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Montage as exposure : a critical analysis of Walter Kempowski's Das Echolot / by Carla Ann Damiano

Publication | Library Call Number: D811.A2 E343 1998

The main focus of this investigation is the German author Walter Kempowski's 1993 publication, Das Echolot (The Echo Sounder), a four-volume, three-thousand-page collective diary. Comprised exclusively of documentary materials, its montage form challenges the boundaries of both literary and historiographical discourse. Set in January-February, 1943, Echolot is centered around the German Sixth Army's defeat at Stalingrad. But Kempowski's collection of texts engages the reader in a critical examination of the events which lead not only to the defeat of the Sixth Army, but also the reasons which drove these men to Stalingrad in the first place; each day pointedly begins at the Fuhrer's main headquarters and ends at Auschwitz. To understand Echolot and its content, along with Kempowski the compiler who refrains from personal commentary, one must first understand the principles behind the form and structure of the montage. I therefore delineate the theory and practice of montage and correspondingly define the term as it relates to Kempowski's oeuvre and my interpretation of it. With the aid of Alexander Kluge's theoretical perspectives on montage, I demonstrate how the underlying principles behind the montage construction correspond with the pedagogical convictions of Kempowski the teacher as well as Kempowski the writer; I deduce that the reader becomes actively involved in a learning process in which Kempowski plays an overtly invisible, yet decisive role. Furthermore, since Echolot is a work comprised of testimonies of contemporary eyewitnesses to World War II and the Holocaust (although mainly from a German perspective), I establish Claude Lanzmann's monumental film "Shoah" as a basis for comparison. Based on the lessons about witnessing that "Shoah" teaches, I conclude that Echolot is a testimony about the role that Germans played as perpetrators of the Holocaust, narrated by the eyewitness generation itself in the first person. By transferring to the reader the ethical responsibility to understand the guilt, self-imposed ignorance, and complicity in these testimonies, Kempowski is inviting the reader to take an active part in, as well as to share the responsibility of, his inquiry into the history of his country's past.

Format
Book
Author/Creator
Damiano, Carla Ann, 1962-
Published
1998
Includes bibliographical references (p. 206-219)
Language
English
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Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/bib77576