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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.

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Earl Jeffrey Richards

In May 1995 German academe was rocked by the revelation that one

of its most respected members, Hans Schwerte, the recently deceased

former rector of the University of Aachen and Goethe scholar, was

actually Hans Ernst Schneider, a high-ranking official in Himmler’s

research organization, the SS-Ahnenerbe (“ancestral heritage”). Since

this revelation there has been a veritable explosion of literature, no

less than twelve monographs and essay collections, devoted to the

questions of whether Schneider as Schwerte is an exemplary or symbolic

figure for Germany’s transformation into a democratic society,

whether his career as an “academic manager” in the Third Reich and

his university career in the Federal Republic attest to the well-known

continuity of elites, independent of political beliefs, and whether

Schneider owed his subsequent professional success to connections

with somewhat unsavory (albeit fully legal and quite public) networks

of former Nazis.

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Earl Jeffrey Richards

Within the enormous body of critical writings dedicated to literary

works devoted to the Shoah, the possibility of its very representation

and the problems arising in the potential deformation of memory

are frequent topics. In light of these issues, it might be helpful to

examine a well-known work of literary scholarship, Erich Auerbach’s

Mimesis, The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, written

between May 1942 and April 1945, as a potentially overlooked

example of a highly sublimated allegorical meditation on the contemporary

murder of Europe’s Jews. Auerbach’s classic work, which

explicitly takes literary representation as its central theme, seems to

use carefully and subtly selected examples from western literature as

figures for current events.