This article examines two chapters from Martin Sabrow's 2009 edited volume Erinnerungsorte der DDR, one on antifascism and one on Buchenwald. These two case studies exemplify the complexities of the contemporary German memorial landscape. In particular, they thematize the remembrance of the Nazi past in the German Democratic Republic and how this GDR past has, in turn, been tendentiously remembered since unification. By examining the layering of memories in these two chapters, we argue that the theoretical models which often underpin contemporary German memory work, Sabrow's volume included, serve to obscure the role of the state as carrier of official memory. On the basis of this study, we show that concepts dominant in today's Germany promote a unified national narrative. In particular, terms such as the “culture of memory” (Erinnerungskultur) and cultural memory (kulturelles Gedächtnis) downplay conflicting, contentious and diverse memories relating to the GDR past. As such, the article provides a timely note of caution for memory studies and memory work, which increasingly applies these models to wider, non-German contexts.
Helmut Peitsch and Joanne Sayner
This essay explores the history of young historians clubs in East Germany as they pursued antifascist projects from the early 1950s through the final years of communist rule. Using antifascism as an analytical tool, the author investigates students who not only accepted socialist values and prescribed historical interpretations in total or in part, but advanced them in their own right during their leisure time. Voluntary young historians clubs provided a previously unexplored window into the prevalence and relative depth of youth interest in the regime's favored heroes-communist resistance fighters. Youth interest in this theme dispels the pervading theory in some contemporary political circles that young people overwhelming rejected state-supported antifascism. The primary source base for this essay includes individual club reports, regional statistics, conference documents, and oral history interviews.
A survey of his extensive bibliography reveals that George Mosse wrote very little about the only movement that he ever called his political “Heimat”: antifascism. Nonetheless, in his last years, while writing his memoir Confronting History, he returned to the scenes of his youthful engagement on the left, acknowledging that his “political awakening” was due not merely to his being the refugee scion of the eminent Berlin German-Jewish family whose newspapers were excoriated almost daily by the Nazis. Rather, like many in his generation, at age seventeen George was roused from a sleepy indifference to his studies at the Quaker Bootham School in York-shire by the Spanish Civil War. If his activity on behalf of Spain was still “sporadic” during his last year at Bootham, at Cambridge, which George entered in the fall of 1937, commitment became more intense and eventually, he recalled, “marked my two years as an undergraduate.”
The Impact of French Internment on the Pacifist Convictions and Literary Imagination of Lion Feuchtwanger
Nicole Dombrowski Risser
German Jewish author, Lion Feuchtwanger, wove uncompromising pacifism into his post-World War I novels and plays, preferring a pen to a sword to oppose European fascism. Even over his six years of exile in France (1933–1939), Feuchtwanger maintained his pacifist convictions. This article traces the author’s late turn from literary pacifist antifascism to a reluctant, but firm advocacy of armed civilian and military struggle. Feuchtwanger’s internment by the French in the Les Milles detention camp triggered the author’s conversion. There, he abandoned his faith in pacifist, communist internationalism opting now for a romanticized idea of French nationalism, which pivoted around French martial, nationalist heroines like Joan of Arc and the Revolutionary Marianne. Novels, Paris Gazette (1939), Simone (1944), and his memoir The Devil in France (1941) demonstrated a sharpening of his pen to mobilize American and French readers for armed intervention and the militarization of female civilians. France in its betrayal, defeat, and regeneration became the lodestar for resetting Feuchtwanger’s compass.
Gareth Pritchard, The Making of the GDR: From Anti-Fascism to Stalinism, 1945-1953 (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000)
M.E. Sarotte, Dealing with the Devil: East Germany and Ostpolitik, 1969-1973 (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001)