Mandarins in the Public Sphere: Vergangenheitsbewältigung and the Paradigm of Social History in the Federal Republic of Germany

in German Politics and Society
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Since the 1960s, Germany’s historical culture has continually reprocessed

the Nazi past and later the Holocaust for the purposes of education,

remembrance, and entertainment. The objective of this process,

Vergangenheitsbewältigung, is the self-centered and self-designed

therapeutic treatment of the descendants of the perpetrators and

bystanders of Nazism. It seems that Germans, who were better fascists

than other Europeans, are also determined to excel at the task of

working through Nazism and the World War II era. Therefore,

attempts at mastering the past have given rise to hectic cultural activity

as the field of contemporary history illustrates: “[I]ncessantly the

German business for contemporary history generates fast-food products.

It is based on a perpetual mobile of commissions, projects and

mini-grants, temporary employment and welfare-to-work subsidies,

conferences and lecture series—a perpetual mobile of pedagogical historiography

and history obsessed pedagogy.”