Vergangenheitsbewältigung is a composite German word with individual and collective significance that describes processes of coming to terms with the past (Vergangenheit "past"; Bewältigung "overcome [the negative, repressed and incriminating, mental injuries and guilt]"), which is perhaps best rendered in English as "struggle to overcome the [negatives of the] past". Since the late 20th century, it is a key term in the study of post-1945 German literature and culture.
In all of Germany and originally, the term refers to remorse for Germans' complicity in the war crimes of the Wehrmacht, Holocaust, and related events of the early and mid-20th century, including World War II. In this sense, the word refers to the psychic process of denazification. With the absorption into the current Federal Republic of Germany of East Germany since 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union, Vergangenheitsbewältigung can also refer to coming to terms with the excesses and human rights abuses associated with that former Communist state.