There seems to be a wide consensus in the academic community that the Holocaust is gradually losing significance in the German public. This development is clearly reflected in public elite discourse on national identity, where “Holocaust-centered memory” has ceased to be hegemonic. In the literature, several interpretations and reasons have been presented to explain this development. This paper contributes to the debate by arguing that the declining presence of Holocaust-centered arguments in intellectual elite discourse on national identity is due to a new consensual idea of German nationhood. Based on an event-oriented discourse analysis of more than 800 articles in opinion-leading newspapers, journals and magazines covering a period of more than twenty years, I argue that in national identity discourse, the Holocaust has never been—as is usually assumed—a blockade to displays of national identity in general, but only to a specific interpretation of the German nation as a Volk and as an exclusionist culture nation. By contrast, the idea of nationhood that dominates in the German public sphere today, the civic nation model, has never invoked Holocaust-centered counter-arguments—not even in the Historikerstreit in the 1980s. Thus, over the past three decades, the way national identity discourse has operated might have changed less than had often been assumed. The central argument of this paper is that the Holocaust has become a “latent”—but not a less consequential—argumentative resource.
In 1997, Hinrich Seeba offered a graduate seminar on Berlin at the University of California, Berkeley. He called it: "Cityscape: Berlin as Cultural Artifact in Literature, Art, Architecture, Academia." It was a true German studies course in its interdisciplinary and cultural anthropological approach to the topic: Berlin, to be analyzed as a "scape," a "view or picture of a scene," subject to the predilections of visual perception in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This course inspired my research on contemporary German history as represented in Berlin's Holocaust memorials. The number and diversity of these memorials has made this city into a laboratory of collective memory. Since the unification of East and West Germany in 1990, memorials in Berlin have become means to shape a new national identity via the history shared by both Germanys. In this article, I explore two particular memorials to show the tension between creating a collective, national identity, and representing the cultural and historical diversity of today's Germany. I compare the Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, or "national Holocaust memorial") which opened in central Berlin on May 10, 2005, to the lesser known, privately sponsored, decentralized "stumbling stone" project by artist Gunter Demnig.
This article reports on contemporary debates in Germany on the extensive use of English in Germans' use of German. In particular, it focuses on the debate held at the University of Birmingham between Professor Jürgen Schiewe and Thomas Paulwitz on the question: “The influence of English on German today: Grounds for concern?” The rise of a nationalist discourse on language since the mid-1990s is traced with particular reference to the Verein Deutsche Sprache and the quarterly publication Deutsche Sprachwelt. The purist position represented by Paulwitz, editor of Deutsche Sprachwelt, and opposed by Schiewe, Professor of German Philology at the University of Greifswald, is found to represent a discourse on national identity that fails to engage with modern linguistic science.
Earl Jeffrey Richards
The overwhelming critical response in Germany to the publication of
Victor Klemperer’s journals, particularly those spanning the years
from 1933 to 1945, has been a veritable sensation. Hundreds of
reviews, mostly appreciations, have appeared. Klemperer’s journals
have also turned into big business. On October 12, 1999, the German
television channel ARD began broadcasting a thirteen-episode series
on the diaries in the most expensive, made-for-television program of
its kind in Germany. Additionally, the English-language rights to the
journals were sold to Random House for a record $550,000, more
than has ever been paid for translation rights of any German book in
history. The selling of Klemperer’s journals may have led to a distorted
evaluation of their author’s position and importance.
Caribbean Activism and the Invention of a National Memory of Slavery in France
French society and given too much space for particular group identities. Indeed, from the late 1990s into the 2000s, the struggles of Caribbean activists turned the national conversation toward France’s involvement in the enslavement of Africans. The
From French Others to Othering Frenchness
national identity on its head—showing how postcolonial outsiders could also construct imperial identities, rather than simply having indigenous identities thrust upon them—it also reveals how anti-imperial agents weighed in on Frenchness as they examined
Translocal Identities of the Far Right Web
Patricia Anne Simpson
of National Socialism and its appeal to subsequent generations of Germans have kept a vice-like grip on the construction of national identity and the German political imaginary. 1 Weiss, a director, citizens’ rights activist, and former
The 2007 Presidential election has been the occasion of a fierce debate between Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolène Royal on the issue of national identity. The victory of Nicolas Sarkozy has led to the creation of a Ministry of National Identity and Immigration, linking in a controversial way the management of newcomers and their acceptance of allegedly historical national "values." This article examines the debate during the campaign. It provides an analysis of the reasons why the definition and defense of national identity was discussed in the course of the election, and outlines the viewpoints of the two candidates on this issue. Finally, it argues that the temptation to fix politically the content of national identity is an ancient one in France. What has been presented as part of Nicolas Sarkozy's "rupture" with the past in this domain is in fact the latest development of a form of "state nationalism" that has been prevailing in France in recent decades.
Mark A. Wolfgram
Bill Niven, Facing the Nazi Past: United Germany and the Legacy of the Third Reich (London: Routledge, 2002)
Siobhan Kattago, Ambiguous Memory: The Nazi Past and German National Identity (Praeger: Westport, Conn., 2001)
Arielle Fridson Bikard
In what way does national history shape the interpretation of international events in that country's media? Germany has always had a particularly sensitive and complex relationship with Israel. The Holocaust left such a scar on German identity that the country cannot consider Israel without confronting its own history. In Israel, Germany sees a “reflection“ of its own historical and symbolic space. In this article, I draw together a close reading of major German newspapers with more interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives in order to illuminate the mechanism of what I call “mirror reading,“ and especially to reveal its workings during what I consider a key shift in the discourse on German identity. The German print media, which I treat as the activating agent in German narration of national identity, plays a central role in this reflection by projecting national symbols onto Israel. In particular, I identify the initial reception of the Israeli wall (2003-2004) as a turning point in the debate on German self-understanding after the Holocaust. I establish that there are two extremes in a continuum of how German national history can frame the Israeli wall, one making Germany an active agent and the other a passive one. Employing national symbols in the media distorts the domestic perception of foreign events. My study casts a first light on this little understood—but nonetheless crucial—phenomenon.