Remembering Nazi Germany : trauma and testimony / by Caroline Schaumann.
My dissertation, Remembering Nazi Germany: Trauma and Testimony, combines an analysis of Holocaust testimonies with a reconsideration of works on National Socialism to illustrate the belated ramifications of the Nazi era for its victims and bystanders alike. Whereas survivors have been haunted by the experience of the Holocaust, most Germans have been distraught by postwar misery, national defeat, and the consciousness of their participation in a murderous regime. Focusing on women who experienced National Socialism and the Holocaust in their youths and bear testimony as adults, I analyze Ruth Klüger's weiter leben: eine Jugend (1992), which depicts the manner in which she, as a Jew, survived concentration camps; and Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmuster (1976), which describes her youth as an “Aryan” follower of Hitler. While these works are at the center of my analysis, I expand my study with other Holocaust testimonies of Charlotte Delbo, Cordelia Edvardson, Judith Magyar Isaacson, and Mali Fritz, and compare these works with the better-known (male) testimonies of Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi. I also examine testimonial works by women who, like Wolf, initially supported Hitler. While Klüger rejects the role of a typically passive, isolated, helpless, and voiceless victim, it is also impossible to put Wolf into a fixed category of either perpetrator or bystander. Both authors face feelings of guilt though for vastly different reasons and are only belatedly, some thirty to forty years after the defeat of National Socialism, emotionally able to confront their pasts. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory and on current theories of autobiography, I pursue the question of how memories are recorded, retrieved, and narrated. While in the immediate postwar era, National Socialism and the Holocaust constituted a taboo topic, psychoanalytical research has revealed how important it is for Holocaust survivors to break this silence and bear witness. This seems equally important for those who participated in National Socialism. Focusing on the survivors' as well as bystanders' need to bear witness, I outline the burden, opportunity, and potential of testimony. While National Socialism silenced both Jews and Germans, I argue that Wolf and Klüger find effective ways to help postwar German society to confront its fascist past.
Record last modified: 2020-03-24 14:47:00
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