Still living with the Holocaust in a democracy : history, memory, and identity in contemporary Germany / by Tanja S. Dresp.
This study investigates the influence of history—more specifically the history of the Holocaust—and the politics of memory on the democracy and national identity of Germany when memory is initially denied, silenced and repressed. The politics of memory are defined as a public act, utterance or site where the memory of the past is evoked, discussed, contested, symbolized, publicized, crystallized, formulated, or contained. Such an act, utterance or site can be among other things, a speech, a scholarly publication, or a memorial. By evaluating the history of the politics of memory since 1945 in general and focusing on three contemporary case studies about the politics of memory in Germany during the 1990s in particular, the nature, functions, effects and political divisions of the politics of Holocaust memory are examined in relation to historical developments, questions of national self-definition, identity and democracy. The case studies are called “The Goldhagen Controversy Revisited,” “The Walser-Bubis Debate,” and “The National Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.” The key argument of this thesis is that in the German case silenced negative memory and a national identity construct that is solely based on negative nationalism had negative consequences for its democracy. It is concluded that after unification there have been increased efforts to be more pragmatic in dealing with the German past. Nonetheless, what is still unshakeable for any German democratic politician is the conviction that the memory of the Holocaust and the political responsibility that this legacy of the past entails remain constitutive elements of the official definition of the German nation, even though the average German does not necessarily want to carry this legacy to the same degree.
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