Warring narratives : the diaries and memoirs of Lore Walb, Ursula von Kardorff and Margret Boveri / by Barbara Serfozo.
How are those of us, who lack direct experience with Hitler's National Socialism, to understand how it could have been so successful in its violent aims? This dissertation offers three case studies in grasping how individuals—in particular three German women journalists—understood their participation in National Socialist society by analyzing their published diaries and memoirs from World War II. In so doing, this dissertation investigates the ways in which personal narratives about the past interact with the recurring crisis of Aufarbeitung of the Nazi past in German cultural discourse. Focusing on Margret Boveri's Tage des Überlebens, Berlin 1945, and Verzweigungen, Ursula von Kardorff's Berliner Aufzeichnungen 1942 bis 1945 and Lore Walb's Ich die Alte, ich die Junge. Konfrontationen mit meinen Tagebüchern. 1933–1945 , the dissertation asks what can these texts tell us about life in the Third Reich?1 Can they bring us closer to understanding the ways in which individuals, and women specifically, appropriated, assimilated or resisted National Socialist ideology? If so, how? How are contemporary readers to read and understand such texts? What are the limits of and potential for understanding other people's experiences through our engagement with their diaries and personal narratives? Drawing upon Wolfgang Iser's work on the act of reading, this dissertation explores the ‘virtual space’ of interaction between text and reader in which both textual and historical meaning is produced. As diaries and memoirs that function as testimonies, these texts testify not only to life under the Third Reich, but also to the ways in which individuals engage with the shifting cultural discourse of guilt and complicity in Germany. Soon we will have nothing but texts to help us explain how individuals came to tolerate, embrace, or contribute to the Third Reich, making it all the more imperative that we develop methods to interpret the testimony and personal narratives of those who ‘were there.’ This dissertation is grounded in the spirit of this need to better understand the ways in which National Socialism functioned on a day-to-day level.1Margret Boveri, Tage des Überlebens, Berlin 1945. (Munich: Piper, 1968), Verzweigungen (Munich: Piper, 1977); Ursula von Kardorff Berliner Aufzeichnungen. 1942 bis 1945. (Munich: Biederstein, 1962); Lore Walb, Ich, die Alte, ich, die Junge. Konfrontationen mit meinen Tagebüchern 1933–1945 . (Berlin: Aufbau, 1997).
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