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Siobhan Kattago

Commemorating National Socialism and Communism from the perspective

of 1989 often results in an uneasy conflation of German

guilt and victimhood. When the events of 1933-1989 are presented

as one long authoritarian period, war and tyranny can easily be construed

as external forces that simply befell the German nation.

While memories of national guilt are divisive, memories of victimhood

unify and simplify an otherwise ambiguous past. The 1995

restoration of Berlin’s Neue Wache is emblematic of this conflation

of guilt and victimhood. As the central German memorial to all victims

of war and tyranny, the Neue Wache neither distinguishes

between dictatorships, nor between perpetrator and victim.

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Alexandra Kaiser

The article sketches the ruptures in today's German memory culture, concentrating on the Volkstrauertag (People's Day of Mourning) and the Gedenktag für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (Remembrance Day for the Victims of National Socialism) on 27 January. It starts with an overview of the history of the Volkstrauertag with its (outward) transformation from a commemoration day for dead German soldiers into one for “all victims of war and violence.” The inclusive model of commemoration that was typical for the Bonn Republic is disintegrating today. In united Germany, the Volkstrauertag and 27 January reflect antagonistic memory strands, that is a memory focussed on the war dead and German suffering or on the Holocaust and German guilt. In light of discussions about commemorating Bundeswehr dead, the article ends by describing a re-heroicizing of the Volkstrauertag and, in a more general way, tries to outline the shifting construction of German national identity.

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Ruth Wittlinger

Angela Merkel came to power at a crucial time in regards to Germany's relationship with its past. Where would she position herself in light of Gerhard Schröder's approach that had offered a new way of accepting responsibility for the past and integrating it into the twenty-first century present by explicitly making it a key element of German national identity, but also in view of her East German biography? Would she continue and maybe even reinforce the institutionalization of Holocaust-centered memory and-given the forceful return of the topic of German victimhood-complement it with the institutionalization of the memory of German suffering, or would she emphasize the latter at the expense of the former? This paper attempts to answer these questions by examining Merkel's politics of the past during her first three years in office.

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Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider

Images of German victims have become a ubiquitous feature of political debates and mass-mediated cultural events in recent years. This paper argues that changing representations of the Holocaust have served as a political cultural prism through which histories of German victimhood can be renegotiated. More specifically, we explore how the centrality of the Holocaust in Germany informs how the postwar expulsion of twelve million ethnic Germans has been remembered during the last sixty years. Most interpretations of the destruction of European Jewry and the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia and their corresponding memory cultures treat these memories as mutually exclusive manifestations of competing perceptions of national self understanding. We suggest that memories of both the Holocaust and expulsions are entwined. The Holocaust remains a specific event but also spans a universalizing human rights discourse that conceals the magnitude of the Holocaust as a particular historical occurrence; at the same time, the expulsion stops being a particular event and is being reframed as a universal evil called "ethnic cleansing." Examining recent political and public debates about how the expulsions of ethnic Germans are politicized and remembered reveals how comparisons to other incidents of state sanctioned violence and claims of singularity shape the balance of universal and particular modes of commemoration.

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Catherine Plum, Klaus Berghahn, Gregory Smulewicz-Zucker, David Freis, and Matthew Eckel

German culture, but in the early 2000s, the focus shifted to the wartime suffering of ethnically defined Germans. The reemergence of a narrative of German victimhood in best-selling literary texts, in historiographical works, and in television event

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Klaus Berghahn, Russell Dalton, Jason Verber, Robert Tobin, Beverly Crawford, and Jeffrey Luppes

postwar period: the German desire to cast off its identity as both victim and perpetrator on the one hand and the rise of German economic power on the other. The Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, had led to an overwhelming sense of German victimhood

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Samuel Salzborn

guiltiness (including his own) in both historical and political terms, is tied to the desire for a German collective guiltlessness, and the fiction of German victimhood in this situation. According to this, it was not that the Germans did something, but that