This article is an interweaving of three strands: an account by Imre Kertesz of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War, which he published as the novel, Fateless; an account of a walking tour in Suffolk that the German Anglophile, W. G. Sebald, published as the travelogue, The Rings of Saturn; and my own account of visiting the Auschwitz memorial site, which has been constructed on the edge of the Polish city still bearing the same name. Linking the three strands is the issue of the phenomenology of walking: the consciousness that is capacitated by this activity and the accompanying power to interpret one's life and surroundings in imaginative ways. Kertesz would walk the Nazi lager without stopping for death; Sebald would walk the Suffolk landscape without admitting the passage of time; I would walk Auschwitz without falling victim to the systemic constructions of others. For all, the physical activity is linked to becoming conscious of certain symbolic patterns in time and space. Walking, this article concludes, entails both a phenomenological objectivity, which may be appreciated by virtue of a common human embodiment, and a phenomenological subjectivity: an individual consciousness engaging in imaginative projects of disembodiment and otherness.
In this paper I examine the use of the concept of "normality" in debates about German foreign policy since unification. In the early 1990s, left-wing intellectuals such as Jürgen Habermas tended to criticize the idea of "normality" in favor of a form of German exceptionalism based on responsibility for the Nazi past. A foreign policy based on the idea of "normality" was associated above all with the greater use of military force, which the right advocated and the left opposed. Thus, "normality" became a synonym for Bündnisfähigkeit. Yet, from the mid 1990s onwards, some Social Democrats such as Egon Bahr began to use the concept of "normality" to refer instead to a foreign policy based on sovereignty and the pursuit of national interests. Although a consensus has now emerged in Germany around this realist definition of foreign-policy "normality," it is inadequate to capture the complex shift in the foreign policy of the Federal Republic since unification.
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.
Peter Eli Gordon
Daniel Arasse, Anselm Kiefer, Mary Whittall, trans. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001)
Lisa Saltzman, Anselm Kiefer and Art after Auschwitz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)
Mark A. Wolfgram
Alon Confino, Germany as a Culture of Remembrance: Promises and Limits of Writing History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006)
Wulf Kansteiner, In Pursuit of German Memory: History, Television, and Politics after Auschwitz (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006)
Reflections on Auschwitz
Austrian-born Ruth Klüger was a teenager when she and her mother were deported first to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz, and later to Christianstadt. This article examines Klüger's memoir weiter leben in which she records her memories and assessments of her experience in these concentration camps. It considers her critical stance toward the postwar Holocaust memory culture and focuses on Klüger's relationship with German thought and language. In particular, during her imprisonment in Auschwitz, German poetry played an important role in her survival. This offers new insight into Theodor Adorno's statement (which he later retracted) that “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.“ As questions about German identity are raised, this article suggests a discourse about the Holocaust from within German culture and points to questions about the intricate relationship of a shared cultural background between victim and perpetrator.
Antony Rowland and Tadeusz Pióro
Tadeusz Borowski’s poetry is virtually unknown in Britain and America, despite the fact that the Polish writer was a poet long before he wrote his controversial stories about his experiences in Auschwitz–Birkenau and Dachau. These stories, a selection of which appear in Penguin’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, ensured his canonical status in twentieth-century European literature. Yet only three Borowski poems are readily available in English translations: ‘Night over Birkenau’, ‘The Sun of Auschwitz’ and ‘Farewell to Maria’ are printed in Hilda Schiff’s anthology Holocaust Poetry. A few more appear in the English translation of Adam Zych’s anthology The Auschwitz Poems,3 but this edition is currently out of print.
As Andrea Huyssen observes, since the 1990s the preservation of Holocaust heritage has become a worldwide phenomenon, and this “difficult heritage” has also led to the rise of “dark tourism.” Neither as sensationally traumatic as Auschwitz’s termination concentration camp in Poland nor as aesthetic as the forms of many modern Jewish museums in Germany and the United States, the Terezín Memorial in the Czech Republic provides a different way to present memorials of atrocity: it juxtaposes the original deadly site with the musical heritage that shows the will to live.
Response to Daniel Gordon
Elias was very old when he died in 1990 at the age of 93. And like Lear he “bore the most.” His father, Hermann, died during the war in 1940, and his mother, Sophie, disappeared in a crematorium at Auschwitz during the year 1941.
This article discusses a screenplay of the television thriller Armer
Nanosh (Poor Nanosh), written in 19891 by the famous German
author Martin Walser and Asta Scheib.2 The screenplay deals with
the relations between Germans and Germany’s Sinti, or Gypsy, population
in the shadow of Auschwitz,3 a subject that has hardly been
touched upon by postwar German authors and dramatists.