The role of collective guilt in the identity of German expatriates : a qualitative study / by Kirsten Stoldt Wittenborn
Includes bibliographical references (p. 208-222)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
This qualitative study looked at the role of collective guilt in the cultural identity of eight participants, all recent German expatriates between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the aim of gaining insight into their experience and the degree to which their culture's historical legacy of collective guilt over the Holocaust had contributed to their decision to leave Germany and live abroad. The interviews, lasting about an hour and a half each, were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed by the author. The results indicated that the cultural identity of all eight participants was decisively shaped by an awareness of collective German guilt and shame related to the Holocaust. All had experienced conflict in regard to their cultural identity during their youth which, in some cases, continued into adulthood. Several interviewees also showed signs of trauma in relation to their awareness of their culture's history of genocide. Participants had reached varying levels of resolution in regard to their German identity, ranging from acceptance and reconciliation to ongoing conflict. Of the five female participants, four had been in long term relationships with Jewish men, with three of them having married their Jewish partners and two having converted to Judaism. This finding points to the process of identification with the victims as an important phenomenon in the context of German cultural identity, and the need of these individuals as members of a perpetrator culture to take refuge in a victim identity as a way to confront the traumatic aspects of their cultural heritage.
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