Entangled by the past : mutual representations and self-images in German and Polish discourses on the Holocaust / by Joanna Kedzierska Stimmel
Includes bibliographical references (p. 259-280)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
This thesis analyzes how cultural memories of the Holocaust mediate mutual perceptions and self-images in German and Polish public consciousness. It is concerned with the impact representations of each national community's involvement in the genocide have had on the construction of national identities at the critical time leading to and following the unification of Germany and the democratization of Poland. Examining German and Polish public and press discourses on Auschwitz and the recent “Jedwabne debate,” closely reading Monika Maron's Pawels Briefe, Jaroslaw Rymkiewicz's Umschlagplatz and Thomas Harlan's Rosa, and analyzing films Bittere Ernte (1985), Kornblumenblau (1988) and Fotoamator (1998), I demonstrate the dynamic between representations which have become part of the cosmopolitan memory and the distinctly “German” and “Polish” conceptualizations of the Shoah. The majority of the texts I analyzed appear suspended between a critical confrontation with the German-Polish-Jewish past and the problematic narrative strategies which compulsively repeat projection, repression, and denial. Even in the texts whose authors struggle to undercut such mechanisms, it often appears that Poles and Germans use the other community to relativize or recontextualize the criminal aspects of their own past. By remembering Poles not only as victims but also as bystanders who mostly passively consented to, profited from, or collaborated in the Judeocide, the German role as a perpetrator is sometimes relativized in German mnemonic discourses. Similarly, images of the Nazis as perpetrators in relation to Jews and Poles mediate the Polish cultural discourse of complicity, guilt, and responsibility for the Jewish demise. The examples analyzed in this thesis demonstrate that even as both societies are influenced by a “cosmopolitanization” of the Holocaust memory, they still draw on nation-specific mnemonic discourses for their formulation of national identity. Pointing out the reciprocity inherent in German and Polish imagining of self and others in the historical events of the Holocaust, my findings contribute to the study of representation, cultural memory, and national identity in each national discourse.
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