Ambiguous memory : the legacy of the Nazi past in postwar Germany / by Siobhan Kattago
Includes bibliographical references (p. 243-269)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
The dissertation examines official memories of National Socialism in the Federal Republic, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and unified Germany during the 1980's and 1990's. Recent theories of collective memory and national identity provide an excellent conceptual grid and methodology that enables us to reveal and explain the social mechanisms of how the memory of the Nazi past functioned in the different Germanies and how it might effect German politics and culture in the future. Influenced by the theoretical work of Maurice Halbwachs and Pierre Nora, I investigate the social mechanisms of West German internalization and East German universalization of the Nazi past by examining social frameworks and specific places of memory. The research seeks to answer the following questions: How did memories of the Nazi past affect the national identity and legitimation of the Federal Republic, the GDR, and unified Germany? How does public debate about the past affect what is remembered? What do memories and representations of the past tell us about the present and how do they possibly effect the future? East and West German memories of the Nazi past are not universal, but located within particular frameworks of social groups and institutions. Memories of the past provide insight into the society which remembers and are not simply retrievals of the past "as it was," but rather constructions of the past. The creation of postwar German national identities was not only based on a system of negative mirror-imaging and comparison between the two Germanies, but also on how Nazi Germany was remembered. While West German memory was framed by an internalization of the past as a burden, East German memory universalized National Socialism into the myth of antifascism. Unified Germany is framed by a double past which entails a continuation of the West German framework of internalization accompanied by the "newness" of the restored German nation. Places of memory such as Bitburg, the Historians' Debate, the East German historians' dispute, the 50th anniversary commemoration of Kristallnacht, the renarration of Buchenwald, the Neue Wache, and the proposed Holocaust Memorial in Berlin are illustrative examples of the ambiguity of East, West, and unified German memory.
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