Denkmäler, Literatur und die Sprache der Erinnerung : Kollektives Gedenken an den Holocaust in Deutschland nach 1989 / by Kirsten Harjes.
This dissertation examines how German-speaking countries remembered the Holocaust during the 1990s. The primary sources are (1) the 1995 novel Morbus Kitahara by the Austrian writer Christoph Ransmayr, and (2) a wide range of documents emerging from the public debate since 1988 on a national Holocaust memorial in Berlin. The study also draws on recent scholarly research on the representation of the Holocaust in museums, memorials, literature, and film, devoting special attention to theories of authenticity and collective memory. The dissertation locates the primary materials in the context of past practices of Holocaust memory, showing how current forms of commemoration define themselves in reference to a perceived legacy of both denial of and overcompensation for past crimes. The study argues that the culture of Holocaust memory began to take on a new, more forward-looking character during the 1990s as compared to previous decades. The 1990 unification of Germany, the increasing lack of living Holocaust survivors, the coming-of-age of a second post-war generation, and the rise of individualized conceptions of experience have altered the relationships among Holocaust memory, memory of the war, and national identity. Formulaic expressions such as “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not forget,” polarized categories such as “victim/perpetrator,” and standardized depictions of perpetrators in terms of guilt, shame, and disgrace have been challenged and, in part, replaced by notions of historical responsibility and civic education. Associated with these changes, recent memorial designs have abandoned the traditional goal of conveying unambiguous messages, instead employing minimal and even “invisible” forms to facilitate audience participation in the interpretation and commemoration of the past. In the case of the national Holocaust memorial in Berlin, these ambitions have been expanded to include the goal of creating a form of memory that is both authentic and democratic. Although these ambitions incorporate numerous contradictions and were only partly realized, they indicate the direction that practices of collective memory might take in the future.
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