ears to the visitors’ demands and offers different approaches to the past.
The region of Lithuania Minor to which the northern part of the Curonian Spit belongs, has been characterized by changing national affiliation in the course of the twentieth century (Germany, Soviet Union, Lithuania) and the resulting change of population. The following article analyses how different social actors have recurred to and managed the Curonian Spit’s cultural heritage. It shows how Curonian cultural heritage has been mobilized for the making of nationalist identities. Taking the case of the village of Nida (Nidden) it is shown that heritage is nothing fixed or given but is, in fact, produced over the course of time depending on the political, economic and social interests of the social actors involved as well as on the societal background. The example of the Curonian Spit and the making of cultural heritage is a contested and flexible process. Heritage is nothing fixed or given but is made and remade over the course of time, depending on the political, economic and social interests and power resources of the social actors involved. My examples have shown how the production of Curonian heritage has flexibly contributed to the making of German, Soviet as well as Lithuanian identities.