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.
From Silence to Knowledge and Back Again
Albert Friedlander's work stands as a major contribution to what we might call a generational project. Those Jews who, like Albert, survived the catastrophe of the Holocaust, those Jews who escaped it, and those Jews who had long been settled
” (@danfin). These examples should not come as a real surprise. Many scholars have directed attention to the various formal and informal ways in which Israeli culture imprints the Holocaust on Israeli sensibilities to the point where the vast majority of
The present article argues that Hélène Berr's Journal goes well beyond mere testimony to provide an astute analysis not only of the persecutory measures, arrests, camps, and deportations but also of the various attempts to camouflage the violence and even of the wider implications of what she ultimately recognized to be a systematic extermination. Hélène Berr thus presents an extraordinary case of a young French Jewish student at the Sorbonne who, steeped in literature but untrained in history, nevertheless achieved a degree of historical lucidity that, in view of the confused, limited, and often unreliable information available to her in Nazi-occupied Paris, we can only consider as remarkable. Above all, Hélène Berr's very personal confrontation with history, as it unfolded in all the sinister complexity of what we now know as the Holocaust, enables us to better understand these events in the human terms in which they were experienced and with the ethical dimensions that they take on for us today.
Few studies exist concerning the portrayal of the Holocaust in Albanian history textbooks. Recent studies of Albanian textbooks tend to ignore the topic. For example, the book Myth and Mythical Spaces: Conditions and Challenges for History
Difficult Histories and Threatening Memories
Victor Jeleniewski Seidler
On the seventieth anniversary of the destruction of the Vilna ghetto I explore ambivalences in Holocaust memory in the Baltic states and troubling notions of a 'double genocide' while tracing train journeys of death that connected Vienna, Vilna and Tallinn and so western and eastern Europe. Exploring how memories are connected to place and investigating how family legacies of Litvak identity also travel, I show how Musar ethical traditions also journeyed as far as South Africa to influence the ethical politics of the African National Congress. Framing questions about the relationship between ethics and memory across generations I return to the painful warnings in the words of Elchanan Elkes at the destruction of the Kovno ghetto. I trace the possibilities that they help to frame a post-Shoah ethics and a vision of 'the human' that questions the rational self that informed Enlightenment thinking and that proved incapable of resisting the brutalities of Nazism.
The Federal Republic of Germany—both before and after 1989—has been influenced deeply by collective memories of the Nazi period and the Holocaust, a seemingly "unmasterable past." In a first phase after unification, memory trends, which had their origin in the mid 1980s, continued, but a second period, beginning around the 1999 move of the capital back to Berlin, however, witnessed the erosion of this older trend and the delayed rise of new memory dynamics. Substantively, there have been three vectors of memory concerning Nazi crimes, German suffering, and the period of division, especially regarding the German Democratic Republic. In this article, I outline the major collective memory dynamics and debates, first from a qualitative and then from a more quantitative perspective where I analyze the holdings of the German National Library. I conclude that an intense period of memory work characterized the postunification years, but the peak of concern was reached several years ago and the German future will be much less beholden to the past. Given inevitable normalizing trends and the unintended consequences of the hegemony of Holocaust memory, Germany's difficult historical legacy increasingly appears to be disappearing or even mastered.
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.
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.
Elie Wiesel has claimed that testimony is the generic legacy of the Holocaust. Other critics have pointed out that testimony, in the sense of first-person literary accounts of events to which the author was eye-witness, also characterized earlier historical calamities, in particular the First World War. That war produced testimony in the form of lyric poetry, in which the reader recognized the author as a witness and assumed a close fit to the poem’s speaking subject. Yet it is not poetic but prose testimony that is typical of Holocaust eyewitness, while Holocaust poetry is considered a separate and self-contained genre. In this essay, I will explore the reasons why this should be so, and whether there is a closer link than at first appears between the construction of the first-person narrator of a prose testimony, such as Wiesel’s Night (1958), and the lyric ‘I’ of some Holocaust poetry.