This article addresses the transgenerational consequences of the Second World War and the Holocaust for the descendants of the Nazi perpetrators and bystanders. Using the example of her own family, the author traces the external obstacles and the psychological difficulties arising from working through a legacy of crime, compounded by the fact that an atmosphere of taboos, silence and denial has persisted within German families – in spite of all the research and enlightenment in the academic and political spheres. The author argues that the patterns of feeling, thinking and action are often passed down when they are not scrutinised. Meaningful dialogues with the survivors and their descendants, as well as authentic remembrance, the author claims, can only take place if descendants of the victimisers break away from those generationally transmitted narratives which continue to evade the entire truth about the crimes committed by the Nazis and their accomplices in Europe.
Alexandra Senfft, born in 1961 in Hamburg, is a German author and freelance journalist. She specialises in the intergenerational consequences of the Holocaust, especially for perpetrators’ descendants; dialogues between descendants of Holocaust survivors and Nazi victimisers; the ‘tragic triangle’ of Jews/Israelis, Palestinians and Germans; the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis; and antisemitism and anti-Muslim resentments. For more, see www.alexandra-senfft.com.