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Walking Memory

Berlin's “Holocaust Trail“

Maria Pia Di Bella

Since the early 1990s, Berlin has developed what I call a “Holocaust trail“-circa twenty-five officially dedicated memorial sites recalling significant historical events leading to the Final Solution-without acknowledging it yet as a “trail.“ Berlin is already well known for its two famous museums-memorials: the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (2005) and the Jewish Museum (2001), two strong statements meant to show how the town deals with the heritage of the Holocaust, how it tries to underline the absolute impossibility of its erasure from social memory and to fight revisionism. The different memorial sites of the Holocaust trail came into existence thanks to multiple initiatives that allowed the town to become a true laboratory for the politics of memory concerning the crimes of the Nazi state and the sufferings of the Jewish citizens that fell victim to the state's genocide.

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Holocaust Tourism in Berlin

Global Memory, Trauma and the 'Negative Sublime'

Andrew S. Gross

This essay argues that the construction of the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Berlin Holocaust Memorial constitutes a paradigm shift in Holocaust commemoration in Germany. The structures architecturally resemble their US counterparts and particularly the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum more than they do the other memorials and museums in Berlin’s complex commemorative landscape. American responses to the European catastrophe have significantly impacted European commemorative forms. Indeed, an internationally recognizable memorial architecture seems to be emerging, one emphasizing gaps, voids, incongruities and the personal relation to what theorists and commentators have begun to call ‘negative’ or ‘evil sublime’. Contemporary memorials and museums are not designed to ‘merely’ house collections; rather, they draw attention to themselves as symbols and symptoms of traumatic memory. They act out the trauma of the Holocaust as architecture; walking through them is supposed to be a step towards working through that trauma as feeling and experience.

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Lia Friesem

More than other collective memories, the Holocaust is the most vivid memory in today’s Israeli existence. As a result of comprehensive official and unofficial memory work that utilizes the Holocaust as a political and educational tool, on the one hand, and due to the advent of the new media, on the other, its grip on everyday Israeli reality is only growing stronger. As part of a broader research project focusing on resistive cultural activity on Israeli Twitter, this article makes visible the striking omnipresence of the Holocaust on this social network, while maintaining that many of the ‘Holocaust tweets’ constitute an act of resistance. That is, users are engaged in oppositional decoding in a battle against the hegemonic Holocaust discourse.

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“Who Wants to Be Sad Over and Over Again?”

Emotion Ideologies in Contemporary German Education about the Holocaust

Lisa Jenny Krieg

Based on an ethnographic field study in Cologne, this article discusses the connection between memory practices and emotion ideologies in Holocaust education, using Sara Ahmed’s concept of affective economies. Moral goals, political demands, and educators’ care for their students lead to tensions in the education process. Two case studies illustrate how educators and learners express different, often contradictory concepts of emotion. In these studies, emotions are selectively opposed to rationality. In some contexts, emotions are considered inferior to facts and obstacles to the learning process; in others, they are superior to facts because they can communicate moral messages reliably.

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The Search for Politanky

A Hidden Holocaust Refuge in Transnistria

Carol Simon Elias

As the child of Holocaust survivors, I had thought that after more than seventy-five years little else could be learnt. But I was wrong. After my second journey to Ukraine and Transnistria in order to discover how my family had survived when hundreds of thousands of Jews had perished, I realized just how much so. Bukovina’s Jews from Romania, Ukraine and Bessarabia had faced horrific pogroms, forced evacuations and death marches, and had then crossed the Dniester River into Transnistria. These are lesser known topics in Holocaust history. Of the 450,000 Jews sent there, approximately 250,000 died, not by guns, gas or ovens but through thirst, starvation, disease and bullet-free mass murders carried out by the Nazis and their Romanian allies. Transnistria’s Holocaust history must be visited and revised. We owe it to the survivors, ourselves, our children and to history itself, before altering what has been written, or not, becomes impossible.

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It was horrible, but we live now

The experience of young German adults in everyday encounters with the Holocaust

Lisa J. Krieg

Based on an ethnographic field study in a museum and an evening high school in Cologne, this paper discusses experiences of young German adults in everyday encounters with the Holocaust, which are oft en accompanied by feelings of discomfort. Considering the Holocaust as an uncanny, strange matter contributes to understanding that distance and proximity are key factors in creating uncomfortable encounters. Distance from the Holocaust reduces discomfort, but where distance cannot be created, other strategies have to be put to work. This article underlines the significance of experience in an individual’s personal relation to the past for gaining an improved understanding of Holocaust memorial culture in Germany.

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Stephen Welch and Ruth Wittlinger

The aim of this paper is to offer a critique of the proposal of “methodological cosmopolitanism“ in theoretical terms and to substantiate this critique by providing an account of the dynamics of collective memory and identity in postunification Germany. In the first part, we look at the arguments about methodological cosmopolitanism and their derivative, the idea of cosmopolitan memory, illustrated by the case of Holocaust memory. In the second part we look at the case of Germany: firstly at its postwar experience of the attempted construction of “postnational“ identity, and then at more recent trends, contemporaneous with the Berlin Republic, towards a “normalization“ of national identity in Germany. The Holocaust plays a crucial, but different, role in each phase, we suggest. In the conclusion we return to more general themes, asking what the German case tells us about the cosmopolitanization thesis more generally.

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Sivane Hirsch and Marie McAndrew

This article analyzes the treatment of the Holocaust in Quebec's history textbooks, in view of the subject's potential and actual contribution to human rights education. Given that Quebec's curriculum includes citizenship education in its history program, it could be argued that the inclusion of the Holocaust has particular relevance in this context, as it contributes to the study of both history and civics, and familiarizes Quebec's youth with representations of Quebec's Jewish community, which is primarily concentrated in Montreal. This article demonstrates that the textbooks' treatment of the Holocaust is often superficial and partial, and prevents Quebec's students from fully grasping the impact of this historical event on contemporary society.

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Problematic Portrayals and Contentious Content

Representations of the Holocaust in English History Textbooks

Stuart Foster and Adrian Burgess

This article reports on a study about the ways in which the Holocaust is portrayed in four school history textbooks in England. It offers detailed analysis and critical insights into the content of these textbooks, which are commonly used to support the teaching of this compulsory aspect of the history National Curriculum to pupils aged eleven to fourteen. The study draws on a recent national report based on the responses of more than 2,000 teachers and explicitly uses the education guidelines of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as a benchmark against which to evaluate the textbook content. It identifies a number of potentially alarming findings of which two themes predominate: a common tendency for textbooks to present an “Auschwitz-centric,” “perpetrator narrative” and a widespread failure to sensitively present Jewish life and agency before, during, and after the war. Ultimately, the article calls for the improvement of textbook content, but equally recognizes the need for teachers to be knowledgeable, judicious, and critical when using textbooks in their classrooms.

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Eunike Piwoni

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.