Persistent legacy: the Holocaust and German studies 9781571139610, 1571139613

"In studies of Holocaust representation and memory, scholars of literature and culture traditionally have focused o

1,156 35 20MB

English Pages vi, 319 Seiten : Illustrationen [329] Year 2016

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Persistent legacy: the Holocaust and German studies
 9781571139610, 1571139613

Table of contents :
Introduction / Jennifer M. Kapczynski and Erin McGlothlin --
Part I. Abiding challenges --
Never over, over and over / Jennifer M. Kapczynski --
The voice of the perpetrator, the voices of the survivors / Erin McGlothlin --
Part II. The Holocaust in German Studies in the North American and the German contexts --
Teaching Holocaust memories as part of "Germanistik" / Stephan Braese --
"Aber das ist Alles Vergangenheitsbewaltigung": German Studies' "Holocaust Bubble" and its literary aftermath / William Collins Donahue --
Part III. Disentangling "German," "Jewish," and "Holocaust" memory --
Epistemology of the hyphen: German-Jewish-Holocaust studies / Leslie Morris --
Writing before the Shoah, and reading after: Charlotte Salomon's Life? or theater? and its reception / Liliane Weissberg --
The power of paratext: Jewish authorship and testimonial authority in Benjamin Stein's Die Leinwand / Katja Garloff --
Part IV. Descendant narratives of survival and perpetration --
Identifying with the victims in the land of the perpetrators: Iris Hanika's Das Eigentliche and Kevin Vennemann's Nahe Jedenew / Sven Kramer --
Laying claim to painful truths in survivor- and perpetrator-family memoirs / Irene Kacandes --
Pinpointing evil: Nazi family photographs, remediated / Brad Prager --
Fritz Moeller's Harlan: Im Schatten von Jud Suss as family drama / David Bathrick --
Part V. Remediated icons of memory --
Goebbels's fear and legacy: Babelsberg and its Berlin street as cinematic memory place / Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann --
Hitler in the age of irony: Timur Vermes's Er ist wieder da / Michael D. Richardson --
Part VI. Holocaust memory in post-Holocaust traumas --
Remembering genocide in the digital age: the afterlife of the Holocaust in Rwanda / Karen Remmler --
The memory work of William Kentridge's Shadow Processions and his drawings for projection / Andreas Huyssen.

Citation preview

The Holocaust and German Studies

Erin M c Glothlin Jennifer M. Kapczynski Edited by

and

Persistent Legacy

McGlothlin.indd i

10/16/2016 2:05:17 PM

Dialogue and Disjunction: Studies in Jewish German Literature, Culture, and Thought Series Editors: Erin McGlothlin (Washington University in St. Louis) Brad Prager (University of Missouri)

McGlothlin.indd ii

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

Persistent Legacy The Holocaust and German Studies

Edited by Erin McGlothlin and Jennifer M. Kapczynski

Rochester, New York

McGlothlin.indd iii

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

Copyright © 2016 by the Editors and Contributors All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation, no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded, or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. First published 2016 by Camden House Camden House is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Inc. 668 Mt. Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620, USA www.camden-house.com and of Boydell & Brewer Limited PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK www.boydellandbrewer.com ISBN-13: 978-1-57113-961-0 ISBN-10: 1-57113-961-3 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: McGlothlin, Erin Heather, editor. | Kapczynski, Jennifer M., 1972– editor. Title: Persistent legacy : the Holocaust and German studies / Edited by Erin McGlothlin and Jennifer M. Kapczynski. Description: Rochester, New York : Camden House, 2016. | Series: Dialogue and disjunction | Proceedings of a symposium. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016018546| ISBN 9781571139610 (hardcover : alk. paper) | ISBN 1571139613 (hardcover : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Congresses. | Collective memory—Germany—Congresses. | German literature—20th century— Congresses. | Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature—Congresses. | Memory in literature—Congresses. Classification: LCC D804.18 .P47 2016 | DDC 940.53/18—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016018546 This publication is printed on acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America.

McGlothlin.indd iv

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

Contents Acknowledgments

vii

Introduction Jennifer M. Kapczynski and Erin McGlothlin

1

Part I. Abiding Challenges 1: Never Over, Over and Over Jennifer M. Kapczynski

19

2: The Voice of the Perpetrator, the Voices of the Survivors Erin McGlothlin

33

Part II. The Holocaust in German Studies in the North American and the German Contexts 3: Teaching Holocaust Memories as Part of “Germanistik” Stephan Braese 4: “Aber das ist alles Vergangenheitsbewältigung”: German Studies’ “Holocaust Bubble” and Its Literary Aftermath William Collins Donahue

57

80

Part III. Disentangling “German,” “Jewish,” and “Holocaust” Memory

McGlothlin.indd v

5: Epistemology of the Hyphen: German-JewishHolocaust Studies Leslie Morris

107

6: Writing before the Shoah, and Reading After: Charlotte Salomon’s Life? Or Theater? and Its Reception Liliane Weissberg

120

7: The Power of Paratext: Jewish Authorship and Testimonial Authority in Benjamin Stein’s Die Leinwand Katja Garloff

141

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

vi



CONTENTS

Part IV. Descendant Narratives of Survival and Perpetration 8: Identifying with the Victims in the Land of the Perpetrators: Iris Hanika’s Das Eigentliche and Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew Sven Kramer 9: Laying Claim to Painful Truths in Survivor- and Perpetrator-Family Memoirs Irene Kacandes 10: Pinpointing Evil: Nazi Family Photographs, Remediated Brad Prager 11: Felix Moeller’s Harlan: Im Schatten von Jud Süss as Family Drama David Bathrick

159

178 194

214

Part V. Remediated Icons of Memory 12: Goebbels’s Fear and Legacy: Babelsberg and Its Berlin Street as Cinematic Memory Place Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann 13: Hitler in the Age of Irony: Timur Vermes’s Er ist wieder da Michael D. Richardson

229 249

Part VI. Holocaust Memory in Post-Holocaust Traumas

McGlothlin.indd vi

14: Remembering Genocide in the Digital Age: The Afterlife of the Holocaust in Rwanda Karen Remmler

271

15: The Memory Work of William Kentridge’s Shadow Processions and His Drawings for Projection Andreas Huyssen

290

Notes on the Contributors

305

Index

307

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

Acknowledgments

T

HIS VOLUME AND THE SYMPOSIUM that inspired it were collaborative endeavors, and we are grateful for the many individuals and institutions that supported them both. For their generous financial support we thank the Max Kade Foundation and, at Washington University in St. Louis, both the Center for the Humanities and the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Our greatest thanks go to our own Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, which not only provided crucial funding for the symposium but also sustains an academic culture that is both intellectually stimulating and generous, of which the long tradition of the biennial symposium is just one example. Our wonderful colleagues—faculty and graduate students—made and continue to make this symposium possible, providing critical intellectual mass as well as more prosaic forms of support. Special thanks are due to Brooke Shafar, who provided essential technical help for all aspects of the symposium and who authored our index. We are indebted as well to Claire Ross, who proofread the manuscript. We also want to express our gratitude to the many scholarly participants in our symposium, who traveled from far and near to exchange ideas about the challenge of the “persistent legacy” of the Holocaust in German studies. Irene Kacandes and Leslie Morris deserve particular mention as the two teachers who, at our respective undergraduate institutions, first introduced us to the topic of Holocaust studies within a German framework, and so helped to plant the very early seeds of this project. In this same vein, we are grateful to the many scholars who paved the way within both the field of German and the larger community of Holocaust studies, upon whose work we are grateful to build. We would be remiss if we failed to thank our more informal scholarly network as well—most especially Michael Richardson, Brad Prager, and Susanne Vees-Gulani, who over the years have provided a combination of intellectual energy and wry humor that has greatly enriched our scholarly lives. Lastly, deepest thanks to our families, immediate and extended, who both support our work and give it particular meaning.

Erin McGlothlin Jennifer M. Kapczynski April 2016

McGlothlin.indd vii

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

McGlothlin.indd viii

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

Introduction Jennifer M. Kapczynski and Erin McGlothlin

I.

T

HE PURPOSE OF THIS VOLUME is to assess the manifold ways in which German studies today engages with the Holocaust and its legacy. Although from the vantage of today, the validity of the Holocaust as a subject in German studies may seem obvious, it has by no means always been a given that North American Germanists should pay deliberate attention to representations of the Nazi genocide, in either their scholarship or their teaching. In fact, the development of this disciplinary focus has a long and complex history that continues to unfold today. While it is not possible to locate the origins of this engagement in a single catalyzing moment or figure, one important starting point is the publication in the Autumn 1978 volume of Unterrichtspraxis of an article entitled “The Germanist and the Holocaust.” Written by University of Massachusetts in Boston scholar Alfred Hoelzel (1934–96), the article urges university-level instructors of German to offer general education courses about the Holocaust taught in English using chiefly literary texts. “We Germanists,” Hoelzel writes, “have a special expertise—and, therefore, a special responsibility—for teaching the Holocaust.”1 With this statement, Hoelzel, an Austrian-born Jew who fled Nazi persecution in 1939, argues for a deliberate and targeted introduction of Holocaust studies to the general university curriculum in the United States and elsewhere; moreover, he makes the case that Germanists, in their role as interpreters of German history and culture, are precisely the people to accomplish such a task.2 He maintains that scholars of German are especially poised to offer a critical introduction and evaluation of the events and experience of the Holocaust by virtue of their expertise with imaginative literature, which, according to Hoelzel, “cuts through the data, logic, and empirical evidence of the historian and the social scientist to mediate a more direct, intuitive understanding of truth and reality—particularly the inner reality of the psyche, of emotion, and of human interactions.”3 In addition to possessing unique facility with this material, Germanists bear a

McGlothlin.indd 1

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

2



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI AND ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

particular duty in the classroom to address the cultural products and legacy of Nazism and the Holocaust, something Hoelzel notes that his colleagues are hesitant to do or often even resist outright, preferring to focus instead on the crowning achievements of German culture. He writes: “Our courses should certainly celebrate the positive German contributions to civilization, but honesty demands that, with our special competence in such matters, we must also face squarely with our students the sordid story of Nazi Germany and Austria. And we should do it soberly and candidly, without vindictiveness or cheap sentiment” (ibid.). Hoelzel recognizes the delicate balancing act that German studies instructors who choose to teach about the Holocaust must perform, suspended as they are between the dark history of Goebbels and Eichmann and the literary light of Goethe, Lessing, and Thomas Mann. But he insists that it is essential that students understand the Holocaust “as part of a historical continuum, not as some sort of historical aberration” (ibid.). He believes it is therefore of utmost importance that scholars of German—and by implication, the discipline of German studies as a whole—overcome an understandable but ultimately misguided reluctance to engage critically with this important aspect of German culture in the classroom. By tackling the topic head-on, they have the opportunity to make a unique and meaningful contribution to the pedagogy and understanding of the Holocaust. Not insignificantly, Hoelzel’s article appeared, as Dagmar Lorenz reminds us, in 1978, only months after the miniseries Holocaust was broadcast in the United States to a massive audience (and only months before it would be shown in West Germany to an even greater proportion of that country’s adult population).4 The broadcast of Holocaust and the debates that surrounded it, which Jeffrey Shandler calls “a ‘big event’ in American culture” and Peter Novick terms “the first representation of the Holocaust before a mass audience,” is widely considered, according to Novick, to have been “without doubt the most important moment in the entry of the Holocaust into general American consciousness” (an impact that was equally significant in the Federal Republic of Germany).5 The series triggered a massive international wave of public memory of the Nazi years, a phenomenon that we continue to experience (in somewhat modified and abated form) today. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, as Novick and others have well documented, the Holocaust migrated “from the Jewish to the general American arena.”6 At around the same time, the university classroom and academic conference began to take notice of the subject, and Holocaust studies first emerged as a field. Although the inquiry began foremost in the discipline of history, it was not long before literary scholars, working principally in the field of English although not necessarily on English-language texts, turned to the study of the literature of the Holocaust in sustained, meaningful and productive ways. In 1975, Lawrence Langer published his pathbreaking work The Holocaust and the

McGlothlin.indd 2

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

INTRODUCTION



3

Literary Imagination, followed a half-decade later, in 1980, by both Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi’s By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature and Alvin H. Rosenfeld’s A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature.7 These works introduced to the American academy the notions that first, there was such a thing as “Holocaust literature,” which originally referred to mostly fictional and poetic works that thematized the Holocaust and later was extended to include autobiographical writing and distinctly nonliterary testimony by survivors; and second, to investigate these diverse literary works (and later, film and other media) was a timely, productive, and intellectual endeavor. It would take another decade before the study of Holocaust literature entered the mainstream of the North American academy. In Anglo-American German studies there was an additional lag. Although scholars in the 1970s and 1980s—among them, Hoelzel—increasingly turned their attention to the Nazi period,8 producing such important works as the two edited volumes Exil und innere Emigration (1972) and Exil und innere Emigration II (1973), they emphasized the literature of writers exiled from Germany after 1933.9 These Germanists increasingly drew attention to the work of German-Jewish writers, but their analyses did not necessarily place the Holocaust at their center.10 By contrast, other critics such as Hamida Bosmajian (in her Metaphors of Evil: Contemporary German Literature and the Shadow of Nazism [1979]), studied the response of postwar and contemporary German literature to the legacy of the Nazi past.11 Yet while this latter group of authors commonly examined the perspective of the descendants of perpetrators, they often excluded that of victims and survivors. Nevertheless, the work of both groups paved the way for the resounding memory boom that began in the 1990s, which began to focus more intensively on the Holocaust experience of Jewish victims and survivors and on German-Jewish memory of the event. The resulting publications, to name only a few of the studies that appeared in that decade, included Peter Stenberg’s Journey to Oblivion: The End of the East European Yiddish and German Worlds in the Mirror of Literature (1991), Elaine Martin’s edited volume Gender, Patriarchy, and Fascism in the Third Reich: The Response of Women Writers (1993), Sander L. Gilman and Karen Remmler’s edited volume Reemerging Jewish Culture in Germany: Life and Literature since 1989 (1994), Andreas Huyssen’s Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia (1995), Sander L. Gilman’s Jews in Today’s German Culture (1995), Y. Michal Bodemann’s edited volume Jews, Germans, Memory: Reconstructions of Jewish Life in Germany (1996), Claude Conter’s edited volume Literatur und Holocaust (1996), Stephan Braese’s Deutsche Nachkriegsliteratur und der Holocaust (1998), Sander L. Gilman and Jack Zipes’s edited lexicon Yale Companion to Jewish Writing and Thought in German Culture, 1096– 1996 (1997), Dagmar C. G. Lorenz’s Keepers of the Motherland: German

McGlothlin.indd 3

10/16/2016 2:05:31 PM

4



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI AND ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

Texts by Jewish Women Writers (1997), Ernestine Schlant’s The Language of Silence: West German Literature and the Holocaust (1999), and Thomas C. Fox’s Stated Memory: East Germany and the Holocaust (1999).12 By the year 2000, the Holocaust had become an established subject within German studies teaching and scholarship. This robust body of scholarship that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, and the even more substantial corpus published since, would likely have gratified Hoelzel, who although focusing his energy in his article exclusively on the pedagogical opportunities that the Holocaust presents to Germanists, makes by implication a compelling case for a larger, sustained connection between the Holocaust and German studies, whether in scholarship, teaching, or community work. Such an extended form of engagement with the Holocaust on the part of Germanists, a situation that the article barely dares to imagine, has indisputably established itself to great success in German studies in the United States and globally in the almost four decades since it was published. And yet, as much as Hoelzel’s call has been answered and Holocaust representation now has become an accepted subject of study within the field of Germanistik, it also remains the case that German studies and Holocaust studies are distinct fields that all too often neglect the cultivation of a common dialogue. Scholars working in Holocaust studies are inclined to concentrate on broad, overarching questions about modes of witnessing, the limits of narrative representation, and the aesthetic figuration of trauma, and to downplay national or linguistic origin, aspects that are pressing for Germanists. Moreover, Holocaust studies tends to overlook the substantial scholarly contributions by those writing from a German studies perspective (or, for that matter, from that of other national literatures). At the same time, the field grants too little attention to the rich body of German-language works by survivors as well as contemporary German-Jewish writers, since it tends to identify German exclusively as a language of perpetration (an association also linked to a long-time reluctance within the study of Holocaust literature to consider the figure of the perpetrator).13 When non-Germanists do analyze German-language representations, they often do so without adequate awareness of their cultural and linguistic contexts and the complexities of translation. German studies scholars, on the other hand, have tended to remain overly parochial in their focus, considering Holocaust representation largely in terms of how it has intersected with questions of contemporary German self-understanding—often combined with an unspoken assumption that this present-day identity is non-Jewish. Furthermore, Germanists have often failed to situate German-language works within the larger and decisively transnational and multilingual trajectory of Holocaust representation. As a result, the field has participated in an unfortunate tendency to lay claim to the Holocaust as a uniquely German matter. It has

McGlothlin.indd 4

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

INTRODUCTION



5

privileged German-language sources and perspectives, a practice that has everything to do with the way in which the field identifies its sources and questions, but that overlooks the very geographical, multicultural, and multilinguistic diversity of the Holocaust itself.14 The result is a series of missed opportunities not only to understand the ways in which intellectual and artistic work unfolds across borders and languages, but also to communicate the contributions of German studies to the larger scholarly community concerned with the Holocaust. This volume represents a concerted effort to overcome this disciplinary divide and to provide a productive interface between the fields of German and Holocaust studies. The very title of our book is meant to indicate our belief that the relationship between these disciplines is enduring and remains productive, even if it has not always been sufficiently articulated. This intervention seems particularly timely, given the exciting and innovative work being done on Holocaust representation both within and outside German studies today. Indeed, cutting-edge research on the transgenerational, transnational, and transmedial dimensions of Holocaust memory compels us to revisit and also reframe the long-standing preoccupations of both fields and ask anew what each may offer the other. The contributions of scholars such as Alison Landsberg, Gary Weissman, and Marianne Hirsch have drawn attention to the fraught ways in which cultural memory is transferred across generations and between witnesses and non-witnesses.15 This issue of transmission is further complicated by questions about the future of Holocaust memory. Greater temporal and spatial distance from the historical events of the Holocaust means not only that living witnesses are ever fewer in number, but also that this remove itself inevitably plays an active role in shaping the representation of these events. As a result, the Holocaust is rendered in ways ever further from its original context, a trend that contains some measure of loss, of course, but one that also demands—and thereby affords—alternative ways of imagining our contemporary relationship to the past. At the same time, work by Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, as well as Andreas Huyssen and Michael Rothberg, has illuminated the transhistorical and transnational movement of Holocaust memory from individual national and linguistic contexts into a fluid and global arena of exchange.16 Their research has compelled us to think in fresh ways about the relationship between localized and global understandings of Holocaust memory and its mediation, and about the linkages between the Holocaust and other mass traumas and genocides. The explosion of digital and multimedial practices—and the increasing openness of German and literary studies more generally toward studying them—has impacted how Holocaust scholars think about the work of representation. This shift has been compelled by the nature of the material itself, since Holocaust memory is produced more and more in non-literary forms. Furthermore, its electronic

McGlothlin.indd 5

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

6



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI AND ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

iterations are inherently mobile insofar as the architecture of the Internet resists the limits of national boundaries. These three areas of transformation push cultural analysis of the Holocaust into new intellectual terrain, challenging its dominant focus on accounts by historical victims and survivors and expanding the field to consider hitherto underexplored figures such as that of the bystander and perpetrator. Moreover, they endeavor to account for the migration of Holocaust memory into successive generations and populations with no direct links to the history itself. By the same token, these novel avenues of inquiry challenge scholars in German studies to think beyond narrow national and disciplinary parameters, balancing an awareness of Germany’s historical responsibility for genocide with an attention to the reality that the Holocaust was a pan-European event that unfolded across multiple cultural boundaries and in many different languages. What is more, numerous countries and cultural collectives have faced the heavy task of coming to terms with the impact of its legacy on their own populations. Indeed, German scholars would be well served to recognize with greater regularity that Holocaust representation exists in a rich cultural and linguistic diversity. To wit, Holocaust memory is not, and has never been, an exclusively German matter. This sort of expansion of focus permits those of us in German studies to consider both contemporaneous and contiguous events (such as the plight of German expellees or the history of the Second World War beyond the European theater), as well as later or noncontiguous historical phenomena (such as the South African apartheid or the Rwandan genocide) and further creates room to contend with the real importance of the Holocaust as a touchstone in contemporary discussions, outside our field, about other genocides and incidents of mass violence. Indeed, as Andreas Huyssen argues in his contribution to this volume, “the centrality of the Holocaust in current memory, genocide, and human rights debates across the world has made a geographic expansion of German studies unavoidable.”17 Given Germany’s rise in international stature in recent decades (and the ensuing effect of this rise on German cultural production), this move to expand the parameters of scholarship seems all the more logical and important. In the post-unification era, Germany’s emergence as an economic and political powerhouse within Europe not only has ignited a new round of debate concerning the meaning of the past, but has also raised challenging questions about the country’s international responsibilities and reputation. Indeed, although early commenters on unification worried that a united Germany would embrace its common future at the expense of a deep engagement with the history of the Holocaust (a project that over the course of the 1980s had begun both to popularize and to take on new rigor), it is obvious in hindsight that this prophecy has gone unfulfilled. As Andreas Huyssen observes, despite all

McGlothlin.indd 6

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

INTRODUCTION



7

alarmism about the disappearance of history, the 1990s saw a “memory boom of unprecedented proportions,”18 inspiring historian Klaus Bergmann to title a 1993 essay diagnosing the current historical turn “So viel Geschichte wie heute war nie” (There’s Never Been as Much History as There Is Today).19 A second anxiety that arose with unification still haunts contemporary European politics: namely, that a united nation would again threaten the postwar peace. On the one hand, today’s Germany faces increasing pressure from its international allies to play a larger role in collective political and military actions, for example through participation in joint missions beyond the nation’s borders (from Kosovo to Afghanistan). On the other hand, the nation’s foreign and economic policies continue to be viewed with a good measure of suspicion, particular by its economically weaker European neighbors. The heated international discussion of Greece’s possible exodus from the Eurozone in the summer of 2015 made this only too clear. Notably, critiques of the German stance on Greek debt incessantly invoked Germany’s fascist past and questioned whether the country was again exercising undue power, this time in the economic arena. Subsequent events, such as the rise of PEGIDA20 and German political and popular responses to the so-called migrant crisis resulting from the civil war in Syria and other Mideast unrest, have only further illuminated the ways in which the Second World War, the Third Reich, and the Holocaust continue to provide a dominant frame of reference for contemporary politics and for interpretations of German actions in particular. These are just the latest examples in a string of post-unification debates that have seen a strong link between contemporary and Nazi-era German foreign policy. Today, as much as contemporary Germany enjoys a newfound reputation as a “normal” nation, it is also confronted at regular intervals with reminders of its fascist past in a way that tends to undermine that normalization and call into question whether it is fully possible or even desired. The tension between the forward movement that unification and Germany’s new role as a major international power seemed to promise, on the one hand, and the persistent backward pull of the country’s genocidal history, on the other hand, is often an uncomfortable one, but by the same token it has proved to be culturally productive. The post-unification memory boom, coupled with nagging questions about Germany’s distance from its fascist past, continues to generate a steady stream of contentious debates as well as rich cultural representations concerned with the legacy of the Holocaust for the present. Increasingly though, these debates and works unmoor questions of memory from their conventional national context and situate the Holocaust within a more universal framework. The cultural work engendered by these tensions—between past and present, between the universal and the particular—provides scholars with an ever-expanding body of material. It

McGlothlin.indd 7

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

8



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI AND ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

compels us to think about how the discourse on the past both evolves and circles back on itself to reemerge in uncanny ways “over and over” (to paraphrase Jennifer Kapczynski’s contribution to this volume). At the same time, the impetus to think across conventional disciplinary parameters (both in Holocaust and German studies) allows us to approach this emergent material in fresh ways, considering it in a trangenerational, transnational, and transmedial light. These two important factors—the enduring post-Holocaust condition of contemporary German culture and dynamic new approaches in Holocaust studies—intervolve to make German studies today fertile ground for scholarship on the Holocaust, allowing scholars of German to expand both the body of material they investigate and the theoretical frameworks they employ. What this means for German studies is that research on the Holocaust, once thought to be marginal to mainstream German scholarship and then later seen as a flash-in-the-pan trend that would soon give way to the next big thing, is clearly here to stay. To argue for the persistence of the legacy of the Holocaust in German studies is not to suggest that this relationship has ever been uniform or unchanging; however, the crossroads at which we find ourselves today seems qualitatively different, insofar as the opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue have never been more robust or held more promise for longevity. Indeed, we chose the phrase “persistent legacy” for the title of our volume to express precisely this ongoing endurance. The word “persistent” is intended to invoke two issues that resound throughout this book: first, the tenacious grappling with Holocaust memory that characterizes postwar and contemporary German culture; and second, the abiding place that the study of the Holocaust maintains in the field of German studies. The contributions of this volume both reflect on and substantiate the duality of this persistence. The word “legacy,” in turn, is meant not only to express the long history of these two relationships, but also to speak to their future-oriented character. The very idea of legacy entails a process of bequeathal, by which the past is passed on to the present and the future. The contributions in Persistent Legacy make it clear that current German studies scholarship on the Holocaust, far from just rehashing old questions or well-trodden material, has begun to embrace the challenge to expand the field’s purview. This was a move that Hoelzel himself advocated as early as 1978. In a second essay making the case for Holocaust courses, which he wrote at a time when the beginnings of a “canon” were still in process of formation, he embraces an open understanding of what constituted Holocaust literature.21 Although his syllabus begins with works by survivors, it also includes a range of writings dealing more broadly with questions about the conditions and mentalities that contribute to genocide—texts such as Edgar Wallant’s The Pawnbroker, which situates questions of Holocaust memory in an American urban ghetto and

McGlothlin.indd 8

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

INTRODUCTION



9

thereby encourages a comparative discussion of racism and marginalization, or Flannery O’Connor’s “The Displaced Person,” which Hoelzel praises in his essay for “its penetrating portrayal of narrow-minded bigotry, racial and ethnic prejudice, and xenophobia,” and which offers “a paradigm of human interaction that illuminates with acute clarity the psychological and sociological origins of the Holocaust” (ibid., 13). He also taught select poems by Sylvia Plath, although—or perhaps because—in them, “Holocaust imagery becomes exploited to serve ends that have, basically, nothing whatsoever to do with the Holocaust” (ibid., 14). He included these works because he felt they would have a particular relevance for his students, whom he saw as having little connection to or knowledge of the Holocaust. In other words, his approach was designed at once to instruct students in the core issues surrounding Holocaust representation and to relate those issues to his students’ own cultural moment and context, encouraging understandings of the Holocaust that are not limited to a single national, linguistic, or historical framework. From the standards of today, Hoelzel’s program might seem rather old-fashioned, centered as it is on examples of high literature and not yet foreseeing the inroads that film and other media would make in the fields of German and Holocaust studies. And yet there is something about his approach that strikes us as remarkably fresh. Predating the testimonial turn in Holocaust studies, which stressed the work of the individual survivor to render into language deeply traumatic experiences, Hoelzel’s syllabus places the emphasis on the broader cultural processing of history through literary representation and embraces a multidirectional focus that attempts to connect the Holocaust to more universal and contemporary questions. For that reason, his early pleas for the establishment of the field resonate strongly with the impulses that motivate this collection. His words, and we hope this book as well, can serve as an inspiring reminder to current scholars and teachers that our own field’s approach to Holocaust material has held the promise from its inception to be both inclusive and expansive.

II. Divided into six parts, Persistent Legacy: The Holocaust and German Studies explores the sometimes problematic, sometimes productive conversation between the disciplines of German studies and Holocaust studies along multiple axes and considers the ways in which German studies today engages with the enduring “post-Holocaust” condition of contemporary German memory culture. Parts 1 and 2 of the volume are devoted to essays that elucidate fundamental issues in German Holocaust discourse, disciplinary boundaries between Holocaust studies and German studies, and transformations in teaching and research about the Holocaust. Part 1, “Abiding Challenges,” which features essays by the volume editors,

McGlothlin.indd 9

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

10



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI AND ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

illuminates two key structuring ideas behind this anthology: on the one hand, the abiding character of the debate about Holocaust memory in contemporary German culture, and on the other, the persistent need to investigate the nature and role of perpetrators, while at the same time attending carefully to the experiences of victims. Jennifer Kapczynski examines the frequency and significance of contemporary German declarations that there may be no end to the process of coming to terms with the past, arguing that formulaic, quasi-ritualistic proclamations of “never over” evince the qualities of a concluding statement, rendering them very close to the precise rhetoric that they are intended to combat. In her essay, Erin McGlothlin analyzes two strikingly similar scenes in Holocaust documentary film that feature the radically opposed voices of Holocaust perpetrators and survivors: the notorious scene in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985), in which the Treblinka guard Franz Suchomel sings the “Treblinkalied,” and a scene in Tzipi Baider’s 2011 film Just the Two of Us, in which the last living Treblinka survivors perform the same song. Taken together, these two essays reflect on the tensions that inherently arise with attempts to normalize the German relationship to the Holocaust past or to provide a more Archimedean account of the disparate groups of people who participated in and were affected by the Holocaust. The two essays in part 2, “The Holocaust in German Studies in the North American and the German Contexts,” explore the interface between Holocaust studies and German studies as practiced in Germany and in North America, along with recent transformations in teaching and research about the Holocaust. Reflecting on the concrete challenge of teaching about the Holocaust in contemporary Germany, Stephan Braese highlights the sociopolitical framework that determines the status of Holocaust education at German universities, which is heavily influenced by recent shifts in the generational and ethnic makeup of Germany’s population. Focusing similarly on personal experiences of teaching and doing research on the Holocaust, in this case in North American German studies, William Collins Donahue reflects on the broader cultural determinants that shaped the boom, or “bubble,” in Holocaust studies, particularly in the 1990s and 2000s. Donahue tracks developments in the profession since this time and identifies a waning emotional intensity in contemporary German culture associated with the endeavor to come to terms with the past. The essays in parts 3, 4, and 5 explore through close analyses of particular literary texts and films a number of enduring and emergent themes, among them the connection between Jewish memory and Holocaust memory, their generational transmission in the families of survivors and perpetrators, and the power of iconic signifiers of Holocaust representation. Part 3, “Disentangling ‘German,’ ‘Jewish,’ and ‘Holocaust’ Memory,” explores the place of Jewish memory in contemporary German

McGlothlin.indd 10

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

INTRODUCTION



11

culture, the problematic tendency to conflate “German-Jewish” with “Holocaust,” and contemporary literature’s self-conscious reflection on these questions. In her analysis of two conceptual poets, Robert Fitterman and Heimrad Bäcker, Leslie Morris investigates the phenomenon of the hyphens linking German, Jewish, and Holocaust studies, proposing that such hyphenization constitutes a “third space” that dismantles the referents and inherent binarisms of national and other purportedly stable identities. Liliane Weissberg looks closely at Life? Or Theater, the multimedia work painted, written, and composed by Charlotte Salomon, who, a year after the work’s completion, was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Auschwitz, where she was killed immediately after her arrival. Weissberg complicates the prevailing scholarly opinion of Life? Or Theater, which tends to pigeonhole it as a Holocaust artwork. Looking closely at Benjamin Stein’s innovative use of paratexts in his 2010 novel Die Leinwand, Katja Garloff argues that Stein’s self-conscious play with the book’s title, blurb, and glossary challenges the idea of contemporary German-Jewish authors as “ethnic authors.” All three essays demonstrate the problems inherent in applying rigid labels to German-Jewish literature about the Shoah and reveal tensions in the artworks themselves that call into question such categorization. The four essays featured in part 4, “Descendant Narratives of Survival and Perpetration,” offer new considerations of continuities between the narratives of victims and survivors and those of perpetrators and bystanders, especially in generational memories of the Holocaust. Sven Kramer investigates Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew and Iris Hanika’s Das Eigentliche, two recent German novels that engage critically with contemporary German practices of memorializing the Holocaust, and in particular, the tendency to facilitate German identification with the victims of the Holocaust and deny historical and familial connections to perpetrators. Working within the framework of narratology, Irene Kacandes examines a range of autobiographical writings by both the offspring of Holocaust victims and survivors and those of perpetrators, demonstrating uncanny similarities and divergences in the writing strategies deployed by these two very different groups. Examining the representation of family history by descendants of perpetrators in Peter Schneider’s para-fictional text Vati, in the 2011 documentary film Hitler’s Children, and in Vanessa Lapa’s compilation film about Heinrich Himmler, The Decent One (2014), Brad Prager draws attention to the acts of reading, interpretation, and remediation—be they literary or cinematic—that are involved in re-narrating familial implication in Nazi history. David Bathrick examines Felix Moeller’s documentary film Harlan: Im Schatten von Jud Süss, arguing that while Moeller provides a coherent summary of the making of Veit Harlan’s infamous Third Reich-era anti-Semitic film Jud Süss, his true subject is the depiction of the profound impact of the legacy of Jud

McGlothlin.indd 11

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

12



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI AND ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

Süss for ensuing generations of the Harlan family. Each of these essays demonstrates the ways in which the histories of German perpetrators and bystanders continue to exert considerable pressure on the contemporary construction of these family narratives. Part 5, “Remediated Icons of Memory,” examines the lasting but often troublingly manipulable nature of icons of Holocaust representation. Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann focuses on the famed “Berlin Street” lot at the Babelsberg studios in Potsdam, arguing that while the Nazis themselves tried to ban direct references to the Nazi movement from their films, Babelsberg, and the “Berlin Street” lot in particular, emerged after unification as the premier setting for filmmaking about the National Socialist past and the Holocaust. Michael D. Richardson’s essay discusses the ubiquity of Internet memes and viral videos featuring images of Adolf Hitler and offers a close reading of Timur Vermes’s 2012 bestseller Er ist wieder da (Look Who’s Back) in terms of the ironic appropriation of Hitler in both popular digital culture in general and German popular culture in particular. Both Richardson’s and Ebbrecht-Hartmann’s essays highlight the powerful but often unexpected consequences that arise when particular signifiers of the Holocaust and the Third Reich are translated into diverse media. Part 6, “Holocaust Memory in Post-Holocaust Traumas,” the final section of our volume, addresses the ways in which Holocaust images and tropes migrate to new historical contexts, demonstrating the malleability of Holocaust representation and the (sometimes productive) uses of Holocaust imagery to engage other instances of historical oppression and mass trauma. In her analysis of digital and museum-centered attempts to memorialize the victims of the Rwandan genocide, Karen Remmler argues that approaches that follow a model based on Holocaust testimonies and representations often reinscribe hegemonic narratives that rely on Westernized versions of genocide, thereby losing sight of local narratives by Rwandans that fall outside this framework. Finally, Andreas Huyssen’s contribution investigates William Kentridge’s shadow plays as media of memory in the context of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, arguing that these artworks combine aesthetics and politics in subtly new ways. Kentridge’s works, in Huyssen’s reading, demonstrate how the cultural memory of the Holocaust may be mobilized productively in representations of other mass traumas. Huyssen and Remmler both reflect on the valuable and the troublingly negative outcomes that can occur when contemporary culture adopts the Holocaust as a frame for understanding other genocides and mass traumas. Combined with the other essays in the volume, their essays thus illuminate the contributions of German studies to the larger field of Holocaust and genocide studies, moving outward from the context of German to explore the greater arena in which Holocaust representation is forged and circulates.

McGlothlin.indd 12

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

INTRODUCTION



13

III. In a talk delivered at a Vienna symposium dedicated to exploring the contributions of Austrian-born American Germanists (all of whom were Jewish and suffered Nazi persecution), Hoelzel reflected on his own gradual transformation from a scholar with a traditional German literary focus to a teacher and researcher of Holocaust literature. His initial hesitation to explore Holocaust literature was personal, a side effect of his desire to keep separate his identities as scholar and practicing Jew. Only over time, he notes, did he come to see the intellectual importance of teaching the Holocaust from within the field of German. Through an analysis of three writers who for him exemplified distinct modes of coming to terms with experiences of victimization and genocide (Soma Morgenstern, Jakov Lind, and Paul Celan), Hoelzel reflects on the value of their collective literary project: Und so haben wir hier drei Holocaust-Dichter aus Österreich, . . . jeden mit seinem eigenen persönlichen und dichterischen Versuch, sich mit dem Holocaust auseinanderzusetzen . . . Alle drei Versuche haben ihre Gültigkeit und Triftigkeit angesichts eines Enigmas, auf das es wohl nie eine definitive “Erklärung” oder “Antwort” geben kann. Aber wir dürfen nicht die Suche nach einem Verstehen aufgeben. Denn, auch wenn wir schon von vornherein wissen, wie Sisyphus, daß am Ende der Stein den Berg wiederherunterrollen wird, so zeigen uns diese drei Dichter, daß wir trotzdem verpflichtet sind, alles einzusetzen, um den Stein wieder bergaufzurollen.22 [And so we have here three Holocaust authors from Austria, each with his own personal and poetic attempt to come to terms with the Holocaust . . . All three approaches have their value and validity vis-à-vis an enigma for which there can never be a definitive “explanation” or “answer.” But we cannot give up on the search for an explanation. For although, just like Sisyphus, we know that in the end the stone will roll down the mountain once more, so too these writers show us that we nevertheless are duty-bound to try our utmost to roll the stone uphill again.]

In his own poetic prose, Hoelzel reminds us that the challenges of understanding and explaining the Holocaust are themselves enduring, and that this fact makes the work all the more necessary. With his recognition that, by its very nature, the inquiry can never find an end point, he also hints that, with the course of time, change occurs in both the character of the stone itself and our methods of laboring at it. With this metamorphosis, each successive generation of scholarship, each new generation of students, tackles afresh the task of approaching this persistent legacy, rolling the obdurate matter uphill once again in the hopes of building on the

McGlothlin.indd 13

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

14



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI AND ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

work of previous eras and achieving new insights. It is to this persistent effort that this volume seeks to contribute.

Notes 1

Alfred Hoelzel, “The Germanist and the Holocaust,” Die Unterrichtspraxis 11, no. 2 (1978): 52.

2

Hoelzel discusses his biography and his late-career engagement with Holocaust literature in his untitled essay in Leben mit österreichischer Literatur: Begegnung mit aus Österreich stammenden amerikanischen Germanisten, 1938/1988, edited by the Dokumentationsstelle für neuere österreichische Literatur and the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Literatur (Vienna: Zirkular, 1990), 101–11. 3

Hoelzel, “The Germanist and the Holocaust,” 53.

4

Dagmar Lorenz, who has devoted her career to researching Austrian-Jewish and German-Jewish literature and the literature of the Holocaust, credits Hoelzel with inspiring her to offer her first courses on the Holocaust. However, as her article on her experiences teaching the Holocaust makes clear, she perceived that substantial risks were involved in engaging a topic that in the early 1980s was by and large not accepted by US departments of German: “The negative student attitudes corresponded to similar ones among colleagues. This led me to believe that it had been wise on my part not to engage in Holocaust research, scholarship, and teaching before being awarded tenure.” Dagmar C. G. Lorenz, “The Difficulty of Breaking the Silence: Teaching the Holocaust in a Program of German Literature and Culture,” in Shedding Light on the Darkness: A Guide to Teaching the Holocaust, ed. Nancy Ann Lauckner and Miriam Jokiniemi (New York; Berghahn Books, 2000), 61. 5

Jeffrey Shandler, While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 164; Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), 211, 209.

6

Novick, The Holocaust in American Life, 208.

7

Lawrence Langer, The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975); Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Alvin H. Rosenfeld, A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980). 8

In the introduction to their edited volume Shedding Light on the Darkness: A Guide to Teaching the Holocaust, Nancy A. Lauckner and Miriam Jokiniemi point out that the transformation of North American departments of German into German studies programs parallels the development of Holocaust studies in the discipline of German and imply that the two were in fact interrelated: “The paradigm shift from Germanistics to German Studies began in the mid-1980s and has become a strong trend in our discipline. The field expands the range of traditional German offerings and attracts more students by introducing courses with cultural and often historical content; thus courses related to the Holocaust are often

McGlothlin.indd 14

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

INTRODUCTION



15

found in a German Studies curriculum.” Lauckner and Jokiniemi, Shedding Light on the Darkness, xii. 9

Exil und innere Emigration, ed. Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand (Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum-Verlag, 1972); Exil und innere Emigration II, ed. Peter Uwe Hohendahl and Egon Schwarz (Frankfurt: Athenäum-Verlag, 1973). The two Exil und innere Emigration volumes resulted from pathbreaking conferences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1971 and at Washington University in St. Louis in 1972. The latter conference inaugurated the biennial St. Louis Symposium on German Literature and Culture; the conference that produced the present volume, entitled “Crossing the Disciplinary Divide: Conjunctions in German and Holocaust Studies,” represents its twenty-second iteration. 10

Susan E. Cernyak-Spatz’s study German Holocaust Literature is an important outlier. Susan E. Cernyak-Spatz, German Holocaust Literature (New York: Peter Lang, 1985). 11

Hamida Bosmajian, Metaphors of Evil: Contemporary German Literature and the Shadow of Nazism (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1979). 12

Peter Stenberg, Journey to Oblivion: The End of the East European Yiddish and German Worlds in the Mirror of Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991); Elaine Martin, ed., Gender, Patriarchy, and Fascism in the Third Reich: The Response of Women Writers (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993); Sander L. Gilman and Karen Remmler, eds., Reemerging Jewish Culture in Germany: Life and Literature since 1989 (New York: New York University Press, 1994); Andreas Huyssen, Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia (New York: Routledge, 1995); Sander L. Gilman, Jews in Today’s German Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); Y. Michal Bodemann, ed., Jews, Germans, Memory: Reconstructions of Jewish Life in Germany (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996); Claude Conter, ed., Literatur und Holocaust (Bamberg: Fussnoten zur Literatur, 1996); Stephan Braese, Deutsche Nachkriegsliteratur und der Holocaust (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 1998); Sander L. Gilman and Jack Zipes, eds., Yale Companion to Jewish Writing and Thought in German Culture, 1096–1996 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997); Dagmar C. G. Lorenz, Keepers of the Motherland: German Texts by Jewish Women Writers (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997); Ernestine Schlant, The Language of Silence: West German Literature and the Holocaust (New York: Routledge, 1999); Thomas C. Fox, Stated Memory: East Germany and the Holocaust (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 1999). 13

The longstanding hesitance to engage with the figure of the Holocaust perpetrator is specific to literary studies, not to Holocaust studies in general, especially its most dominant historiographical branch, which up until recently in fact privileged perpetrator documents and testimony over that of the victims and survivors. As Erin McGlothlin has argued, “On the part of those who engage in the critical analysis of the literature of the Holocaust, there is a sense that to focus critically on the perspective of the perpetrator would at best be unseemly and at worst a betrayal of the memory of the victims, although few critics have expressed this suspicion explicitly. What results is a reluctance to engage critically with narrative portrayals of perpetrators, especially those that focus . . . on the perpetrator or even foreground his perspective. For this reason, although we possess a rich, finely

McGlothlin.indd 15

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

16



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI AND ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

tuned, and nuanced scholarship on the literature of suffering and how we are to read it, very little exists on how we might read the literature of perpetration.” Erin McGlothlin, “Theorizing the Perpetrator in Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow” in After Representation? The Holocaust, Literature, and Culture, edited by R. Clifton Spargo and Robert Ehrenreich (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009), 213. 14

The pressures of “publish or perish” no doubt play a role here, particularly for young scholars of German, who for the purposes of tenure evaluation feel compelled to establish a clearly defined research profile within the field (and may thereby be discouraged from situating their work within the larger transnational context of Holocaust history and its representation). In the arena of teaching, courses on the Holocaust have proved for some to be a highly successful means of reaching a larger student population; yet in the era of shrinking enrollments in German language courses and the concomitant decline in the numbers of teaching faculty, many faculty are unable to teach such “outside” courses. 15

Alison Landsberg, Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004); Gary Weissman, Fantasies of Witnessing: Postwar Efforts to Experience the Holocaust (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); Marianne Hirsch, The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012). 16

Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, Erinnerung im globalen Zeitalter: Der Holocaust (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2001); Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, trans. Assenka Oksiloff (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006); Huyssen, Twilight Memories; Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009). 17

Chapter 15 of this volume, p. 000.

18

Huyssen, Twilight Memories, 5.

19

Klaus Bergmann, “‘So viel Geschichte wie heute war nie’—historische Bildung angesichts der Allgegenwart von Geschichte,” in Politische Sozialisation und Geschichte: Festschrift für Rolf Schörken zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Angela Schwarz (Hagen: Rottmann, 1993), 209–28. 20

PEGIDA is the acronym for “Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes,” or “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamicization of the West.” 21

Alfred Hoelzel, “The Message through Imaginative Literature,” Patterns of Prejudice 12, no. 5 (1978): 9–14. 22

Hoelzel, untitled essay in Leben mit österreichischer Literatur, 111. Unless otherwise noted, all translations in this essay are our own.

McGlothlin.indd 16

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

Part I. Abiding Challenges

McGlothlin.indd 17

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

McGlothlin.indd 18

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

1: Never Over, Over and Over Jennifer M. Kapczynski

I

N MARCH 2013 the television miniseries Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (Generation War) premiered on German television’s ZDF station. With a hefty run time of 4.5 hours, the series (directed by Philipp Kadelbach and released by TeamWorx studios, the heavyweight of German historical television today) promised to introduce today’s audiences to the generation that came of age during the Second World War. The release was accompanied by extensive media fanfare, including an interview with producer Nico Hofmann and journalist Frank Schirrmacher, published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) under the boldly declarative title “Es ist nie vorbei” (It’s never over).1 The phrase stemmed from Schirrmacher, a co-publisher of the FAZ and a vocal supporter of the film, who just three days earlier had urged viewers of all ages to gather before their televisions and seize the chance to create dialogue between postwar generations and the ever-dwindling number of Germans who experienced the war firsthand.2 In the FAZ interview, he insisted on the continued relevance of “es,” that is, the “it” that is “never over”:

Vielleicht handelt es sich bald tatsächlich nur noch um ein Kapitel im Geschichtsbuch, aber wenn man sich anschaut, wie in Italien oder Spanien über uns diskutiert wird, wenn hier eine rassistische Bewegung entsteht wie der NSU [National Sozialistischer Untergrund], dann steckt da so etwas schon wieder drin. Selbst in der SarrazinDebatte oder der aktuellen Diskussion über Sinti und Roma noch. Und ich wäre sehr skeptisch, wenn jetzt behauptet würde: Wir können das nicht mehr sehen, die neue Generation will das nicht mehr sehen. Denn es ist nicht vorbei.3 [Maybe it will soon really be just a matter of a chapter in a history book, but when you see how we are talked about in Italy or Spain, when a racist movement like the NSU emerges here, then there’s something to it again. Even in the Sarrazin debate or the current discussion about the Sinti and Roma. And I would be really skeptical if the claim were now made: We can’t hear it anymore, the new generation doesn’t want to hear it. Because it’s not over.]

McGlothlin.indd 19

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

20



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI

For all of his insistence on the relevance of “es” or “it,” the vagueness of Schirrmacher’s wording remains striking. Although he references a number of specific incidents (such as the 2010 debate spawned by Thilo Sarrazin’s inflammatory publication Deutschland schafft sich ab [Germany Abolishes Itself], or the rise of the far-right National Socialist Underground terror group), he speaks of their relevance in terms of “es,” “so etwas,” and “das” without ever once supplying a concrete referent. In other words, whereas the concerns of the present are given specific contours, the “history-book” past to which Schirrmacher connects them is murky. Indeed, Schirrmacher’s use of the neuter pronoun “es” does not correspond grammatically to any of the most likely potential referents here—not “der Holocaust” (masculine), nor “die Vergangenheit” (the past), “die Geschichte” (history), or “die Trauerarbeit (work of mourning), all of which are feminine.4 The meaning of “es” is thus (paradigmatically, I would argue) never explained and yet treated as self-explanatory. In much the same fashion, the word “Vergangenheit” represents a ubiquitous and yet notably indeterminate word in contemporary German parlance. “Die Vergangenheit” is employed as a shorthand term to refer to any (but not necessarily every) aspect of the history of Nazi rule that later required a “coming to terms.” Thus a reference to “it” or the “past” may—but must not—include such things as the war, the Holocaust, or the Nazi era more generally, as well as related phenomena such as the experiences of postwar flight and expulsion, occupation, and national division. Determining which past (or which part of it) is being invoked has become an even more complicated enterprise in the post-unification era, since the end of the GDR introduced another major historical caesura for German culture and effectively doubled the number of potential pasts to be confronted. Schirrmacher’s phrasing raises the question: just what is this “it,” this past, that, unlike the dying perpetrator generation, is never “over”? Does Schirrmacher refer to the war or the postwar era? The process of coming to terms with the past? German guilt and responsibility? Or perhaps to Trauerarbeit—the work of mourning—that Hofmann names in the same interview? With a mushiness typical of so much prose concerning the German past and its demands on the present, Schirrmacher insists on the perpetuity of this “es” but never defines it, so that it remains unclear whether “it” is a history, a process, a discourse, or some combination of these. This lack of specificity in terms that are used as though they are both self-evident and all-inclusive has particular bearing on the question of Holocaust memory, since invocations of “die Vergangenheit” and “es,” both in public debate and cultural production, are generally assumed to include the Holocaust but all too often grant it only marginal importance. This is particularly true of contemporary historical films in the mold of Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, which are so programmatic in

McGlothlin.indd 20

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

NEVER OVER, OVER AND OVER



21

their token portrayals of Nazi persecution and its victims that they strike the viewer as pro forma exercises rather than honest engagements. As one consequence, their depictions of Jewish wartime experience tend to be superficial, reductive, and non-representative. To be fair, Schirrmacher’s words might be seen as an implicit position statement—a sort of Bekenntnis zur Vergangenheitsbewältigung, that is, a declaration of commitment to the work of coming to terms with the past. In declaring “it” “never over,” he takes a verbal stand against the concept of the “Schlußstrich,” that line that marks the end of debate and engagement with the National Socialist past and topics such as German guilt (and that constitutes yet another word that has come to have a single meaning in contemporary usage). To be sure, the desire to keep alive the process of coming to terms with the past has great merit. (It is, in the view of the editors of this volume, integral to the “persistent legacy” invoked in our title.) However, Schirrmacher’s indeterminacy is significant, not only because it indicates the persistent challenge in German public debate of clearly naming and addressing the legacy of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, but also because his words are entirely typical of the way in which contemporary German society references the continued need for that engagement. In other words, while the necessity of Vergangenheitsbewältigung is regularly reasserted, the precise contours of the past to be managed, and the processes by which it is to be managed, remain strangely hazy. In this essay I take up the common refrain of “never over” in its various forms (“nie zu Ende,” “nie vorbei,” and so on) in order to explore in brief its consequences for thinking about questions of memory in the long postwar period. I consider how the notion of enduring wounds impacts the process of memorialization, and I probe the question, To what extent does an insistence on “never over” not only serve to keep the work of memory alive, but also to postpone it—for indeed, how can one mourn what is not yet done? Posed somewhat differently: Is there an element of infinite deferral inherent in declarations of “never over”? Let us consider a second example. Günter Grass’s 2002 novella Im Krebsgang (Crabwalk) ends with a pronouncement that closely resembles Schirrmacher’s, and that is similarly cryptic. The narrator, Paul Pokriefke, is chagrined to discover a new website honoring his son Konny, recently become a heroic figure in Germany’s contemporary far-right scene after murdering a young man claiming to be a German Jew. The novella concludes grimly with Paul’s final thoughts: “Das hört nicht auf. Nie hört das auf” (It doesn’t end. Never will it end).5 The content of this “das” remains again undefined. In the instance of Grass’s novel, “it” may refer to the fascination with fascism, the persistent presence of the past, or perhaps even the sort of over-identification with National Socialism’s victims that has led Konny’s victim to pose as a Jew. Or does Grass invoke the

McGlothlin.indd 21

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

22



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI

propensity of information on the Internet to spread, living on long after the original posting is gone, keeping it “live,” like a permanent loop of past–present–memory? Grass’s repetition here is particularly clever: “Das hört nicht auf. Nie hört das auf.” The redundancy in the phrasing of the novella’s last lines illustrates the circular nature inherent in its very pronouncement. Indeed, Grass offers us a perfect example of the “over and over” quality of declarations of “never over”—suggesting that the meaning of “never over” inheres precisely in its reiteration.6 As historian Norbert Frei noted in an interview conducted by Die Zeit in 2004, the German media increasingly focus on the state of the discourse of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, rather than grappling with the past per se (or, for that matter, reflecting on the ambiguity of the very idea of “the past”). They respond to each new controversy in routine fashion: “Das Thema [wird] selbstverständlich in den Medien aufgegriffen, und der Spiegel macht ein Spiegel-Buch dazu” (As a matter of course, the media seizes upon the topic, and then Spiegel magazine publishes a special issue on it).7 More recently, Peter von Becker has dubbed this phenomenon the “Ära der inszenierten Debattenkultur” (the era of staged debate culture).8 Part of this tendency, Frei remarks, is that the media are quick interpret each fresh wave of debate as an indicator of the state of the national relationship to the past: Es wird auch sofort die Frage gestellt: Was bedeutet das jetzt für unseren Umgang mit der Vergangenheit? Und dieses Thema ist dann oftmals sogar für die Feuilletonisten aufregender als die Auseinandersetzung mit dem inhaltlichen Kern der Sache. Das ist ein Struktur-Element der Debatte. [Right away the question is posed: what does this mean for our relationship to the past? And this topic is often more interesting to journalists than engaging with the core content of the matter at hand. It’s a structural element of the debate.]9

Without irony, the interview’s title offers a performative illustration of Frei’s very thesis: the headline of the article declares, “Es ist nie zu Ende” (It is never over). At the same time, his remarks offer a good example of the way in which the term “the past” is often taken for granted: as critical as Frei is of the superficial and self-absorbed qualities of today’s media culture, he does not deem it necessary to explain that the relationship to history being assessed in journalistic debates is that of the present to the era of National Socialism. Following Frei, at least one way to read the refrain of “never over” is as a reference to this enduring metadiscursive preoccupation. Frei’s reflections help to illuminate the formulaic quality to contemporary debate, in which current events that seem to echo the Nazi era are processed by

McGlothlin.indd 22

10/16/2016 2:05:32 PM

NEVER OVER, OVER AND OVER



23

means of a predictable set of discursive maneuvers. As I noted earlier, the very formulaic quality of the “es” in “es ist nie vorbei” masks its troubling catchall nature: “it” may reference any number of issues related to the Second World War but does not necessarily signal a meaningful engagement with the Holocaust and the Nazi past. I would add that this “es,” when it takes the form of a pat formulation, commonly becomes a surrogate for engagement. Seen in this light, “never over” marks the spot where, over and over, we can discern the lack of reflective encounter. Indeed, insofar as the phrase “never over” serves as a badge of a speaker’s “proper” attitude vis-à-vis Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the phrase may function like what philosopher Theodor W. Adorno referred to as the “Gesinnungspass,” that “passport of sympathies” that signals only a superficial engagement with the past.10 Offered up as a sign of the speaker or writer’s dedication to exploring the meaning of the Holocaust for contemporary German culture, the term in fact often takes the place of meaningful and nuanced reflection. The “over and over” quality of “never over”—which through its serial repetition shapes the contemporary German cultural narrative of the past—fosters a kind of discursive rigidity that is vaguely reminiscent of the static, even moribund properties of the traditional monument. For despite the claim to perpetuity inherent in it, the phrase “es ist nie zu Ende” in practice has the qualities of a concluding statement—declaring an end to discussion, rather than signaling an invitation to further debate. The discourse comes full circle, as the precise phrase meant to forestall the Schlußstrich in fact imitates, even instantiates it.

The End of Never Over? By coincidence, two of the major figures referenced in this essay died recently, prompting the question of whether and how their passing will ultimately impact contemporary German discourse about the Second World War and Holocaust: Günter Grass (1927–2015) and Frank Schirrmacher (1959–2014). Although from different “age cohorts” (to borrow historian Harold Marcuse’s useful framework), the two nevertheless shared a certain stance vis-à-vis the German past.11 Both were self-styled moderators of historical discourse for present-day audiences: for Grass, as an unofficial but widely recognized “moralische Instanz” (moral authority) who witnessed the war firsthand but commonly aligned himself with the politics of the “68er” generation far more than his actual “1948er” group; and for Schirrmacher, as a public intellectual active in discussions of the Nazi era’s meaning for the present and, by birth, a “1979er” (a generation defined, according to Marcuse, by a relationship temporally more remote from the war, but profoundly imprinted by the attitudes of its “1948er” parents). Their works, in particular those examples

McGlothlin.indd 23

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

24



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI

mentioned here, explicitly address and thereby seek to reach across a generational divide—communicating the value of “never over” for a younger readership that, as they respectively imagine it, no longer clearly discerns a connection to the National Socialist legacy of perpetration and therefore must be taught the lesson of its relevance for the present. Whether the gesture of bridging that both authors embodied in their writing successfully spanned that gulf, or whether it actually reinforced or even helped call the rift into existence, remains unclear. It is no coincidence, however, that both figures were invoked in a 2006 polemic authored by Eva Menasse (b. 1970) and Michael Kumpfmüller (b. 1961) sharply attacking the outsized influence of the elder statesmen of contemporary German intellectual culture. Playing on Schirrmacher’s 2004 book about the aging of society, Das Methusalem-Komplott (The Methusela Conspiracy), Menasse and Kumpfmüller decried the “real Methuselah Conspiracy” of their age. Remarking on the flurry of debate that followed the admission by Grass that he served in the Waffen-SS in the waning days of the war (a confession he made to none other than Frank Schirrmacher in an interview in advance of the publication of his 2006 memoir Beim Häuten der Zwiebel [Peeling the Onion]), Menasse and Kumpfmüller declared that contemporary culture concentrated too much on the concerns and experiences of the wartime generation, always circling back to the same theme: “Hitler and me.” Bemoaning what they saw as a comparative lack of attention to pressing present-day political matters, they concluded grimly: Angesichts der immergleichen Debatten und immergleichen Protagonisten wird klar: für die Jüngeren ist in diesem Land kein Platz. Die Alten, die die Nazizeit noch erlebt haben, verstellen ihnen mit ihrem nicht endenwollenden Moralgeflatter die Sicht.12 [In light of the same old debates and the same old protagonists, one thing is clear: there is no room in this country for young people. With its never-ending moral pontificating, the old generation, the one that still experienced the Nazi years, is obstructing their view.]

In other words, the real “Methuselah Conspiracy” was not the aging of German society, as Schirrmacher argued, but rather the unwillingness on the part of the country’s intellectual elite to make room for the young. In its attack on this entrenched culture, and in particular, its preoccupation with the Nazi past, the essay was deliberately inflammatory, seeming to call for the sort of Schlußstrich generally considered taboo in German leftist circles: “Es wird Zeit, dass dieses Land sich endlich aus den Selbstbespiegelungen seines zwiebelhautengen NSDiskurses befreit, dass man den Blick von der eigenen Nabelregion abund der Welt zuwendet” (It’s time for this country, finally, to free itself

McGlothlin.indd 24

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

NEVER OVER, OVER AND OVER



25

from the narcissistic tendencies of its own onionskin-tight discourse on National Socialism, for people to stop their navel gazing and turn their gaze out toward the world).13 Menasse and Kumpfmüller do not really demand an end to coming to terms with the past, per se. Rather, they insist on the need to break out of old rhetorical habits and to see Germany’s National Socialist history in relationship to a greater sense of world politics and with a view to the pressing concerns of the present moment. As if to underscore this, Die Zeit illustrated the op-ed with a photograph from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, paired with a quote from their essay: “Hier geht es nicht um Juden oder Araber, sondern um Demokratie versus mörderischen Fanatismus, um Aufklärung versus Mittelalter, um Menschen- und Völkerrechte versus Märtyrer und Selbstmordattentäter”;14 (We are dealing here not with Jews or Arabs, but rather democracy versus murderous fanaticism, enlightenment versus the Middle Ages, human and peoples’ rights versus martyrs and suicide attackers). Menasse and Kumpfmüller argue strongly that there is a direct link between, on the one hand, contemporary German culture’s persistent concentration on long-standing debates about National Socialism and, on the other hand, what they see as its frustrating inability to engage meaningfully with the political and ethical crises of the present (such as the Middle East Crisis). Thus although the “Basston der deutschen Vergangenheit” (bass tone of the German past) resounds in the (scant) media coverage of the Mideast conflict, they contend, it “[hängt] wie eine kaputte Schallplatte . . . bei der Beschwörung ‘Nie wieder Auschwitz’ fest—bekanntermaßen eine Leerformel, die mit wirklich allem gefüllt werden kann” (ibid.; gets stuck, like a broken record, on the incantation “never again Auschwitz”—well known to be an empty phrase that can filled with just about anything). They describe a repetitive and circular discourse, in which the past is constantly invoked for its supposed lessons but which ultimately hinders the formation of a clear view of present-day conditions (so that the supposed link being forged with the reference to history actually enacts a break). By the same token, catchall formulations like “never over” and “never again” have the capacity not only to block our understandings of contemporary conditions but also to forestall or take the place of a more thoughtful engagement with history. With a similar measure of skepticism, author and essayist Juli Zeh (b. 1974), when interviewed by German radio about her response to the controversy surrounding Grass’s confession of his brief SS membership, declared it only a “secondary media debate” that “left [her] cold.” While she recognized Grass’s general importance as “eine Art Symbolfigur des deutschen Gesinnungswandels” (a sort of symbolic figure for a transformed German consciousness), she rejected the idea that he stood for a moral authority per se:15 “Die moralische Instanz, die

McGlothlin.indd 25

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

26



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI

Grass möglicherweise mal gewesen ist, ist er glaube ich für die Generation über uns”16 (The moral authority that Grass once may have been is one that he represented for the generation before us, in my opinion). For Zeh, though, the author’s waning relevance was a sign of positive developments: Man kann . . . diesen Unwillen der jüngeren Menschen, sich überhaupt mit moralischen Instanzen zu identifizieren, auch als Folge einer durchaus positiven und gewollten Entwicklung begreifen, weil es im Grunde ein aufklärerischer Effekt ist, wenn die Menschen mündig genug sind, um auch jemandem wie Grass einfach nicht mehr ohne weiteres zu glauben, sondern selber ihren Kopf anzustrengen.17 [It’s possible to conceive of the unwillingness of younger people to identify themselves with moral authorities as the consequence of an entirely positive and desirable development, because at its core it’s a sign of enlightenment when people are mature enough to not have unquestioning faith in someone like Grass but rather put their own minds to work.]

In relativizing Grass’s importance as a moral figure (and in praising the possible reasons for his marginalization among younger Germans), Zeh takes a more sanguine view of the state of contemporary media culture than her contemporaries Menasse or Kumpfmüller. For Zeh, it would seem that Grass and his ilk are no longer capable of the sort of dominance that her fellow essayists feel so acutely. These differences aside, however, all three authors point toward a critical but under-articulated generational dimension to the reigning discourse of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, namely, that while discussions of the “past” seem rooted to a fixed point that begins somewhere between 1933 and 1945, the present that is perpetually obliged to engage with this history (which popular German discourse reminds us over and over, is “never over”) is always in the process of moving forward, for the very simple reason that time passes. The result, of course, is an everwidening temporal gap between these two poles. While this recession is true of any historical event, in the case of “the German past” the passage of time provokes a particular problem: for while the end of the Second World War and the establishment of a postwar democracy are commonly represented as a “Zero Hour” point of origin, there are by now multiple generations that have been “born” out of that single moment of new beginning. The discourse of “never over,” however, belies that multiplicity: by insisting on the perpetual presentism of the past, the actual present itself can never truly proceed. One consequence of this sort of logic is that postwar generations tend to be lumped together, as if, regardless of their actual year of birth, they shared a common birthdate.18

McGlothlin.indd 26

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

NEVER OVER, OVER AND OVER



27

The TeamWorx production of Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter exemplifies this conflation of postwar generations. The series is obviously designed to appeal to the much-coveted population of twenty-something viewers: it boasts a youthful cast of attractive up-and-coming actors, a common feature of the studio’s historical productions and a tactic ideally suited to make the historical world being represented feel current and relevant for today’s audiences. Yet oddly, the series’ title claims to tell the story of “our mothers, our fathers”—this, despite the reality that more than seventy years have elapsed since the end of the Second World War. At most, then, in 2013 (the year the series was released), the 18- to 20-year-old characters depicted in the series could reasonably constitute the grandparental generation for contemporary viewers of the same age bracket. Indeed, the characters might even represent the great-grandparental generation of today’s youth. The generation for whom the figures of the series constituted actual parents was, of course, Schirrmacher’s generation, the “1948ers.” There is a strange irony, then, in the publicist’s sermonizing support for the film: in advocating its usefulness for today, it is as though he prescribes lessons for the present that presumably his own age cohort needed to learn. While I would not like to go so far as to argue that the “48ers” failed in this task (which would imply that they are simply passing the buck to the next generational level), it does seem to me a serious—and ever-worsening—problem when films like Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter assume that later generations can and should cultivate the same sort of affective relationship to the wartime generation as its own children once had. Rather, might it be possible to cultivate a connection to this very important element of both German history and contemporary identity, and at the same time to acknowledge the distance that today exists between the country’s youngest citizens and the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust?19 There are a few ways of interpreting the choice to name the series “Our Mothers, Our Fathers.” It’s a catchier title than “Our Grandparents,” to be sure, and perhaps its makers hoped the title might attract the widest-possible number of viewers, bringing in actual “1948ers” as well as drawing in younger audiences. But the title also brings something primal with it, in the Freudian sense: it seems to gesture toward the wartime generation as the ur-generation that gave birth to contemporary Germany, with “we” the viewers comprising its collective progeny.20 Aside from the fact that this relies on a concept of the war’s end as a total break with the past—itself a highly debatable point—the very idea that the series’ five central characters comprise the progenitors for postwar culture is to ignore entirely some major changes in Germany’s population since 1945, beginning in the 1950s with the influx of so-called guest workers from Southern Europe and Turkey, then, in the 1990s, the post-Wall immigration of large numbers of Russian-born Jews and ethnic Germans, and

McGlothlin.indd 27

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

28



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI

more recently, the arrival of a wave of Syrian and other refugees currently seeking asylum in Germany, whose treatment, at the time of writing, constitutes one of the hottest-button issues of the day. This is not to suggest that these various immigrant groups have no relationship to Germany’s perpetually present “past”; as Stephan Braese’s contribution to this volume amply demonstrates, they can and do. But while their connection to the legacy of National Socialism is no less than that of their fellow countrymen, it is different, at least insofar as it is grounded in something other than a direct lineage to the perpetrator generation. In no way does the miniseries acknowledge this sort of populational or memorial complexity. The series concentrates on the wartime experiences of five central figures, beginning in the fateful hour of June 1941 and ending almost exactly four years later, when the surviving three make it back to their home city of Berlin after the collapse of the Third Reich. Among them is the series’ single Jewish figure, Viktor Goldstein (Ludwig Trepte), who suffers deportation to a camp but escapes and joins the Polish partisans, and who, as I and others have argued elsewhere, serves as a woefully inadequate stand-in for the German-Jewish experience of persecution and genocide.21 All the other main characters are non-Jewish Germans implicated in some aspect of the war. First comes Wilhelm (Volker Bruch), the series’ narrator and so its de facto lead character, who begins the war as a loyal officer and ends it by going AWOL. In addition to Viktor, Wilhelm’s closest circle includes three others: his younger brother, Friedhelm (Tom Schilling), a dreamy, bookish type who devolves into a cold-blooded killer after a long stint on the Eastern Front; their friend Charlotte (Miriam Stein), an eager but naive nurse who must adapt quickly to the brutal realities of the battlefront; and Greta (Katharina Schüttler), whose dreams of becoming a professional singer lead her to forge an opportunistic relationship with a high-ranking Gestapo officer. Together, the characters are presented as a kind of composite image (or “group photo,” to reference the film’s guiding visual motif) of wartime Germany. Since the series ends in 1945, it cannot logically take account of the developments in Germany’s postwar population that I have mentioned; they are too recent. Moreover, it would be outright wrong from both a historical and ethical standpoint to try retroactively to “diversify” Nazi-era Germany (even if the country was never as “Aryan” under Hitler’s rule as his regime liked to imagine). Yet there is something equally disconcerting about the idea of posing the series’ central characters as the (whether real or symbolic) parents of the present—not only because this seems to replicate an outdated image of the nation as largely ethnically homogeneous, but also because it obliterates any distinctions between the various generations that have actually followed in the wake of the war. In this way, Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter contributes to two aspects of the prevailing contemporary German discourse of “never over” that

McGlothlin.indd 28

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

NEVER OVER, OVER AND OVER



29

inspires this essay. The first, as I have just argued, is its participation in the leveling of generational difference. In a schismatic fashion typical of so many texts intervening in public Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the series on the one hand denies the present (remaining locked in the safe room of historical cinematic conventions, which prioritize “authenticity” by conjuring a period look that emphasizes the pastness of the past), and on the other hand insists on the importance of the past for the present, a past that, to cite Schirrmacher again, is “nie vorbei.” It participates in a tendency to direct contemporary youth again and again to the experiences of the former “perpetrator” generation as a means to orient themselves toward the Nazi past, and implicitly, the future. Casting today’s viewers as the collective descendants of the series’ particular set of main characters not only sidesteps issues of postwar diversity; it also backdates every successive postwar generation as originating ca. 1945. The second way in which Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter partakes in the current discussion of the “past” is in its reflexive, rather than reflective, account of what the Second World War means for today. The series cynically, if not perhaps entirely wittingly, includes a Jewish friend in the circle as a means to “cover” the topic of the Holocaust, but it then avoids representing the camps, has the young Jewish character survive (a detail that is uplifting and not impossible, but that is hardly representative of the fate of German Jews) and at the same mobilizes him as a kind of living proof of his friends’ “inherently moral core” (since they do not take issue with his Jewishness even when their surrounding culture vilifies him for it).22 It uses cinematic conventions that link the men of the German Wehrmacht to the so-called greatest generation of American legend, creating battle scenes that mimic the style of the iconic opening sequence depicting the Omaha Beach landing in Steven Spielberg’s 1998 Saving Private Ryan and thereby recasting the soldiers who fought for the Nazi regime in visual terms that now match those who fought against it.23 While the series successfully creates a cluster of characters with whom today’s viewers might identify, then, it does so at the cost of historical accuracy and at the same time denies the ways in which today’s viewers might relate differently than the real children of the war generation to the history of war and genocide. It is this conflation of generations, coupled with the insistence on “never over” that almost invariably attends any mention of the Nazi past or Holocaust, that animates the anger and skepticism of younger writers such as Kumpfmüller, Menasse, and Zeh. I, too, came of age as a student and scholar of German studies having internalized a similar message about the perpetual “presence of the past,” and as much as I continue to devote my academic energies to questions related to the memory of National Socialism, war, and genocide, I have a growing sympathy for these authors and their ilk. They do not take a traditionally conservative stance and call for an end to debate, but they do seek a relationship to

McGlothlin.indd 29

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

30



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI

these interwoven histories that takes a course different from that of preceding generations. As this and other essays in this volume explore, one of the greatest challenges of today seems to be how to navigate the enduring importance of the legacies of National Socialism and the Holocaust, while at the same time allowing for their evolving meaning for successive generations of Germans and German studies scholars.

Notes 1

This sort of publicity campaign is now a standard element of the “event” that comprises contemporary German “event television.” As Paul Cooke notes, each new series is “regularly marketed as exceptional.” Paul Cooke, “Reconfiguring the National Community Transnationally: TeamWorx, Television, and the ‘Eventization’ of German History,” Modern Language Review 108, no. 2 (2013): 541. 2 Frank Schirrmacher, “‘Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter’ im ZDF: Die Geschichte deutscher Albträume,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 3, 2013, http:// www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/medien/unsere-muetter-unsere-vaeter/unseremuetter-unsere-vaeter-im-zdf-die-geschichte-deutscher-albtraeume-12115192.html. 3

Morten Freidel, Maximilian Krämer, Hannah Lühmann, Katharina Rudolph, and Jan Wiele, “Es ist nie vorbei: Filmproduzent Nico Hofmann im Gespräch,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 18, 2013, http://www.faz.net/aktuell/ feuilleton/medien/unsere-muetter-unsere-vaeter/filmproduzent-nico-hofmannim-gespraech-es-ist-nie-vorbei-12118295.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIn dex_2. Emphasis mine. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. 4

My thanks to one of our anonymous reviewers for pointing this out.

5

Günter Grass, Im Krebsgang: Eine Novelle (Munich: dtv, 2004), 216. In English, Crabwalk, trans. Krishna Winston (Orlando: Harcourt, 2003), 234. 6

For another example one might look to Hans-Ulrich Treichel’s Findelkind trilogy (Der Verlorene [1998], Menschenflug [2005], and Anatolin [2008], all with Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt am Main), which works through three permutations of the story of a brother lost during the expulsions from the East. In each case, the family and medical establishment prove unable to establish the identity of potential candidates, and the result is a permanent gap in the narrative—one that, as I have argued elsewhere, would not be filled even if the true long-lost brother were to return. Only the numerical cipher for the Findelkind remains exactly the same in the three versions—itself a marker of traumatic repetition and an absence that can never be made good. 7

Volker Ulrich, “Es ist nie zu Ende,” Zeit, January 22, 2004, http://www.zeit. de/2004/05/Wehrmacht.

8

Peter von Becker, “Das Humboldt-Forum muss erst noch erfunden werden,” Tagesspiegel, June 22, 2015, 6. 9

Ulrich, “Es ist nie zu Ende.”

10

Theodor W. Adorno, “Erziehung nach Auschwitz,” Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 10.2, ed. Ralf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1970–86), 674–90.

McGlothlin.indd 30

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

NEVER OVER, OVER AND OVER



31

My translation. Henry W. Pickford’s published English version of Adorno’s essay translates the term as “a badge of shared convictions.” See Adorno, “Education after Auschwitz,” in Can One Live after Auschwitz? A Philosophical Reader, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Henry W. Pickford (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 23. 11

Marcuse defines these age cohorts as groups that share common “life outlooks” by virtue of having been influenced by major historical events unfolding in their formative years. Harold Marcuse, “Generational Cohorts and the Shaping of Popular Attitudes towards the Holocaust,” in Remembering for the Future: The Holocaust in an Age of Genocide, ed. John Roth and Elizabeth Maxwell, vol. 3 (London: Palgrave, 2001), 652–63. 12

Eva Menasse and Michael Kumpfmüller, “Die Waffen-SS-Debatte um Grass: Intellektuelles Moralgeflatter,” Zeit, August 16, 2006, http://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/die-waffen-ss-debatte-um-grass-intellektuelles-moralgeflatter-1.897587. Many thanks to Susan Gillespie for her helpful comments on the translation of these citations. 13

Ibid.

14

Menasse and Kumpfmüller, “Die Waffen-SS-Debatte um Grass.”

15

Juli Zeh, “Das Ende moralischer Instanzen,” interview with Vladimir Balzer, Deutschlandradio, August 15, 2006, http://www.deutschlandradiokultur.de/ das-ende-moralischer-instanzen.945.de.html?dram:article_id=132331. 16

Ibid.

17

Ibid.

18

Erin McGlothlin observes a similar phenomenon in discussions of descendants of Holocaust survivors, in which “the Holocaust is figured . . . both as a unique catastrophe that is extracted out of the continuity of history and as an original event that propagates history and familial continuity.” Erin McGlothlin, Second Generation Holocaust Literature: Legacies of Survival and Perpetration (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2006), 17. 19

For a related exploration of Holocaust pedagogy in contemporary Germany, see Jennifer Kapczynski, “Past Lessons: Holocaust Conservation and Education in Robert Thalheim’s And Along Come Tourists,” New German Critique 41, vol. 3, no. 123 (2014): 9–34. 20

Along related lines, Sigrid Weigel has pointed out the popular origin myth of the 1948ers, according to which their “young generation” (which experienced the war but is considered too young to bear actual guilt) is imagined as having been born “pure from the head,” implicitly cutting “the umbilical cord that connects them with the war and defines them as the beginning and as a generation that was not merely procreated.” See “Generation as a Symbolic Form: On the Genealogical Discourse of Memory since 1945,” Germanic Review 77, no. 4 (2001): 275. 21

Jennifer Kapczynski, “The Singular Jew: Representing National Socialism’s Victims in Recent Historical Cinema,” in Holocaust Cinema in the 21st Century: Images, Memory and the Ethics of Representation, ed. Gerd Bayer and Oleksandr Kobrynskyy (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming); Laurel

McGlothlin.indd 31

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

32



JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI

Cohen-Pfister, “Claiming the Second World War and Its Lost Generation: Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter and the Politics of Emotion,” Seminar 50, no. 1 (2014): 104–24. 22

Cohen-Pfister, “Claiming the Second World War,” 107.

23

For a more detailed exploration of this phenomenon, see my essay on the film: “Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter,” in The German Cinema Book, 2nd ed., ed. Tim Bergfelder, Erica Carter, and Deniz Gökturk (London: BFI, forthcoming).

McGlothlin.indd 32

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

2: The Voice of the Perpetrator, the Voices of the Survivors Erin McGlothlin

I.

O

NE OF THE MOST persistent challenges for scholars who research and teach about the Holocaust is the question of how to balance the voices, perspectives, and narratives of the victims and survivors with those of the perpetrators. Historians in particular, whose accounts of the Holocaust have until relatively recently relied chiefly on the prolific documents, narratives, and interpretive frames of the Nazi perpetrators, have recognized this as a recurrent dilemma attendant to their inquiry. As Mark Roseman writes, “history (outside Israel) has been particularly slow as a discipline to take the Nazi victims seriously as sources of information, and has tended to focus much more heavily on the records left behind by the perpetrators.”1 Jeffrey C. Blutinger attributes the bias toward perpetrators’ accounts to the nature of contemporary historiography, which tends, “particularly in classroom teaching, to focus on historical actors” and which “leads us into a false dichotomy between oppression and resistance, implicitly disparaging those who for whatever reason did not resist but who suffered and died nonetheless.”2 In recent years, historians of the Holocaust have made earnest and fruitful efforts to correct their partiality toward the voices of the perpetrators, as demonstrated by deliberate attempts on the part of scholars such as Christopher Browning and Saul Friedländer to write history based on Jewish testimony and collective experience.3 However, as Browning acknowledges, the recent historiographical turn toward the victim and survivor still presents persistent challenges:

The use of survivor testimony, therefore, is not a Holocaust historian’s “silver bullet” that will answer all his questions and solve all his problems. Claiming that survivor testimony must be accorded a privileged position not subject to the same critical analysis and rules of evidence as other sources or, even worse, lodging the

McGlothlin.indd 33

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

34



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

indiscriminate accusation that a historian has not used survivor testimony as a weapon to discredit both his or her work and character, will not serve the cause of integrating survivor testimony into the writing of Holocaust history. They will merely discredit and undermine the reputation and integrity of Holocaust scholarship itself.4

Scholars of literature and culture, by contrast, contend with an inverse situation; they have until recently attended almost exclusively to the voices of the survivors (and, to a much lesser extent, to the narratives of the murdered victims) and remained all but insensible to narratives of perpetration, whether fictional or historical. On the one hand, this asymmetry in favor of the stories of the survivors and victims threatens to perpetuate what Eva Hoffmann has termed a “memory cult” centered around the Holocaust survivor and hinder what Roseman calls “a critical but respectful relationship with the survivor”; on the other hand, it demonstrates what Jenni Adams terms a “sense of literary and cultural unease” with “attempts to conceptualise or depict the Holocaust perpetrator.”5 Moreover, as I have argued elsewhere with regard to this predilection on the part of literary scholars for the story of the survivor, such an imbalance transmits a myopic understanding of the Holocaust and allows us (not to mention our students) to sidestep uncomfortable questions regarding our own positioning vis-à-vis his history: In order for us to begin to understand how literary representations of the Holocaust function in the world of readers, we as critics must not ignore the perspective of the perpetrator simply because it is anathema to us and violates our solidarity with the victims. Though we may wish to disregard the perpetrators because we believe that they have, in a sense, forfeited the right to our attention, they continue to exist in the text and must therefore be accounted for. Moreover, it is important to remember that, save for a few exceptions—such as Ruth Klüger or Elie Wiesel—we as critics belong to neither the world of the perpetrators nor that of the victims and survivors. By ignoring the perspectives of the one group, we imply that we somehow belong to the other, and this kind of identification with the victims is, at its extreme, as dangerous to our inquiry as identification with the perpetrators might be. Finally, just as the suffering of the victims was all too real and existed not in some mythical, otherworldly universe but as an event involving real bodies in real time and space, the perpetrators were real figures as well. If we leave the representations of their thoughts and motives unexamined, we constructed them as abstract, mythical figures whose actions cannot be accounted for (even and particularly if their thoughts and actions remain, in their extremity, essentially incomprehensible to us).6

McGlothlin.indd 34

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



35

In the last several years, literary scholars, including Jenni Adams, Sue Vice, Robert Eaglestone, and Richard Crownshaw, have turned their attention to literary and filmic representations of perpetrators, both historical and fictional, exploring in particular the uncomfortable affective relationships that such texts facilitate with their readers.7 Indeed, as the diversity of contributions in this volume demonstrates, critical work on the memory and representation of perpetrators is experiencing a particularly active moment. However, this current “turn toward the figure of the perpetrator”8 tends to relocate the focal point of literary and cultural study of the Holocaust from one discreet figure (the survivor) to another (the perpetrator) rather than expanding the field of vision to consider both figures (along with related historical actor groups, such as victimcollaborators of “the gray zone,” bystanders, resisters, rescuers, and so on) as part of a larger interrelated dynamic. Indeed, for the most part scholarship views these two dominant subject positions in isolation from each other.9 It does this of course for good reason; historically and functionally these positions were, in theory if not always in practice, fundamentally distinct and almost invariably mutually exclusive, and the gulf between them produced and is confirmed by ineluctably different memories and testimonies. But what happens when we discover a moment of commonality or proximity between these two groups? How can we theorize narratives of these two subject positions that can be considered adjacent or contiguous rather than strictly divergent and disparate? How do we allow our field of vision to include both groups at the same time without allowing one to subsume or to mitigate the particularity of the other or losing sight of their mutual alterity? Can the voices of the victims and survivors and those of the perpetrators—and I mean “voice” here to refer both literally to the vocal instrument of testimony and metaphorically to narrative perspective and narrative agency (although not without awareness that the two categories operate in vastly different ways)—coexist in the same conceptual space, or are they so dissonant as to make impossible, whether ethically or practically, any attempt to position them together? In the following, I will look closely at two self-consciously produced and artfully framed deployments of voice— more precisely, actual vocal performances—in two post-Holocaust documentary films, one featuring the singing voice of a perpetrator, the other presenting the voices of two survivors singing the same song. By examining how these films deliberately stage their radically disparate subjects in the act of vocalizing a common song, I hope to offer some insight into both the extent to which cultural representations can sensitively and responsibly begin to imagine these voices alongside one another and the point at which such an endeavor becomes ethically and practically untenable.

McGlothlin.indd 35

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

36



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

II. The second half of Claude Lanzmann’s nine-and-one-half-hour documentary masterwork Shoah (1985) opens with an infamous moment of vocal performance. Franz Suchomel, a former SS guard at the notorious Operation Reinhard death camp Treblinka, whom Lanzmann films with a hidden camera, sings the “Treblinkalied,” the camp anthem that the Jewish prisoners, who labored in direct support of the genocidal process and who numbered only a few hundred at any given time in the camp’s history, were forced to sing at daily roll calls:10 Fest im Schritt und Tritt und den Blick geradeaus immer fest und fest in die Welt geschaut, marschieren Kommandos zur Arbeit. Für uns gibt’s heute nur Treblinka, das unser Schicksal ist. Drum haben wir uns auf Treblinka eingestellt in kurzer Frist. Wir kennen nur das Wort der Kommandanten und nur Gehorsamkeit und Pflicht Wir wollen weiter, weiter leisten, bis daß das kleine Glück uns einmal winkt. Hurrah! [Firm in step and footfall, and the gaze square ahead always, always steady looking out at the world, the squads march to work. For us, all there is today is Treblinka, which is our destiny. That’s why we’ve adapted to Treblinka in no time at all. We know only the word of our commanders and only obedience and duty, We want to work more and more, until a little luck beckons to us. Hurray!]11

The lyrics that Suchomel sings in this scene attest to the prisoners’ complete subjugation in the isolated universe of Treblinka (“Für uns gibt’s heute nur Treblinka”), where they were forced to sing a song that openly derided any hope they had of someday escaping the fate of the hundreds of thousands

McGlothlin.indd 36

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



37

of victims who entered the camp and were killed in its gas chambers. The last lines of the song reminded the prisoners that their arduous and abject labor could end only in their own deaths by gassing (or in a violent act committed by one of the camp guards), to which the lyrics mockingly refer as “das kleine Glück [das] uns einmal winkt.” After singing the anthem once through, Suchomel, who is clearly unsettled by his performance (even as he appears to enjoy it), acknowledges the derisive tone of the song, claiming that he sings it not out of amusement but out of a sense of historical duty: SUCHOMEL: Ja. Wir machen das unter Lachen, und es ist so traurig. LANZMANN: Niemand lacht. SUCHOMEL: Nehmen Sie mir’s nicht übel. Weil . . . Sie wollen Geschichte haben, und ich sage Ihnen Geschichte. Der Franz hat den Text gemacht. Die Melodie stammt aus Buchenwald, KZ Buchenwald, wo Franz12 Wächter war. Wenn neue Juden kamen in der Früh . . . LANZMANN: Neue “Arbeitsjuden”? SUCHOMEL: Ja . . . So mußte ihnen das eingelehrt werden, und am Abend mußten sie das schon mitsingen.13 SUCHOMEL: Yes. We’re laughing about it, but it’s so sad. LANZMANN: No one’s laughing. SUCHOMEL: Don’t be sore at me. Because . . . you want history, I’m telling you history. Franz wrote the words. The melody came from Buchenwald. Concentration Camp Buchenwald, where Franz was a guard. When new Jews arrived in the morning . . . LANZMANN: New “worker Jews”? SUCHOMEL: Yes . . . they had to be taught the song. And by evening they already had to sing along with it.]14

As Suchomel reports, the camp anthem was taught to the newly arrived “Arbeitsjuden,” prisoners who were selected out of the incoming train transports each morning to assist with the harrowing labor of guiding the trainloads of deportees through the stages of the genocidal process and processing their corpses and material effects after their deaths and who themselves were often killed before day’s end, at least in the initial months of the camp’s existence.15 After Suchomel’s brief explanation of the provenance and purpose of the song, Lanzmann urges him to perform it “Noch einmal, aber starker [sic]!” (once more, only louder / with more gusto),16 a request that Suchomel obliges, boasting afterward “Sind Sie zufrieden? Das ist ein Original. Das kann kein Jude heute mehr!” (Satisfied? That’s unique. No Jew today can do that any longer).17 Suchomel claims to reproduce reluctantly the “Treblinkalied” because he believes it conveys the particular history of Treblinka; as he

McGlothlin.indd 37

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

38



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

asserts after his initial act of singing: “Sie wollen Geschichte haben, und ich sage Ihnen Geschichte,” a statement that is meant to indicate his apparent willingness to testify truthfully to the operation of genocide at Treblinka and the exploitation and abuse of its Jewish prisoner-workers. With Suchomel’s vocal performance, Lanzmann thus fashions Suchomel as the conduit through which a musical remnant of their experience is transported into the present. The song functions for him—and for the viewer—not only as historical artifact but also as evidence of his own authoritative knowledge of what transpired in Treblinka.18 He furthermore self-aggrandizingly professes to be the only person alive who can accomplish such an act of historical revival, an assertion that Lanzmann encourages as diegetic interviewer and emphasizes with the scene’s composition and editing. Apart from the inherent tension produced in the film by Suchomel’s self-satisfied claim to his own unique status with his audaciously perverse boast that there are no longer any Jews who can sing the song (Shoah contains interviews with two former Treblinka “Arbeitsjuden,” Richard Glazar and Abraham Bomba, who very likely also knew the anthem),19 what is striking about his singing and his assertion of the historical value of his performance is how Suchomel exploits the victims’ bitter and sorrowful experience of being forced to sing the hateful tune in order to construct his authority. For this reason, Suchomel’s performance functions as cruel parody even as it claims documentary value. According to Shoshana Felman, Suchomel’s singing, in which the lived experience of the Jewish prisoners of Treblinka is ventriloquized by one of their murderers, “is, so to speak, the opposite of a signed testimony, an antitestimony that consists, once more, in the absence and in the very forging of its Jewish signature.”20 Suchomel’s energetically brazen performance of the song, which Felman calls “jaunty” and Keith Moser “ecstatic,” operates in Shoah not only as visceral index of the silenced voices of its original singers but also as a sort of triumphal anthem that descants their destruction and a ballad that narrates the epic conquest of the genocide.21 Although Suchomel purports to vocalize the history of Treblinka, his act of singing works actively against the recuperation of the memory of its victims, since the song, by its very nature, overwrites their subjective experience of suffering with the narrative of their tormenters, who, through Suchomel’s performance, sing the final word on the matter. However, in spite of the audaciously anti-testimonial effect of Suchomel’s intonation of the “Treblinkalied,” Felman finds that Shoah “restitutes to history—and to the song—its testimonial function” by virtue of “its unlikely and ghostly return,”22 meaning that Lanzmann is able to restore to a spectral but nevertheless unequivocal presence the silenced voices of the victims by channeling their experience of singing through the vocal performance of an agent of their murder.

McGlothlin.indd 38

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



39

I argue that this scene with Suchomel goes even farther than that; despite his apparent enjoyment in arrogating and assimilating the victims’ experience into a musical narrative over which he assumes exclusive control as the authoritative expert on Treblinka, his brief explanation of the provenance of the anthem unwittingly undermines the erasure of their experience, revealing much more of it than he perhaps intends. As I see it, what Suchomel imparts only obliquely through his performance but what comes through more forcefully in his explanation is the particular extremity of the prisoner-workers’ induction into the world of Treblinka, in which in the brief span of a single day they were initiated into the brutal nature and frenzied character of the machinery of genocide, a pace with which they had to keep up if they wished to stay alive from one moment to the next. Testimony by some of the fewer than seventy survivors of Treblinka, most of whom escaped in the August 1943 uprising, attests to the intense shock and horror the men experienced on the day of their arrival, when they were separated from their families, only to learn later that they would never see them again. Abraham Krzepicki, who was deported to Treblinka in early August 1943 during the weeks of the large-scale deportations from Warsaw and who escaped eighteen days later, returned to Warsaw and delivered the first eyewitness account of the camp before perishing in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943: “We, the new arrivals, were terror-stricken. We looked at each other to confirm that what we were seeing was real. But we were afraid to look around too much, because the guards could start shooting any minute. I still did not want to believe my eyes. I thought it was just a dream.”23 Suchomel’s description, which explains merely that new deportees arrived in the morning, were forced to learn the song, and were required to perform it already in the evening, elides the transformative moment of shock into which the prisoners were suddenly thrust. However, his words nevertheless gesture to the rapid period of their metamorphosis on that fateful first day, when they were forced to memorize a song that both symbolized their submission to this new regime and mocked their experience of it. Moreover, the central lines of the song—“Für uns gibt’s heute nur Treblinka / das unser Schicksal ist. / Drum haben wir uns auf Treblinka / eingestellt in kurzer Frist”—quite openly tell, in Suchomel’s version at least, this story of the rapid and traumatic transformation of the newly arrived, “terror-stricken” deportees into “Arbeitsjuden.” In this way, the song’s effect was essentially performative: prisoners were forced to sing of their own subjugation in the words of the perpetrator and in the lively melody of the military anthem; their performance of the song—not to mention its daily repetition—established as a brutal fact the abrupt erasure of their status as human subjects and their reconstitution as enslaved objects whose only hope for an end to the torment was the “beckoning” of “a little luck,” which could only mean death.24 In Shoah, a film

McGlothlin.indd 39

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

40



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

obsessed with uncovering the faintest of evidential traces unwittingly left behind by the Nazis of their genocidal crimes,25 Suchomel’s playful singing functions as yet another trace, an oblique performative and linguistic index of suffering that is called to stand in for the silenced voices of millions. Despite Suchomel’s boast that he is the final authority who can transmit the song (a self-important statement that robs the admittedly minuscule number of survivors of the vocal authority over their own experiences) and despite his attempt to assume control of its narrative (“Ich sage Ihnen Geschichte”), in the end Lanzmann allows the words of the song to sing through Suchomel.26

III. Tzipi Baider’s 2011 documentary film Just the Two of Us accompanies two elderly men, Samuel Willenberg and Kalman Taigman, then the last living survivors of the Treblinka revolt (Taigman passed away in 2012, Willenberg died in early 2016), on their journey from Israel to Poland in 2010. With their wives, the two men visited the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, the remnant of the Majdanek camp, and finally the memorial at the site of Treblinka, where they participated in a memorial ceremony held by the Israeli Defense Force.27 Both men escaped Treblinka in the uprising of August 2, 1943, and both eventually made Israel their home. However, Willenberg and Taigman represent two very different types of response on the part of Holocaust survivors. Willenberg was very outspoken about his experiences and determined to educate others about them; not only did he publish a memoir and create bronze statues depicting his time in and escape from Treblinka, but he also lectured frequently about his experiences to school and community groups and made more than thirty visits to the site of the former Treblinka camp. Taigman, by contrast, was much more reticent about his own experience of the Holocaust; although he testified at the Eichmann trial, he did not publish a memoir, nor had he, prior to the trip documented by the film, returned to Poland after emigrating to Palestine shortly after war’s end. This distinction between the reactions of the two men to their respective Holocaust experiences creates a noticeable tension in the film; whereas Willenberg is eager to talk about both his past and the present-day sites in Poland they visit (and additionally gives the impression that he has spoken often about his experiences), Taigman has difficulty finding language to express what he thinks and feels during the journey. Through most of the film, Willenberg, always loquacious, is at turns incredulous, angry, tearful, and bitter, displaying the affective dimension that is missing in Taigman, who articulates his relationship to present-day Poland with claims that he has no memory of the environs, with sardonic comments (“As Lea [Taigman’s wife] says, I have no feelings. So be it”28), or with simple silence. Over the course

McGlothlin.indd 40

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



41

of the film the two men and their wives become entrenched in opposing positions regarding why they are making the trip; Willenberg and his wife Ada (herself a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto) claim an emotional connection to Poland and see educational, memorial, and affective value in their visit (Willenberg claims, “I’ll always come back to Poland”), while Taigman and his wife Lea Lifshitz see the trip as a distasteful but necessary measure to honor the past and at the same time to confirm its pastness. When Ada Willenberg asks Taigman how he feels about being in Poland, he says “lousy,” while Lifshitz explains his motivation for the trip in the following way: Why didn’t Kalman want to come? He said, “For me, it’s a cemetery.” When they finally convinced him, he said, “I’m going to Treblinka. I’ll hold the Israeli flag. I’ll recite Kaddish. And by doing that I want to come full circle and not think about the Polish or any of it ever again.” That’s what he said.

The two men thus represent two radically opposed relationships to their Holocaust experience. Willenberg, with his recurrent emotive descriptions of what happened to him and his family during the Holocaust, locates a sort of moral imperative in his memorial function as a survivor and is determined—perhaps even desperate—to communicate to contemporary generations something vital about what happened in Treblinka, even if he also appears frustrated at his inability to do so in any way commensurate with that experience. Taigman, on the other hand, finds very little value in revisiting either his experiences in the Holocaust or the sites at which they took place, and rather than narrate his story in the pedagogical and affective manner of Willenberg, strikes a much more pessimistic and fatalistic attitude about what can be achieved on the journey.29 The two men’s strikingly different attitudes to the project of the film and to narrating their stories of survival demonstrate that survivors were impacted by the Holocaust and react to being asked to talk about it in diverse ways such that, as Lawrence Langer argues, there is no “prototypical survivor” or “unified view [that] emerges from [survivor] testimony.”30 Moreover, they remind us that we often hold normative notions of the testifying survivor that requires him or her to follow particular narrative and affective patterns and to deliver a compelling story, whether emotionally redemptive or unabatingly horrific. This construct, which reflects the normative expectations of contemporary listeners and viewers, is one that shapes the framework of a particular survivor’s testimony and requires him or her to either conform to the image or struggle against it. According to Hank Greenspan, who has for decades worked with survivor testimony and is known for his insistence on the heterogeneity of survivors’ stories and modes of coming to terms with their experience, “survivors sometimes shape their recounting to meet what they perceive their listeners

McGlothlin.indd 41

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

42



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

need or want to hear ;. . . survivors sometimes retell with relative indifference to their listeners’ expectations ;. . . survivors, at times, shape their retelling directly to challenge—indeed, to protest—their listeners’ presumptions.”31 Whereas Willenberg appears to conform largely (but not exclusively) to the first condition Greenspan lists, Taigman clearly occupies the latter two positions. In a van on the way from Maidanek to Treblinka, Ada Willenberg reiterates the historical importance of the journey through Poland: “You are, in fact, the last witnesses. When you’re gone, it’s all over.”32 She then mentions the Treblinka anthem, and Willenberg immediately asks, “Kalman, you don’t remember?” In order to induce Taigman’s memory, Willenberg begins to sing a few words of the song. After Taigman claims he doesn’t remember the lyrics, Willenberg continues singing: Fester Schritt und Tritt Und die M . . . g’rade au . . . Immer mutig und froh in die Welt geschaut Marschieren die Kolonne [sic] zur Arbeit Wir hobn heute nur Treblinka . . . [Firm step and footfall and the . . . square ahead Always brave and joyous looking out at the world The columns march to work. We have today only Treblinka . . .]

Willenberg’s performance in Just the Two of Us of the beginning of the Treblinka song, which he sings only in part, both resembles and departs from Suchomel’s singing in Shoah. Willenberg’s rendition of the first lines of the song is surprisingly lively, surpassing even the energy of Suchomel’s performance; he loudly and heartily emphasizes particular words, such as “g’rade” and “die Welt,” highlighting, in a way similar to Suchomel’s singing, the military nature of the Treblinka anthem, which was designed to be sung with excessive and artificial zeal by entire squads of “worker Jews.” Indeed, one might characterize Willenberg’s singing as almost parodic in its mimicry of the conventions associated with martial music and its construction of soldierly comradeship through collective chorality; not only does the gusto with which he performs the song contrast sharply with the lyrics he sings, but there is also a noticeable edge to his rendition. He thus emphasizes the humiliating character of the lyrics, the absurdity of the forced enthusiasm on the part of those who were required to sing them, and the sheer cruelty of the entire spectacle. Like

McGlothlin.indd 42

10/16/2016 2:05:33 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



43

Suchomel, Willenberg gives a rousing performance of the “Treblinkalied,” but their renditions are in no way commensurate, for the two men vocalize the same song from radically opposite positions and from vastly different perspectives. Additional points of divergence between Suchomel’s and Willenberg’s performances in the respective films highlight the two men’s radically different relationships to the song they sing. The most obvious disparity is the difference between the lyrics in the two renditions (and between Suchomel’s version and the versions put forward by other survivors and by historians), which, though slight, raises questions regarding which version can claim greater accuracy. Suchomel, as we have seen, positions himself as the authority on the matter; and, indeed, scholars such as Sue Vice, although rightly critical of his boasting, tend to take him at his word, arguing that “he sings word-perfectly in the present just as he did in the past.”33 But of course Suchomel, as a guard, would not have sung the song on a regular basis, even though he did hear it daily; the very nature of the song, which forced the singer into a posture of submission and servitude, was anathematic to the position of almost complete power enjoyed by the German and Austrian SS guards (if not by the Ukrainian auxiliaries at Treblinka, who occupied a much lower position in the hierarchy of guards). The song in fact instantiated this dynamic of power and submission each time the “Arbeitsjuden” sang it and the SS guards listened to it. For this reason, not only does Suchomel’s performance “cite” the past experience of singing rather than strictly reenact it, it also, when compared with Willenberg’s rendition, calls into question Suchomel’s boastful claim to privileged access to the prisoner’s experience of the song (“Sind Sie zufrieden? Das ist ein Original. Das kann kein Jude heute mehr!”). At the same time, however, the song is sung differently by the two men, underscoring the their disparate relationships to it. Whereas Suchomel’s Bavarian accent is noticeable in his rendition (which furthermore is delivered in grammatically correct German even if it differs from the versions put forth by survivors and historians), Willenberg’s song is sung with a noticeable Yiddish accent (“Wir hobn heute nur Treblinka”), exhibits faulty German grammar (“Marschieren die Kolonne [sic] zur Arbeit”), and contains gaps (“Und die M . . . g’rade au . . .”) that point either to Willenberg’s difficultly remembering the lyrics or to the possibility that he did not quite understand at the time what he was singing in the first place. By performing the song effortlessly in his own language and by harmonizing his version grammatically, Suchomel thus asserts a certain ownership over the song and its interpretation, a declaration underscored in particular by his statement that there are no longer any Jews alive who could reproduce the song (or who could give alternative versions of it). Willenberg’s performance, on the other hand, emphasizes

McGlothlin.indd 43

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

44



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

his inability to possess the song in the brazenly self-understood manner of Suchomel. Not only does his less than fluent rendition emphasize the fact that the song is written in a language that was (and presumably still is) foreign to him, it also to a certain extent reinscribes the singer back into the power dynamic that governed his performances of the “Treblinkalied” in the past: once again he vocalizes his own subjugation. For this reason, although Willenberg can assert his own form of control over the performance by choosing to represent the song parodically, he cannot “cite” in the same manner as Suchomel. After Willenberg sings these first lines of the song, during which Taigman quietly listens with a bemused smile on his face and Lifshitz peers at Taigman, looking for a reaction, Willenberg asks Taigman again, “You don’t remember?” Taigman shrugs and says with a little laugh, “I don’t remember.” Unlike Willenberg, who is clearly comfortable assuming the role of the surviving witness who can not only testify to his experience of Treblinka but also provide acoustical evidence for it, Taigman remains mutely estranged from this part of his past, even though he was interned in Treblinka for a longer period of time than Willenberg and was thus forced to sing the song at least as many times as his friend.34 Just the Two of Us goes on to depict the men’s arrival at Treblinka and their attempt to locate their memories of the long-since-effaced camp on the present-day terrain. Once again, Willenberg leads the way, disembarking to walk into the camp while Taigman remains on the bus. When Taigman alights, he says to Willenberg, “Show me exactly, so I’ll know where I am.” Slowly Taigman begins to describe his memory of various features of the camp and of events that happened at particular places, such as the last moment he saw his beloved mother, who was sent directly to the gas chamber shortly after their arrival at the camp. However, whereas Willenberg visibly expresses his emotional distress at returning to the camp, Taigman remains impassive, demonstrating tension only by occasionally stabbing the sandy ground with his umbrella. After recalling their harrowing experiences in the uprising, Willenberg and Taigman sit on the memorial stones that mark the train tracks into the camp and peer at a group of Israeli soldiers, marveling that the soldiers are there to honor them, “Two old fogies. Just sitting here” (Willenberg). Taigman responds to Willenberg’s incredulity dryly, “If you weren’t sitting here, you’d be lying there,” which initiates a humorous exchange between the two men: WILLENBERG: Don’t show off. TAIGMAN: I’m not. I told her you’d be sniffing the flowers from below. [Taigman laughs.] WILLENBERG: No, no, don’t laugh. Be normal.

McGlothlin.indd 44

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS

TAIGMAN:



45

If I were normal, I’d be laughing. Since I’m not normal, I’m not laughing. [Taigman chuckles again.]

Taigman’s sardonic and paradoxical response to Willenberg here is typical of his behavior in the film, underscoring his complicated relationship to the contrived exercise in commemoration staged in the film. He claims not to laugh even when he is in the midst of laughter, just as he maintains he does not remember his Treblinka experience even as he slowly begins to narrate it. Whereas Willenberg seems to have gained a certain control over his traumatic experience by authoring it, so to speak, with his repeated public testimonial performances, Taigman’s position throughout the film is to undermine the mode of testimony that Willenberg and the film crew attempt to elicit from him and to insist on an ironic distance to his experience. And yet, in a scene that occurs directly after their witty exchange (and that is likely temporally very close to it, since the men hold the same postural positions), Taigman suddenly begins to sing the “Treblinkalied.” Though surprised by Taigman’s sudden singing, Willenberg quickly joins him in the song. Unlike with Willenberg’s singing of the “Treblinkalied” on the bus, during which Taigman was resolutely mute, here both men participate in equal parts in the vocal performance, completing together the song that Willenberg had previously sung only in part. At first, Taigman often falls silent, unable to remember the next line of the song, while Willenberg prods him. But toward the end, the opposite occurs: Taigman sings entire lines on his own, filling in gaps that Willenberg can’t account for. Moreover, he sings alone the last line of the song, “Bis uns das kleine Glück auf einmal . . .”; until a little luck to us . . .), which, as we saw with Suchomel’s rendition, warns its singers with derisive euphemism of their certain death. However, Taigman breaks off his singing notably before the last word of the line, “winkt” (beckons), and before the mock celebratory injection, “Hurrah!” By omitting the song’s final word, which functions as the clause’s verb and thus is charged with finalizing the action described in the statement, Taigman declines to allow the song to execute its final verdict on the prisoners. His suspension of the song before its end can be viewed as his attempt, if not to “master” his experience at Treblinka, then at least to deliberately shape his relationship to it on his own terms. This refusal to finish the song is, as we have seen, in keeping with Taigman’s behavior throughout the film, whereby he creates necessary emotional distance through deliberate muteness, sarcasm, dissension, irony, and paradox. After Taigman finishes (or more precisely, does not finish) the song, the men continue their conversation. Willenberg, in his by now recognizable fashion, assumes the dialogue, demonstrating physically and

McGlothlin.indd 45

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

46



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

describing in a loud, forceful voice the context in which the men were originally compelled to sing the song: “That’s the Treblinka anthem. Every evening. Every evening. ‘Mützen ab! Mützen ab!’ (Caps off!). [Willenberg removes his hat.] And if we didn’t sing loudly, ‘Noch einmal! Noch einmal!’ (Once again!). That’s how it was.” As in other moments of the film, it is clear in this scene that Willenberg wishes urgently to convey something essential about his experience of Treblinka. With his demonstration, we thus get a glimpse of the subjective perspective of the experience that Suchomel can merely gesture to from the outside, namely the initiation of the new “Arbeitsjuden” to the extremity of Treblinka through the forced performance of the song and their subsequent daily experience singing an anthem that lauded their own servitude, reduction to mere objects, and eventual destruction. Caught up in the only partially mock martial nature of his performance, whereby he dramatically reenacts the experience of removing his cap to the bellowing orders of the guards, Willenberg addresses Taigman perhaps a bit too vehemently, asking almost triumphantly, “You remember? You remember?” Taigman, characteristically, nods and says softly, “I remember,” acknowledging that his previous denials of memory, particularly with regard to the “Treblinkalied,” were not quite accurate; it turns out that he remembers more than he was willing to let on. But then he responds to Willenberg more forcefully (although equally quietly): “Sir, whether you laugh or not, I can’t relay to anyone how I feel.” With this cryptic statement (after all, just a moment ago, it was Taigman who was laughing, while Willenberg implored him to “be normal”), Taigman makes a compelling case for his own reticence with regard to his experience. He may laugh, he may sing, but he refuses to “perform” as a survivor according to normative expectations, whether those of Willenberg, the filmmaker, the viewers, or anyone else. More than that, he allows himself and in fact insists on the incommunicability of his affective responses to his experiences in Treblinka and to his return to the site of the camp over almost seven decades later. In this way, Taigman matches Willenberg’s desperate urgency to communicate with a diametrically opposed ironic taciturnity. Although the two men perform the “Treblinkalied” together—sometimes in unison, sometimes in tandem—their narrative approaches to the experience of Treblinka that the song is called on by the film to acoustically index could not be more disparate. Futhermore, Taigman’s and Willenberg’s performance of the song clearly echoes Suchomel’s infamous rendition almost thirty-five years earlier, a fact that Baider chooses not to emphasize, allowing the connection to remain an unarticulated but nonetheless haunting intertext for the viewer familiar with Lanzmann’s film. However, by featuring the two survivors recalling and singing the song, she redacts in a sense Lanzmann’s footage of Suchomel, inserting alongside the mocking voice of the

McGlothlin.indd 46

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



47

Figs. 2.1 and 2.2. Franz Suchomel sings the “Treblinkalied” in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985); Kalman Taigman and Samuel Willenberg sing the same song in Tzipi Baider’s Just the Two of Us (2011). Screen shots.

self-aggrandizing perpetrator the clearly agitated but at the same time defiant and even jocular voices of the survivors. Their survival of the ordeals to which Suchomel and others subjected them at Treblinka is testified to by the very act of their singing the anthem that celebrated their degradation, fear, and expectation of death. In this way, Just the Two of Us gives a clear response to Lanzmann’s film and specifically to Suchomel, who reserved for himself the authority to pronounce history and boasted that there were no survivors who could provide a counter-narrative. Moreover, Baider’s film makes it evident that, while Willenberg and Taigman sing the same song that Suchomel intones in Lanzmann’s film (or at least astonishingly similar versions of it), their performances are neither equal to nor compatible with his. The “Treblinkalied” not only produces a radically different effect that depends above all on the subject position of the person singing it, but it also signifies profoundly discrepant experiences in the three men’s respective testimonies. Without question, it can be instructive to consider the narratives of the perpetrators alongside those of the survivors, for the exercise of bringing them into proximity with one another can reveal previously undiscovered moments of significance, muted but meaningful undertones, and contiguous points of contact. However, as my analysis of the performance of the “Treblinkalied” in Lanzmann’s and Baider’s films demonstrates, such juxtaposition also invariably exposes the phenomenological gulf that separates the two orders of testimony and highlights not their similarity but their mutual alterity and incommensurability. Despite the fact that they sing a common tune, the voice of the perpetrator and the voices of the survivors remain mutually dissonant and discordant. Their vocal performances cannot be synthesized into a single rendition.

Notes 1

Mark Roseman, Foreword to Approaching an Auschwitz Survivor: Holocaust Testimony and Its Transformations, edited by Jürgen Matthäus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): vi.

McGlothlin.indd 47

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

48



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

2

Jeffery C. Blutinger, “Bearing Witness: Teaching the Holocaust from a VictimCentered Perspective,” History Teacher 42 no. 3 (2009): 269–79. 3

Christopher R. Browning, Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010); Saul Friedländer, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939–1945 (New York: HarperCollins, 2007). 4

Christopher R. Browning, Collected Memories: Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 43–44. 5

Eva Hoffmann, After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust (New York: Public Affairs, 2004), x; Roseman, Foreword to Approaching an Auschwitz Survivor, v; Jenni Adams, Introduction to Representing Perpetrators in Holocaust Literature and Film, ed. Jenni Adams and Sue Vice (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2013), 1. 6 Erin McGlothlin, “Theorizing the Perpetrator in Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow,” in After Representation? The Holocaust, Literature, and Culture, ed. R. Clifton Spargo and Robert Ehrenreich (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009), 214. 7 Jenni Adams and Sue Vice, eds., Representing Perpetrators in Holocaust Literature and Film (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2013); Jenni Adams, “Reading (as) Violence in Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones,” in Adams and Vice, Representing Perpetrators in Holocaust Literature and Film, 27–50; Sue Vice, “Exploring the Fictions of Perpetrator Suffering,” Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies 2, no. 1–2 (2013): 15–25; Robert Eaglestone, “Reading Perpetrator Testimony,” in The Future of Memory, ed. Richard Crownshaw, Jane Kilby, and Anton Rowland (New York: Berghahn, 2010), 123–34; Robert Eaglestone, “Avoiding Evil in Perpetrator Fiction,” in Adams and Vice, Representing Perpetrators in Holocaust Literature and Film, 13–26; Richard Crownshaw, “Perpetrator Fictions and Transcultural Memory,” parallax 17, no. 4 (2011): 75–89; Jamil Khader, “Humanizing the Nazi? The Semiotics of Vampirism, Trauma, and Post-Holocaust Ethics in Louise Murphy’s The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: A Novel of War and Survival,” Children’s Literature 39 (2011): 126–43; Jeremy Metz, “Reading the Victimizer: Towards an Ethical Practice of Figuring the Traumatic Moment in Holocaust Literature,” Textual Practice 26, no. 6 (2012): 1021–43; Erin McGlothlin, “Narrative Perspective and the Holocaust Perpetrator in Edgar Hilsenrath’s The Nazi and the Barber and Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones,” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Holocaust Literature, ed. Jenni Adams (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 159–77; Erin McGlothlin, “Empathetic Identification and the Mind of the Holocaust Perpetrator in Fiction: A Proposed Taxonomy of Response,” Narrative 24, no. 3 (2016): 251–76. In addition to these works that theorize more generally the practice of representing perpetrators, several dozen recent scholarly articles (far too many to mention here) analyze in particular Jonathan Littell’s phenomenally successful novel Les bienveillantes (Paris: Gallimard, 2006); in English, The Kindly Ones, trans. Charlotte Mandell (New York: Harper, 2008)]. 8

Crownshaw, “Perpetrator Fictions and Cultural Memory,” 75.

9

An important exception to this tendency can be found in scholarship on generational memory of the Holocaust, such Irene Kacandes’s contribution to the present volume, my own monograph Second-Generation Holocaust Literature: Legacies of Survival and Perpetration, or the numerous psychological studies that

McGlothlin.indd 48

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



49

have juxtaposed or compared children of Holocaust survivors with those of Holocaust perpetrators. However, I argue that the opportunities open to scholars who examine the generations born after the Holocaust, who do not need to consider questions of historical agency, culpability, and direct traumatic experience when comparing what I call the “structurally analogous . . . but not identical” experience of the children of survivors and perpetrators, are simply not available to those who examine the generations that perpetrated or experienced the Holocaust. Erin McGlothlin, Second-Generation Holocaust Literature: Legacies of Survival and Perpetration (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2006), 230. 10

As this essay was going to press, I, along with Brad Prager and Markus Zisselsberger, began work on an edited volume of essays from scholars who work on Claude Lanzmann’s films. This volume reevaluates Shoah in light of the more than 200 hours of digitized outtakes now available through the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem. My own project for this volume examines the entire recorded interview Lanzmann conducted with Franz Suchomel, which, at more than four-and-a-half hours, is more than six times the total duration of the clips of the interview included in Shoah. To my great astonishment, I discovered when reviewing the audio outtakes that the sequence that I analyze here, which is the third sequence with Suchomel in Shoah, contains at least fifty-eight separate cuts taken from disparate moments throughout the entire interview and completely reshuffles the order in which Suchomel both sings the “Treblinkalied” and comments on it. With his heavy editing of this portion of the interview, Lanzmann deliberately shapes the dramatic tensions at work in this scene, in particular the discrepancy between Suchomel’s seemingly buoyant singing and the bitter history of the song, and brackets the distress displayed by Suchomel with regard to his performance. As he says to Lanzmann after singing the song: “Mein Schicksal ist Treblinka weiter . . . ich werd es nicht so bald abschütteln” (my fate continues to be Treblinka . . . I won’t shake it off so soon). Interview with Franz Suchomel, Claude Lanzmann Shoah Collection at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Film ID# 3496 (Audio Reel 28-29-30). 11

Shoah, directed by Claude Lanzmann (New Yorker Films, 1985), DVD disc 3, chapter 1. German text of the film: Claude Lanzmann, Shoah, translated by Nina Börnsen and Anna Kamp (Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 2011), 149. English translation of text of the film: Claude Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 105. I have modified the English translation of the song to more accurately correspond to the original German text. In his history of Treblinka, Witold Chrostowski quotes a slightly different version of the Treblinka hymn, although unfortunately he does not cite his source for the song. Witold Chrostowski, Extermination Camp Treblinka (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2004), 51. Treblinka survivors Samuel Willenberg and Richard Glazar both cite the song in their memoirs. Samuel Willenberg, Surviving Treblinka, ed. Władysław T. Bartoszewski, trans. Naftali Greenwood (Oxford: Basil Blackwell and the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, Oxford, 1989), 132–33; Richard Glazar, Die Falle mit dem grünen Zaun: Überleben in Treblinka (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1992), 119–20. 12

Suchomel refers here to Kurt Franz, the deputy commandant (and later commandant) at Treblinka, who was notorious for his cruelty to prisoners. In the audio outtakes of the interview Suchomel admits that Franz disputed the claim that he wrote

McGlothlin.indd 49

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

50



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

the lyrics (Interview with Franz Suchomel, Film ID# 3496 [Audio Reel 28-2930]). Chrostowski claims without documentation that a Jewish prisoner, Walter Hirsz, composed the music of the anthem (Chrostowski, Extermination Camp Treblinka, 50–51); Samuel Willenberg also attributes the origin of the melody to “Walter Hirsch, a Czech Jew who was fated to die in the Treblinka rebellion” (Willenberg, Surviving Treblinka, 132). Guido Fackler, however, confirms Suchomel’s assertion that the melody derived from the Buchenwaldlied. Guido Fackler, “Lied und Gesang im KZ,” Lied und populäre Kultur 46 (2001): 190. Chrostowski further maintains, again without citing evidence, that the composer Artur Gold (who perished in Treblinka in 1943) wrote the song’s lyrics (Chrostowski, Extermination Camp Treblinka, 54), but Fackler, whose research is extensive, believes that evidence points to Franz as the author of the lyrics, although he acknowledges that the matter remains an open question because of divergent sources (Fackler, “Lied und Gesang im KZ,” 190). According to the excerpts from the “Urteilsbegründung” (opinion of the court) in the 1965 Düsseldorf trial of Kurt Franz and nine other defendants (known as the “First Treblinka Trial”) and the 1970 Düsseldorf trial of Franz Stangl (the “Second Treblinka Trial”) quoted in Alexander Donat’s The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary, “this song, written by the defendant Franz, had been set to music on Franz’s orders by [Arthur] Gold, the conductor of the orchestra in the ‘Lower Camp,’” which perhaps means that Gold arranged but did not compose the melody. Alexander Donat, The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary (New York: Holocaust Library, 1979), 306. 13

Lanzmann, Shoah, DVD disc 3, chapter 1; Lanzmann, Shoah (German text of the film), 149. 14

Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust, 106; translation modified to more accurately reflect the original German text.

15

As Treblinka survivor Richard Glazar describes it, “Damals, in der Zeit der größten Willkur vor der Stabilisierung, vernichtete man die Sklaven von einem Tag zum anderen, und neue tauchten auf” (Back then, at the time of the greatest chaos, before things stabilized, slaves were destroyed from one day to the next, from one hour to the next, and new ones appeared). Glazar, Die Falle mit dem grünen Zaun, 58; In English, Trap with a Green Fence: Survival in Treblinka, trans. Roslyn Theobald (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1995), 55. The “time of the greatest chaos” of which Glazar speaks refers to the early months of the camp, during which it was standard practice for the SS to liquidate the working prisoners on a daily or semi-daily basis (most frequently by shooting on the spot individuals who were perceived as not conforming to the frenetic pace of the work or whose appearance disturbed the guards for any reason) and replace them with arrivals from incoming transports. According to Yitzhak Arad, however, this practice was soon regarded as problematic: “The lack of a permanent and experienced cadre of Jewish prisoners to carry out the work involved in the extermination process, and the daily murder of some of those already engaged in this work and their replacement by others taken from the newly arriving transports, caused a constant disruption and slowdown of the liquidation activities in the camps. Realizing the source of the problem, the camp authorities in each camp [Treblinka, Sobibór, Bełźec] decided to turn the temporary Jewish prisoner work force into a permanent one.” Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka:

McGlothlin.indd 50

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



51

The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 105. The stabilization to which Glazar refers occurred in September 1942 as a result of the efforts of the new commandant, Franz Stangl. 16

Lanzmann, Shoah, DVD disc 3, chapter 1; Lanzmann, Shoah (German text of the film), 150, revised to reflect the actual dialogue in the film; Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust, 106. 17

Lanzmann, Shoah, DVD disc 3, chapter 1; Lanzmann, Shoah (German text of the film), 150; Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust, 106; translation modified to more accurately reflect the original German text. 18

For a more in-depth analysis of Suchomel’s self-production as authoritative expert and of the ways in which Lanzmann manipulates and exploits Suchomel’s tendency toward didacticism in order to achieve particular effects, see Erin McGlothlin, “Listening to the Perpetrators in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah.” Colloquia Germanica 43, no. 3 (2010; published 2013): 247–48 and 259–63. 19

Moreover, as Zoltán Kékesi points out, Suchomel himself refers multiple times throughout the interview to living survivors of Treblinka who can corroborate or supplement his testimony. Zoltán Kékesi, “Die Falle der Erinnerung: Das ‘Treblinka-Lied’ in Claude Lanzmanns Shoah,” in Ereignis Literatur: Institutionelle Dispositive der Performativität von Texten, edited by Csongor Lörincz (Bielefeld: transcript, 2011), 337. 20 Shoshana Felman, “The Return of the Voice: Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah,” in Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, ed. Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub (New York: Routledge, 1992), 276. 21

Felman, “The Return of the Voice,” 274; Keith Moser, “The Poignant Combination of Beauty and Horror in the Aesthetic Representations of the Holocaust in Lanzmann’s Shoah and Le Clézio’s Etoile errante,” Dalhousie French Studies 92 (2010): 77. 22

Felman, “Return of the Voice,” 276.

23

Abraham Krzepicki, “Eighteen Days in Treblinka,” in The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary, ed. Alexander Donat (New York: Holocaust Library, 1979), 86. 24

The published English text of the film translates the final line of the song as “until a little luck ends it all” (Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust, 105). Although the English translation elides the euphemistic ambiguity of the verb “winken” by replacing it with “end,” a word that more bluntly indicates the likely death of the Jewish prisoners who sang the song, the translators (who unfortunately are not named in the volume) capture what was indubitably the cynical intent of the euphemism, an intent not likely missed by the song’s original singers. 25

For a discussion of the poetics of traces, particularly linguistic traces, in Lanzmann’s film, see McGlothlin, “Listening to the Perpetrators,” 250–52. 26

Suchomel’s singing is an example of what Felman identifies as “a testimony which is inadvertently no longer in the control or the possession of the speaker” (Felman, “Return of the Voice,” 263), the facilitation of which she identifies as Lanzmann’s singular achievement in Shoah.

McGlothlin.indd 51

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

52



ERIN MCGLOTHLIN

27

Just the Two of Us, dir. Tzipi Baider (Go2Films, 2011), DVD. Although neither Willenberg nor Taigman was incarcerated in Majdanek, they visit the Majdanek site because it still contains original structures from the camp. The Treblinka memorial site, on the other hand, contains nothing from its camp days, because the Nazis completely razed the camp in 1943, shortly after the uprising. The Majdanek site is thus called on in the film to serve as a sort of index for the Treblinka camp. 28

All English quotes from the film are taken from the subtitled Hebrew and Polish. 29

This recurrent tension between Taigman and Willenberg regarding their respective attitudes toward their Holocaust experience makes Just the Two of Us a compelling film. At first glance, the film appears to conform to the by-now-somewhat-clichéd narrative in which the Holocaust survivor, accompanied by a film crew, returns to the location of his or her former incarceration to deliver an emotionally wrenching testimony, a documentary genre that Janet Walker, following the work of Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer, calls “documentaries of return.” Janet Walker, “Moving Testimonies: ‘Unhomed Geography’ and the Holocaust Documentary of Return,” in After Testimony: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Holocaust Narrative for the Future, ed. Jakob Lothe, Susan Rubin Suleiman, and James Phelan (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2012), 276. For discussion of some examples of recent documentaries of return, see Brad Prager, After the Fact: The Holocaust in Twenty-First Century Documentary Film (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 16–17. With its affective extradiegetic soundtrack and its construction of Taigman’s and Willenberg’s encounter with Treblinka to coincide with the commemorative ceremony held by the Israeli Defense Force, Just the Two of Us appears to frame the men’s journey as a redemptive process. However, Taigman’s refusal to easily adapt to this narrative framework, and the humorous friction between Taigman and Willenberg enable the film to move beyond its initial clichéd structure to reveal astute insights about the diversity of approaches that survivors take with regard to their experiences. 30

Lawrence Langer, “Preliminary Reflections on Using Videotaped Interviews in Holocaust Education,” in Facing History and Ourselves News (Winter 1985): 291. 31

Henry Greenspan, On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Beyond Testimony, 2nd ed. (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2010), 43. Zoë Vania Waxman also illuminates the role that “pre-existing narratives” play in survivor testimony, especially with regard to gendered expectations. Waxman, Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 150–51.

32

I find Ada Willenberg’s statement striking in the context of Holocaust discourse over the couple of decades, which has exhibited anxiety about the increasingly rapid passing of the survivor generation. In particular, this anxiety has concerned survivors of Auschwitz, as the media coverage of the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January 2015 demonstrated. At the same time, however, whereas the apprehension regarding the passing of Auschwitz survivors can still remain somewhat vague, since living survivors still number in the thousands, the disquiet is acute with regard to Treblinka. Fewer than seventy people interned in the Treblinka death camp survived the Second World War, and when Taigman and Willenberg visited the camp in 2010, they were the only survivors

McGlothlin.indd 52

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

THE VOICE OF THE PERPETRATOR, THE VOICES OF THE SURVIVORS



53

of the almost one million Jews who had been deported there. Moreover, Ada Willenberg’s comment reflects Baider’s framing of the film, which characterizes the Poland journey as the final opportunity for the two remaining Treblinka survivors to deliver their testimony. Greenspan terms the type of survivor testimony such a framework is supposed to generate the “ words” of a final “legacy.” Greenspan, On Listening to Holocaust Survivors, 68–69. Greenspan contends that such testimony often has less to do with the survivors’ need to deliver a final narrative of their experience than it does with non-survivors’ anxious expectations that they do so before they die. Henry Greenspan, “On Testimony, Legacy and the Problem of Helplessness in History,” Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History 13, no. 1 (2007): 44–56. 33

Sue Vice, Shoah (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 48. In the audio portion of the outtakes of the interview, Suchomel confirms that only Jews were forced to sing the song. Interview with Franz Suchomel, Film ID# 3496 (Audio Reel 28-29-30). 34 Taigman was sent to Treblinka in July 1942, at the beginning of the Grossaktion Warschau deportations (and during the time of greatest chaos and random killing in the camp), whereas Willenberg was deported with the Opatów ghetto in October of that year. See Matt Roper, “‘I Looked for Him but God Must Have Been on Holiday’: Living Survivors of Treblinka Death Camp Speak of Unimaginable Horrors,” Daily Mail, August 11, 2012, http://www.dailymail. co.uk/news/article-2186984/Stories-Treblinka--living-survivors-speak-horrorshaunting-memories-Nazi-death-camp.html#ixzz23MRMSBWR.

McGlothlin.indd 53

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

McGlothlin.indd 54

10/16/2016 2:05:34 PM

Part II. The Holocaust in German Studies in the North American and the German Contexts

McGlothlin.indd 55

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

McGlothlin.indd 56

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

3: Teaching Holocaust Memories as Part of “Germanistik” Stephan Braese

T

sketches out the specific premises of integrating the fact of the Holocaust into Germany’s Germanistik, supplemented by some practical personal experiences. In the first part, I will take a closer look at a recent plea to universalize the Holocaust—Daniel Levy’s and Nathan Sznaider’s The Holocaust and the Memory in the Global Age, 2006)—and will demonstrate significant shortcomings that indicate the resistant specificity of Germany’s reception of the Holocaust. In the second part, I illuminate some of the most virulent aspects that have made Germany a different ground for discussing and teaching Holocaust history, including the role of the German language in conceptualizing and implementing the Holocaust, the more recent modifications to Germany’s self-image regarding the Holocaust, the change in students’ ethnic and cultural background, and the virulent history of Germanistik. Finally I take the Ludwig Strauss Professorship for European-Jewish Literary and Cultural History at Aachen University as an example of a current effort to integrate the Holocaust lastingly into the teaching of German studies. The difference between Germany’s Germanistik and the AngloAmerican German studies should not be underestimated in this context. German Studies is not only much more informed by cultural studies than Germanistik, but the two disciplines also differ in their respective histories. Especially relevant for understanding the contemporary context is the traditional role of Germanistik in cofounding national self-consciousness, its involvement in the Nazi regime, and its positioning after 1945. To be sure, the greater the influence that cultural studies has had on traditional conceptions of Germanistik, the more one can speak of “German studies” in Germany. But this rapprochement between the two disciplinary inquiries should not persuade us to overlook the differences between them, which turn out to be most crucial in researching the dual character of the persistent legacy of the Holocaust.

McGlothlin.indd 57

HE FOLLOWING ESSAY

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

58



STEPHAN BRAESE

I. In their 2001 book Erinnerung im globalen Zeitalter: Der Holocaust (published in English as The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, 2006), Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider account for “die Kosmopolitisierung der Holocausterinnerung” (the cosmopolitanization of Holocaust memories) that has occurred in the wake of the globalization process.1 Now, over a decade later, one can not only confirm but also more rightly underscore their observation that “Erinnerungen an den Holocaust in einer Epoche ideologischer Ungewißheiten zu einem Maßstab für humanistische und universalistische Identifikationen werden” (10; in an age of ideological uncertainty, these memories have become a measure for humanist and universal identifications, 4). The same can be said for the following perception: Die historische Erinnerung an den Holocaust (und ihre zukunftsweisende Vereinnahmung für Genozid und “ethnische Säuberungen”) ist zu einem Symbol für eine kritische nationale Rückschau geworden und hat somit mythologische Erinnerungen an die heroische Nation verdrängt. (223) [Historic remembrance of the Holocaust (and its future-oriented inclusion of genocide and ethnic cleansing) has become a symbol for a critical national stance toward the past. As such, it has repressed the mythological memory of the heroic nation. (195)]

Such a “critical national stance” has come about in France, Switzerland and, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Warsaw Pact, countries of the former Eastern bloc as well. A “Europeanization” of historical memory of the Holocaust has unfolded not only in controversies—at times heated—within the public arenas of national politics but also, and equally importantly, in the cultural sphere. This became clear when Imre Kertész received the Nobel Prize for Literature just one year after Levy and Sznaider published their book. In his brief acceptance speech the Hungarian author stated that “the Holocaust is a trauma of European civilization. And it is becoming a life-and-death matter, whether this trauma lives on as culture or neurosis, in a constructive or destructive form in European societies.”2 In the writings of Kertész distinguished by the prize committee in Stockholm, the Holocaust is “understood” neither as a “German” nor as a specifically “Jewish” event. Moreover, the award to Kertész aims to lend expression to the precept of a Europeanization—if not a globalization—of the Holocaust experience in the realm of poetic reflection and reception.3 Whether Europeanization, globalization, or the “cosmopolitanization” of Holocaust memory, the structural hinge on which any critical

McGlothlin.indd 58

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



59

epistemological perspective must depend is constituted by the relationship between particularism and universalism. Levy and Sznaider describe this hinge as follows: In der Vergangenheit organisierte sich die Erinnerung an den Holocaust um die Begriffe Partikularismus versus Universalismus: War er eine jüdische Katastrophe mit deutschen Tätern, oder war es eine universale Katastrophe, ein Zivilisationsbruch der Moderne? Diese beiden Interpretationsformen und die daraus folgenden Erinnerungskulturen leiten sich auch aus zwei historischen Ereignissen ab, die dem Holocaust folgten und auf den ersten Blick nichts miteinander zu tun haben: der Gründung des Staates Israel und der “Erklärung der allgemeinen Menschenrechte” der Vereinten Nationen. Beide Ereignisse fanden 1948 statt. Sie verweisen auf die zwei Bedeutungen—auf die partikulare und die universale—, die das Bild des Holocaust bis auf die letzten Jahre bestimmt haben. Beide Bedeutungen “stimmen”; und sie stimmen auch miteinander überein. Aber wenn man die eine Bedeutung betont, spielt man die andere herunter. Wir entledigen uns dieser Entweder-Oder-Perspektive und betrachten das Verhältnis zwischen Universalismus und Partikularismus als einen Sowohl-als-auch-Prozeß, der sich über die zweite Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts erstreckte. [Memories of the Holocaust revolve around the dichotomy of “particularism” and “universalism.” Was the Holocaust a Jewish catastrophe with German perpetrators, or was it a universal catastrophe, a breakdown of civilization in modernity? These two forms of interpretation and their respective cultures of remembrance grew out of two historical events in the aftermath of the Holocaust that, at first glance, have nothing in common: the founding of the State of Israel and the issuing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both occurred in 1948 and refer to the particular as well as the universal interpretations that until recently have determined the image of the Holocaust. Both interpretations “make sense.” Although they are not mutually exclusive, one is usually emphasized at the expense of the other. . . . We replace the either-or perspective that dominated in First Modernity with a view of the relationship between universalism and particularism as a series of “as well as” options that extend over the second half of the twentieth century.]4

The following explanations stand in agreement with this passage, whose identifying characteristic is expressed with the formula “wir entledigen uns” (we rid ourselves). The Duden dictionary defines the reflexive verb “sich entledigen” as a synonym for “sich befreien” (to extricate oneself from), “die Fesseln abstreifen” (to strike off shackles), “sich etwas vom Halse schaffen” (to get away from, to become free of, to rid oneself

McGlothlin.indd 59

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

60



STEPHAN BRAESE

of, to get something off one’s neck). It is not difficult to recognize the slightly aggressive, militant aspect of this expression, which is driven by impatience. Certainly, this habitus might be tied to a particular perceived need to stand in opposition to a powerful “verbreiteten Wahrnehmung” (widespread perception) among intellectuals, especially in Germany,5 with regard to what is allegedly “proper” remembrance of the Holocaust. But, to repeat Levy and Sznaider’s words, in viewing “the relationship between universalism and particularism as a series of ‘as well as’ options,” the formula of “ridding ourselves” also reflects a reluctance to admit the full resistant weight of the particular “also” that is implied by the “as well as” in question, which necessarily requires memory of “a Jewish catastrophe with German perpetrators.” Clearly, such an admission endangers the precarious balance in the “as well as” concept. An example taken from Levy and Sznaider’s book demonstrates to what ends the programmatic “ridding ourselves of” leads. It is significant that the resistance to the particular results in a sometimes overhasty tendency toward universalization in the contemporary German constellation. In their summary of Holocaust memory during the postwar years, Levy and Sznaider relate in detail the reception of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. The testimony in Dutch of the sixteen-year-old girl who died in Bergen-Belsen underwent a universalization of far-reaching consequences on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States the authors Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett created a stage play in which the fate of the Jewish girl Anne Frank “zu einem Leiden der ganzen Menscheit [wird]” (came to represent universal human suffering).6 Somewhat earlier and entirely independently of the American stage version, respective alterations were made to the text in Germany. In 1958, ten years after the first translation of the diary into German, the translator Anneliese Schütz disclosed in Der Spiegel: “Ich habe mir immer gesagt, ein Buch, das man einmal in Deutschland verkaufen will, kann keine Schimpfworte gegen die Deutschen enthalten” (I always told myself that a book that one wants to sell in Germany can’t contain curses about the Germans).7 Schütz had consequently attempted to omit signs that point to the collective affiliation of the perpetrators. In one instance, “die Deutschen” (the Germans) become “die besetzende Macht” (the occupying force; entry of May 18, 1943). Frank’s question “gibt es keine größere Feindschaft auf dieser Welt als zwischen Deutschen und Juden” (is there a greater hatred in this world than between Germans and Jews) becomes a hatred “zwischen diesen Deutschen und den Juden” (between these Germans and the Jews; entry of October 10, 1942; Schütz’s italics). Frank’s comment in her “Leitfaden für das Hinterhaus” (Guidelines for the Rear Building), which states, “Erlaubt sind alle Kultursprachen, also kein Deutsch” (All civilized languages are allowed, so no German), is transformed into the sentence: “Alle Kultursprachen, aber leise!!!” (All civilized languages, but

McGlothlin.indd 60

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



61

quietly!!!; entry of November 17, 1942).8 This already intense iconization was driven yet further toward universalization by the paperback edition of the diary in 1955, still prior to the world premiere of the dramatized version in New York. The front cover shows a black-andwhite photo of the house in the Prinsengracht of Amsterdam, the rear building of which was the hiding place of the Frank family. Against a red background, the sky over the row of houses shows the line “Ich glaube an das Gute im Menschen” (I believe in the good in man)—a “quote” from the diary, but entirely separated from the reflection of the catastrophe that is its context.9 These embellishments to the text have been evaluated by pertinent researchers in a unanimous manner. Hanno Loewy recognizes behind these interventions of the translator and publishers the motive “das sehr reale Konfliktverhältnis und seine Spiegelung im Tagebuch, den ernüchterten Bezug auf den betrogenen Glauben an eine ‘gemeinsame Geschichte’ zu entkonkretisieren, ins Abstrakte aufzulösen” (to disentegrate and dissolve into abstraction the very real relationship of conflict and its reflection in the diary and the disillusioned reference to the betrayed belief in a “common history”).10 According to Loewy, “die Übersetzung der Erfahrungen der Anne Frank in einen sich als “universalistisch” verstehenden Deutungsrahmen scheint geradezu der Schlüssel zu ihrer Wirkung in Deutschland gewesen zu sein” (19; the translation of Anne Frank’s experiences into an interpretive framework understood to be “universalist” seems to have been precisely the key to their impact in Germany). Alvin Rosenfeld identifies in the diary “the appeal of the forgiving faith which pervades the book and appears to make the murdered absolve the murderer.”11 According to Levy and Sznaider, “Es war ein Akt der Exkulpation, der darauf fußte, daß Anne Frank in dieser Version das Positive im Leben betonte, anstatt anklagend über ihre Folterer zu sprechen” (It was an act of exculpation, bolstered by the fact that, in the American version, Anne Frank focused on the positive in life instead of pointing the finger at her tormenters).12 The decisive difference rests on the simple quotation marks that Hanno Loewy places around the term “universalist” and that Levy and Sznaider dispense with. They explain, “Die Erfahrung der Anne Frank wurde auf diese Weise universalisiert. Das heißt, ihre Geschichte wurde aus dem historischen Zusammenhang gerissen und zu einem individualisierten Text gemacht” (74; In this way, Anne Frank’s experience was universalized. In other words, it was ripped from its historical context and turned into an individualized text, 63). Levy and Sznaider take a significant turn when they make the exculpation of a specific group of perpetrators—a move that in their view is obviously inseparable from the universalization of the Holocaust—into a prerequisite for the prosperous development of postwar Germany. They write:

McGlothlin.indd 61

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

62



STEPHAN BRAESE

War es doch gerade die Leugnung von Schuld, die die kulturellen Grundlagen dafür lieferte, daß sich die Bundesrepublik demokratisieren und in bestimmten Grenzen auch “normalisieren” konnte. So betrachtet, bewertet unsere Interpretation die zugegebenermaßen limitierten Vorteile einer institutionellen Strategie höher als die moralisierende, aber nicht unbedingt realisierbare kulturelle Strategie einer unmittelbaren Bewältigung des Holocaust. (80–81) [It was precisely the denial of guilt that provided the cultural foundation for Germany to become democratic and, within certain limits, “normalize” itself. From this perspective, our interpretation places a higher value on the admittedly limited advantages of an institutional strategy than on the moralizing, but not necessarily feasible, cultural strategy aimed at tackling the Holocaust directly. (68–69)]

Such an inflection allows us to perceive what costs are entailed by the “universalization,” costs that Levy and Sznaider not only explicitly embrace but also label as essential for “democratization” and “normalization” in postwar Germany. In this regard, manifest falsifications of historical documents and their aggressive reinterpretation seem to somehow weigh less than a different factor, which consists in the fact that universalization propagated here rests on a reading of the past that cannot hold up under the memories of the participants or the transgenerational dimension of these memories. The unrelenting virulence of the particularity keeps getting in the way of a universalization. It is that virulent particular that both the either-or and, as we have seen, sometimes also the strained “as well as” attempt to “rid” themselves of. To be sure, the Holocaust was a pan-European event, as the editors of this volume point out.13 But the virulence of the particular, which repeatedly irritates an alleged globalization or cosmopolitization of Holocaust memory, makes itself noticeable at every step—and perhaps especially—in Germany in particular. It constitutes the impenetrable horizon of every focus on the Holocaust that occurs in German studies.

II. Three basic circumstances account for the distinctiveness of the German constellation with regard to any consideration of the Holocaust. (This specificity applies to and, with some important modifications, includes the Austrian constellation.) First, Germany is the country in which the Holocaust had its beginning and whose population was, like no other, primary to and involved in its planning and execution. Second, and this is of special importance for the more narrow context of German studies, the Holocaust was conceived of and executed with the deployment

McGlothlin.indd 62

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



63

of the German language. This connection has led to various special considerations both in the decades after the Second World War and more recently. The driving questions are whether or to what extent the German language was specifically suited for this abhorrent deployment, but also whether this deployment left traces or scars. With regard to the latter, George Steiner wrote the following in 1959: “Use a language to conceive, organize, and justify Belsen; use it to make out specifications for gas ovens; use it to dehumanize man during twelve years of calculated bestiality. Something will happen to it. Make of words what Hitler and Goebbels and the hundred thousand Untersturmführer made: conveyors of terror and falsehood. Something will happen to the words.”14 Third, the current state of knowledge about the Holocaust, the ways in which a society comes to terms with it, and the repression of it are profoundly nation-specific. This becomes quite apparent when we look at the academic disciplines of history and German philology, to which Holocaust studies and German studies are closely connected. As with almost all other disciplines in Germany, these fields participated—sometimes particularly emphatically—in National Socialism and its propagandistic mobilization efforts. This has had enormous institutional and ideological consequences well into the present. As much as these special circumstances—the country of the perpetrators, the language of the perpetrators, the aftermath—stand in the way of a universalization of the Holocaust that might transcend the exculpation strategies applied to Anne Frank’s diary, students in Germany today bring assumptions to bear on their studies that appear to be virtually tailored to the enabling of such a universalization in Germany for the first time. First of all, the situation of the students is characterized by their generational distance from the cohorts of the perpetrators. As recently as 2002, Sabine Moller, Karoline Tschuggnall, and Harald Welzer titled their sensational study of the intergenerational transfer of memories of the Nazi period Opa war kein Nazi (Grandpa Was No Nazi).15 The book examines the typically close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, which, bypassing the generation of parents, enabled a transfer of images of everyday life under National Socialism and in the war that did not comply with historical research and were not subject to critical questions. The result was a sort of double agreement: the Holocaust had taken place, but one’s own family had not been involved, as was clarified by an impressive repertoire of explanations. Today the generational distance has shifted once again. Using the language of Moller, Tschuggnall, and Welzer’s book, we can say that “grandpa” was at worst a Hitler Youth and therefore only liable within limits. If students today are about twenty years old, their parents were born around 1960 and their grandparents around 1930. Questions about guilt, which can only be directed at mature adults who had alternative

McGlothlin.indd 63

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

64



STEPHAN BRAESE

options for action, apply more today to the generation of great-grandparents, whose contact to the great-grandchildren, if even existent, is generally far weaker than that between grandparents and their grandchildren. The memories of childhood and adolescence under National Socialism that the grandparents of most contemporary students might share can certainly contain and communicate an abundance of characteristic events and features of everyday life during the period. However, this does not change the fact that the question of guilt, which has constituted the moral and judicial mainstay of any grappling with National Socialist past in Germany from the moment the concentration camps were liberated until most recent times, cannot be applied to the generation of children and young people of that period. With the generationally related suspension of the guilt question with regard to one’s own relatives, the need to come to terms with the Holocaust sheds its decisive threat. The repertoire of affective defense mechanisms, which previous generations developed, refined, and made available over decades for spontaneous application not only in their own families but also in German society, has become superfluous for the younger generation. A distance has come about that is tantamount to the diminishing of a distinctive national trait in dealing with the mass crimes of the Nazi period; an “obstacle” that stood in the way of a universalization of Holocaust memory has been cleared away. A second condition applies to the students of today. Ever greater numbers of students come from families that are not ethnically German or that have binational connections. As a consequence, the commonly presumed homogeneity of family traditions has been replaced for these students either by memories that are indebted to very different histories than that of Germany between 1933 and 1945 and afterward, or by heterogeneous collective memories told at home that, if they do not compete with each other, certainly contrast with and supplement each other in contradictory ways. Regardless of the differences in the inventories of recollection represented in these families, their narratives differ significantly from those that, until recently, constituted the unquestioned standard for the huge majority of their generational peers in Germany. The more students of this background there are, the less self-evident this standard becomes for those who carry it with them from their own families. For the descendants of immigrants or children of binational connections, the memory of the Holocaust can be experienced as universal or—of no less significance—neglected even before they enter national institutions of higher education. A third circumstance reinforces the stark shift that has taken place between the current generation of students in Germany and the students of prior generations in terms of their remembrance of the Holocaust. The societal self-image in the Federal Republic of Germany now rests on the presumption that Germany’s contemporary society no longer has any

McGlothlin.indd 64

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



65

particular connection to the Nazi past and the Holocaust. Certainly (and quite ambivalently) German society is conscious of its historical debt, and it demonstrates a dutiful connection of conscience to the Holocaust in various public rituals. But the newly established self-image simultaneously suggests that all burdensome ties to National Socialism and the Judeocide have dissolved and that any noteworthy differences between Germany and its European neighbors are not longer observable. A “festive” national pride expressed prominently in connection with athletic events, most notably in connection with the World Cup Soccer Championship that took place in Germany in 2006, no longer encounters any pronounced objections. The great extent to which this societal self-image rests upon denials, displacements, and repressions that were trained and internalized over decades becomes apparent whenever this mode of “normality” is disrupted by news and events that impertinently testify to the presence of the past in its impertinent irreducibility. Three examples taken from the recurrent stream of such newsworthy events (and one could exchange them for an almost arbitrary abundance of other episodes) exemplify what I mean here. In 2006 it was disclosed that Nobel Literature Laureate Günter Grass had been a member of the Waffen-SS. The prize committee in Stockholm had said about his writings in 1999 that “in his excavation of the past Günter Grass goes deeper than most.”16 Some German citizens were appalled to recall how they had had to listen to Grass’s repeatedly delivered fervent moral admonitions, which Max Frisch aptly labels in his recently published Berlin diaries “Hirtenbriefe” (pastoral letters). The significant aspect of this episode is the telltale combination of alleged surprise and shoulder-shrugging with which the German feuilleton reacted to the disclosure. The surprise originated in the fact that membership in the Waffen-SS still implies much more intensive identification with the political aims and the military goals of the Nazi regime than does mere membership in the party or even in the Hitler Youth. Ostentatious shock was demonstrated in this regard. At the same time, however, any consequences of the relevation for Grass’s work were denied, allowing the reactions of surprise to transform conspicuously quickly into a shrug. In spite of the fact that scholars of German literature, such as Sander Gilman, Ruth Klüger, and W. G. Sebald, had long before pointed to pertinently problematic aspects of Grass’s literary representations, the German feuilleton considered a new reading of his work unnecessary. A second example of how far the National Socialist past reaches into present-day Germany is the Internationales Germanistenlexikon (International Encyclopedia of Germanists) published by Christoph König and his team.17 Even though the specific involvement of Germanistik in National Socialism, frequently referred to even today as its “Verstrickung” (entanglement), had been examined in multiple initiatives and research projects

McGlothlin.indd 65

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

66



STEPHAN BRAESE

since the 1970s, it still came as a surprise that public intellectuals greatly respected in Germany for their critical perspectives, such as Walter Jens and Peter Wapnewski, were listed as members of the NSDAP—and this contrary to their own prior statements. Explanations and accounts ranged from the presumption of simple forgetfulness to detailed scholarly reflections on whether and under what circumstances members of certain age cohorts at certain moments might have been admitted as members into the Nazi party without their knowledge. The sometimes enormous intellectual effort invested in circumventing the most plausible explanation— that the motivation for joining the party was opportunism or conviction, an admission that in the postwar period was repudiated out of opportunism or “shame”—allows us to recognize to what insufficient degree the Nazi past had been, to use an expression of Freud’s, “durchgearbeitet” (worked through) in German society. The third example, the “scandal” over the art treasures of Cornelius Gurlitt in München-Schwabing, reached the German public primarily because of a relevation in the New York Times. The Bavarian investigative authorities found in the small apartment of the eighty-year-old Gurlitt a stock of almost 1,400 oil paintings, drawings, and graphic representations, an unknown number of which had belonged to Jewish owners and whose ownership, above all in the years after 1933, also remains largely unresolved. The Bavarian state attorney kept this discovery secret for a year and a half; the reason why an early communication with the Federal Chancellery produced no reaction is still being investigated. Representatives of victims associations complain that they and the rightful owners of the art works, the often very elderly legal heirs, had been denied valuable time to seek restitution. The Gurlitt discovery brought to light most of all something that had been known for a long time by the art market: there is no law of restitution in Germany. The oft-cited Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art of 1998 obliges at least the public institutions in Germany to research provenance and, if called for, to provide restitution. However, today, private owners of Nazi plunder are still, according to the statute of limitations, released from their obligation to surrender the stolen property.18 These and many other comparable examples share a common feature: in the view of many younger students they do not detract from the self-image of Germany as a society without any connection to the Nazi past other than a purely historical one. Students often fail to absorb the type of news under discussion here, or when they do, they do not recognize its eminently symptomatic meaning. Beginning students of Germanistik or history who do not have a specific interest in the Holocaust and the Nazi past or in Jewish history and contemporary Jewish culture are mostly not even aware of this symptomatic situation. Here a quite specific aspect of “the enduring post-Holocaust condition of contemporary German culture” to which the editors of this volume refer is perceptible.19

McGlothlin.indd 66

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



67

Almost all beginning students in Germany today can, however, talk about the institutional treatment of the Holocaust and the Nazi period, which contrasts with the “secret” but for that all the more virulently potent past. They recall televised commemorative events relating, for example, to the Reichspogromnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), and visits to commemorative sites such as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or the Jewish Museum in Berlin, perhaps in connection with class trips. High school instruction remains the weightiest disseminator of knowledge about the Holocaust. The potential of classroom instruction, however, should not be overestimated. The epidemic complaints of many students about the prominent position—a position that can allegedly not be outdone—of the Holocaust in the classroom stands in opposition to consistently bewildering deficits in their knowledge of even the most elementary historical facts. It is in German schools that Bernhard Schlink’s novel Der Vorleser (The Reader) has been established as a paradigmatic literary text about the Holocaust, as evidenced by a large array of pedagogical guides to the novel. Yet the problematic ideological implications of the novel emphatically pointed out in recent years by William Collins Donahue and others remain undiscussed.20 As is the case with a great many insights gained by German studies in the United States, these reflections do not enter into official readings in Germany. A further semi-official point of contact that many students have with Holocaust memory is constituted by the Middle East conflict and Germany’s politics toward Israel. Tellingly, it is by way of this area that many students are first confronted with both the existence of Jews (who are often not even noticed in the students’ own cities) and the official position of the German government to (if not the sheer fact of) the Holocaust. This position is perceived as representing an unconditional solidarity with the current Israeli government in office that is maintained regardless of infractions against the human rights of Palestinians. The relationship is cemented in “der besonderen historischen Verantwortung Deutschlands für die Sicherheit Israel (Germany’s special historical responsibility for the security of Israel), which Chancellor Angela Merkel has referred to as a “Staatsräson” (raison d’état).21 This responsibility is grounded in the mass crimes against the Jews perpetrated over three generations ago. This justification strikes many students as an alleged consensus in German politics that often contradicts opinions in their own social environment. In fact, their observation reflects not only those resentments and prejudices that permeate German society but also often a sensitive capacity to perceive an alleged social consensus that without public discussion is quasi-imposed. This connection deserves further elaboration that unfortunately cannot be explored here, but it may serve as a case in point, the point being that the irreducible specificity of the German constellation, its “impertinent” particularity, ultimately embroils even those who participate in social life

McGlothlin.indd 67

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

68



STEPHAN BRAESE

without prior assumptions, guidance in their views, or any thematic focus on their social environment. Contemporary students in Germany thus carry with them these three preconditions: generational distance that is often supplemented by another collective historical narrative mediated through non-“German” family traditions; life in a society that has made denial of its close relationship with the Nazi past into cultural practice; and, finally, institutionally mediated paths of contact with the history of National Socialism and the Holocaust. When one takes a close look at these basic conditions, it becomes clear that one factor that can be subsumed under institutional measures—and that in Levy and Sznaider’s book still played a prominent role—appears marginalized today: events in media and popular culture that impacted earlier generations, such as the television miniseries Holocaust or Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. When Holocaust was shown on German television in 1979, studio discussions took place directly after the broadcast, transforming it into a national event. Thousands of viewers called in expressing shock or doubt and posing questions to the experts present in the studio. According to Saul Friedländer, “the telecasting in 1979 of ‘Holocaust’ was considered by many, because of the massive numbers of viewers it attracted in the Federal Republic and the strong emotional responses it evoked, a turning point in Germany’s confrontation with Nazi crimes.”22 Viewed from today’s standpoint, we can recognize that this impact was enabled considerably by the fact that there were only three television channels in West Germany at the time and that consequently the mass media conditions quasi compelled a collective experience. Schindler’s List, by contrast, managed in 1994 still to generate broad social sympathy. Regarding the German reception of the film, Levy and Sznaider aptly argue, “Schindler war ein ‘guter’ Deutscher, der Juden rettete. Aus Zuschauern wurden Retter” (Schindler was a “good” German who saved Jews. Thus spectators become saviors).”23 At the same time the authors summarize the criticism about Spielberg’s film in Germany as “Angriffe gegen Amerika und dessen Kommerzialisierung” (161; attacks against America and its commercialization): the German critics disapproved of the film’s commercialization—which in Germany was mixed with antiAmericanism (142–43)—and interpreted it “als ein weiteres Beispiel für das Ende der hierarchischen Expertenkultur” (161; as further proof of the decline of a hierarchical culture of experts, 143). Regardless of this assessment, which is debatable, it seems that comparable collective media events centering on the Holocaust and the Nazi past no longer take place for the contemporary generation of students. Certainly, movies such as Roberto Benigni’s La vita è bella (English title, Life Is Beautiful, 1997) or Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Der Untergang (English title, Downfall, 2004) to name two quite disparate examples, attracted large audiences, but it seems that they are no longer integral to the collective experience of a generation.

McGlothlin.indd 68

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



69

In today’s Germany, the students whose initial circumstances are sketched out here confront a Germanistik that itself is the result of a range of formative conditions that establish the frame for this encounter. The founding moment of Germanistik in Germany, with its nationalistic focus, certainly counts among these formative conditions. The new discipline was supposed to help generate a national character that the civil emancipation movement in Germany had not managed to bring about. In these beginning years, German philology was unhesitatingly committed to the service of geopolitical demands. At the first convention of German philologists in 1846, Jacob Grimm demanded, “dass einem Volk, das über Berge und Ströme gedrungen ist, seine eigne Sprache allein die Grenzen setzen kann” (that for a people who has pressed across mountains and streams only its own language can set the boundaries).24 As Jochen Vogt concludes, Diese nationale Ausrichtung der frühen Germanistik . . . prägt die Ideologie des Faches—und sie radikalisiert sich im Wilhelminischen Kaiserreich und im Nationalsozialismus, der auch Literatur und Germanistik bedenkenlos für seine Zwecke mißbraucht. Spuren dieser Ausrichtung sind bis in die sechziger Jahre zu entdecken. Auch die Germanistik hat also, wie Nachkriegsdeutschland insgesamt, ihre “unbewältigte” Vergangenheit. (39) [This national orientation of early Germanistik . . . shaped the ideology of the discipline—and it was radicalized both in the Wilhelminian Empire and under National Socialism, which exploited literature and German philology unscrupulously for its own purposes. Traces of this orientation can be found well into the sixties. So like postwar Germany as a whole, Germanistik also has its “unresolved” past.]

Illuminating with regard to the mode of reaction of Germanistik in Germany to the facticity of the Holocaust, which reached the academic intelligentsia at the very latest with the liberation of the camps, was its turn toward “werkimmanent” interpretation. Following Wolfgang Kayser’s Das sprachliche Kunstwerk (The Artwork of Language), which appeared in 1948, the partitioning of all “außerdichterischen” (poetically external)25 information and connections was methodically propagated. This conveniently promised to spare even Germanists with a personal Nazi past from any confrontation with the historical facticity of both the Nazi crimes against humanity and their own involvement in them. The influence of the “werkimmanent” approach in Germanistik and the long-term effects of loyalties between students and teachers are responsible for the considerable delay with which the Holocaust finally entered into research and teaching in Germanistik.

McGlothlin.indd 69

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

70



STEPHAN BRAESE

The decisive impulse for this entrance occurred only in the 1980s, with the reemergence of German-Jewish studies. However, the German constellation cannot be fully understood without considering the ambivalent role that German exile studies played along the way. Like no other field of research within Germanistik, exile studies seemed predestined to examine the prehistory of the Holocaust, insofar as it had been addressed in literature. However, the antifascist paradigm, whose “weltanschauliche[n] Vorgaben” (ideological premises), as Dan Diner succinctly summarizes, “am Ereignis der Massenvernichtung abprallten” (rebounded off the event of the mass annihilation), stood opposed to such an approach.26 Under such a focus “[wurden] die verschiedenen Zentren des Exils nicht als Fluchtpunkt, sondern als Treffpunkt des antifaschistischen Kampfes verstanden” (the various centers of exile were understood not as the vanishing point but as the meeting point of antifascist struggle); “[die] psychisch[e] und geistig[e] Not derer, . . . die ins Exil gingen, weil sie aus rassischen Gründen verfolgt wurden” (the psychic and spiritual distress of those . . . who went into exile because they were persecuted for racial reasons) was characterized as “[die] zahlreichen menschlichen Problem[e] des Exils” (the numerous human problems of exile).27 These statements, taken from a standard work that appeared in the GDR for the first time in 1979, were for many years also binding for exile research in West Germany. When a shift began to emerge in the late 1980s, it was Ernst Loewy who, in his historic lecture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, highlighted the uncomprehended psychological dimension of this abatement, asking, Könnte die starke Fokussierung des “antifaschistischen” Exils durch unser Erkenntnisinteresse unter weitgehender Ausklammerung der Massenvertreibung (und der Massenvernichtung) der deutschen und europäischen Judenheit nicht auch den Verdacht evozieren, daß eine Art geschichtlicher Deckerinnerung dabei im Spiele war? Etwa, um das gerade noch Ertragbare vor dem Blick auf das Schlimmste abzuschotten? Weil dieses unfaßbar war und in keine wie auch immer geartete rationale Vorstellung paßte?28 [Could the strong focus on the “antifascist” exile in our intellectual interests, with its extensive bracketing of the mass expulsion (and mass extermination) of German and European Jewry, not also evoke the suspicion that a sort of historical screen memory was at play? Perhaps in order to partition off the just barely tolerable from the view of the worst? Because this was incomprehensible and did not fit into any rational conceivability, in whatever form?]

While researchers in exile studies arduously and by way of detours began to discover what insights lay in the available material that they themselves had often discovered and salvaged, German-Jewish studies

McGlothlin.indd 70

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



71

meanwhile objectively paved the way for an integration of Holocaust memory into the research and teaching of Germanistik in Germany. From today’s perspective, the way Jewish authors were “handled” in German studies in Germany in the 1950s, the 1960s, and even the 1970s seems inconceivable. During these years authors such as Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, and even Paul Celan and Nelly Sachs could occasionally be found in the syllabus of some universities. However, in keeping with the tradition of “werkimmanent” literary analysis, concrete biographical and historical connections were either completely bracketed (a process to which Kafka’s writings seem to have lent themselves particularly well), or references along the lines of “Jewish ancestry” or “victim of National Socialist racial fanaticism” were discretely interspersed. At a time when Marcel Reich-Ranicki was prohibited by his supervising editors at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from referring to authors such as Franz Kafka or Paul Celan as Jews because this attribution was viewed as insulting,29 it was not remarkable that an academic discipline could find no terms for something that, not so long before, was supposed to have been programmatically and completely erased from German memory. The tremendous importance that German-Jewish studies has had for the research and teaching of Germanistik does not change the fact that it, as Mark Gelber states, “should be considered not as a subfield within the purview of Germanistik but rather as a discipline in its own right.”30 In light of the preconditions of Germanistik in Germany, some of which I have discussed here, it would be historically unrealistic to expect the discipline to find new access to German-speaking Jewish culture and history without the immense impulses and initiatives from above all the United States and Israel. Mark Gelber has recently outlined how to a very great extent the Zionist perspective and the cultural consequences of the Holocaust in Israel helped to form a mode of German-Jewish studies that necessarily differed explicitly from prevalent forms of German studies practiced outside the German-speaking world. Even though different conditions were formative for German-Jewish studies in the United States, it can be said of both developments that they certainly did not strive to emulate the “German” research collective, supplemented with a “Jewish contingent.” Instead, with great self-confidence and drawing on their sometimes exclusive intellectual resources, Israeli and American scholars wrote about a history of German-language culture about which Germanistik in Germany after 1945 knew little or nothing. One could most laconically say that, for decades, the Holocaust was present in Germanistik in Germany to the extent that German-Jewish topics were absent. It is thanks to the unfolding of German-Jewish studies in Israel and North America, the work of many colleagues in these countries, and the initially small and then increasing number of colleagues in Germany who engage with these topics that this situation has ended. By virtue of a

McGlothlin.indd 71

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

72



STEPHAN BRAESE

focus on German-language literature by Jewish authors, Holocaust memory has inexorably gained entry into the research and teaching of Germanistik in Germany. Not only did the interpretation of texts by Celan, Sachs, Jurek Becker, and Jean Améry inevitably invoke the Holocaust, but studies of the works of Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, Berthold Auerbach, and Karl Emil Franzos were also henceforth no longer conceivable without an awareness of the long history of anti-Semitism in Europe. To be sure, the Holocaust sometimes constituted a historical vanishing point in academic interpretation, one whose dynamic energy could overpower or even derail an adequate historical contextualization of the texts in question. But the fact that the Holocaust could constitute a vanishing point for interpretation in Germanistik in Germany at all was manifest progress for a research community that had, for many decades, managed to inventively sidestep this core event of twentieth-century European history.

III. Thirty years have passed since Stéphane Moses and Albrecht Schöne organized the first German-Israeli symposium in Jerusalem under the title “Juden in der deutschen Literatur” (Jews in German Literature); it is fifteen years since Sander Gilman and Jack Zipes published the Yale Companion to Jewish Writing and Thought in German Culture, 1096–1996.31 Many Germanistik departments in Germany have opened up to cultural studies, allowing literary studies to more strongly incorporate historical, sociological, economic, and media-related content. Particularly “the field of German-Jewish Studies,” Gelber points out, has proved itself to be “the quintessential postmodern field of literary and cultural studies,” making it possible in exemplary manner “to discuss aspects of a literature and culture with no geographical boundaries (though truly global).”32 The visiting professorship for interdisciplinary Holocaust research that was established in 2001 at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main represents in quasi-ideal form the connection between Holocaust studies and Germanistik, as evidenced by the fact that the professorship has been held by the likes of Liliane Weissberg and Birgit Erdle. However, particularly in view of the extraordinary importance of this visiting professorship for the German academic context, it cannot be overlooked that the position was by no means founded by the central powers of German academia but rather by the Fritz-Bauer-Institut, a research and documentation center for the history and impact of the Holocaust that was launched by a citizens’ initiative in Frankfurt. This circumstance sheds characteristic light on the current state of research at German universities relating to the German-language culture of Jews, German literature, and the Holocaust: while the subject matter and critical approaches are widely recognized, the institutional anchoring for them is missing. Authors such

McGlothlin.indd 72

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



73

as Heinrich Böll, Ingeborg Bachmann, Paul Celan, and W. G. Sebald are taught without question at many German universities; the fact this is far more rarely the case with regard to Edgar Hilsenrath, Wolfgang Hildesheimer, Jurek Becker, and Peter Weiss may be attributable to a number of causes. Uncertainty as to whether and in what manner the Holocaust and Judaism figure in the academic discussion of their works can to a large part be ascribed to the basic right of academic freedom, which grants the individual instructor the power to decide on content. Among the very few initiatives in Germany that are programmatically charged with the task of researching and teaching the Germanlanguage literature and culture of Jews—thereby necessarily functioning at the intersection between German studies and Holocaust studies—is the Ludwig-Strauss Professur für Deutsch-jüdische Literaturgeschichte (Ludwig Strauss Professorship for German-Jewish Literary History), founded by Hans Otto Horch in 1992 at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen, a position that I currently hold. In my report in the following discussion about the work we perform there, I do not wish to unduly distinguish its importance, particularly with regard to the international context. On the contrary, I wish to emphasize that our work in Aachen abandons any pretense to generalizability. Instead, I report here about our attempt to interweave German studies and Holocaust studies with an awareness of the German constellation, as described above. Aachen is a city of around 250,000 inhabitants at the westernmost border of Federal Republic of Germany, just a few kilometers away from Holland and Belgium. In spite of the size of its population, the city has the character of a small town. The RWTH, which in recent years has twice won the national competition for academic excellence and therefore has been able to lay claim to multimillion-dollar funding, is characterized by its technical degree programs. Of 38,000 students, only 3,800 are enrolled in the humanities (Philosophische Fakultät), and of these, only 1,300 study Germanistik. While the technical degree programs attract many international students, primarily from Asian countries, most of the students in Germanistik come from the region surrounding Aachen. About 70 percent of the Germanistik students train to become teachers. The Ludwig Strauss Professorship for German-Jewish Literary History, which in 2009 was renamed the “Professur für Europäisch-jüdische Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte” (Professorship for the History of European-Jewish Literature and Culture), belongs to the Institut für Germanistische und Allgemeine Literaturwissenschaft (Institute for German and General Literary Studies). Three additional professors instruct and carry out research in the area of modern and contemporary German literary studies, two others in the field of medieval studies. German linguistics is taught at the neighboring Institut für Sprach- und

McGlothlin.indd 73

10/16/2016 2:05:35 PM

74



STEPHAN BRAESE

Kommunikationswissenschaft (Institute for Linguistic and Communicative Sciences). The “History of European-Jewish Literature and Culture” program at Aachen is not a separate degree program but rather belongs organizationally and in terms of curriculum to German and General Literary Studies; in other words, it is an area of special concentration. This means that those who choose this concentration can intensify their pertinent knowledge and can select a topic for their thesis—up to a doctoral dissertation or even postdoctoral project (“Habilitation”)—from the relevant spectrum of topics. The curriculum requires students who choose a different concentration to take at least one course in the history of European-Jewish literature and culture. The renaming of the professorship in 2009 took two circumstances into account. On the one hand, it reflected the previously mentioned opening up and expansion of Germanistik into a mode of literary studies informed by the cultural sciences. On the other hand, it also reacted to the widespread process of Europeanization that had encompassed many areas of public and private life since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the expansion of the European Union toward the East. This process mirrors an astonishingly congruent deployment in Jewish history when Jews could be characterized, as Dan Diner puts it, as “ein europäisches Volk per se, sozusagen Europäer avant la lettre” (a European people per se, in a manner of speaking Europeans avant la lettre).33 As a transnational, multilingual population whose living environments lay “jenseits jener Organisationsform, die in der Regel als Nationalstaat bezeichnet wird” (beyond the form of organization that as a rule is called a nationstate), they represented “Überbleibsel von vormodernen nationes und korporativen Restbeständen” (261; holdovers from premodern national and corporate remainders), regardless of the importance of Jewish individuals as “Bahnbrecher der Moderne” (261; pioneers of modernity). With their transnationality and the status of German at that time as the lingua franca of educated Jews in Central and Eastern Europe, the group showed a “verblüffende Affinität zwischen vormodernen und postmodernen Formen” (262; astonishing affinity between premodern and postmodern forms). Tellingly, this impulse to consider Jews and their history as fundamentally European tends to conflict to a great degree with Holocaust memory within the German constellation. This has to do with the fact that on the one hand, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Jewish communities have experienced an enormous increase in membership above all in Germany, and that on the other hand, there are extensive deliberations about a “Jewish renaissance” in Europe. The selfunderstanding of many Jews from Russia, which holds that they are victors and not victims of the Second World War,34 Jews’ own growing generational distance to the Holocaust, and their orientation toward the future possibilities for Jewish existence in Europe contributed to the

McGlothlin.indd 74

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



75

relativization of the prominent position of Holocaust memory in the study of German-Jewish literary relations. Seminars in the series “Von jüdischer Gegenwart” (Of Jewish Life in the Present) that address, for example, the texts of Maxim Biller or Leon de Winter show that, although these texts are not understandable without the historical background of the Holocaust, their characters and their authors as well often demand to lead a life that is not defined solely in terms of the Jewish catastrophe. The experience of instructors in Aachen has furthermore demonstrated that many students generally associate Jews with the Holocaust and know little or nothing about their presence in contemporary Germany, even for example in Aachen, where a modern community building and a synagogue in the middle of the city make it difficult to overlook their existence. The difference between this constellation and circumstances in Israel or the United States is obvious. In this regard, the integration of Holocaust memory into Gemanistik in Germany remains simultaneously and continuously challenged neither to make invisible nor to problematically obscure the culture and history of Jews currently living in Germany. The curriculum at the RWTH in Aachen attempts to meet this challenge; along with an explicit focus on the contemporary Jewish presence in Europe, it both keeps pace with the breadth and prevailing virulence of German-speaking Jewish writers from their beginnings into the twentieth century and centers on those literary texts that more or less constitute the portfolio of Holocaust literature. In courses addressing, for instance, Jean Améry’s Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne (published in English as At the Mind’s Limits), Peter Weiss’s Die Ermittlung (published in English as The Investigation), or—in cooperation with the Institute for Political Science—Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, pertinent canonical texts find immediate entry in Aachen’s German and General Literary Studies program. The reactions of the students in these seminars show that this is for many their first intensive confrontation with the facticity of the mass extermination. Holocaust studies seem to be most overtly linked to Germanistik in these courses. Seminars about the German language as the language of the perpetrators—for example in the analyses of Victor Klemperer, George Steiner, or Storz / Süskind / Sternberger—illuminate the linguistic consequences of the Nazi years in a narrow sense. But even courses whose objects of study do not focus on the Holocaust are, for all intents and purposes, conceived of as central components of a curriculum that anchor a better understanding of the Holocaust. When, for example, in a seminar series entitled “Classic Works of European-Jewish Literary and Cultural History” canonical texts such as Freud’s Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (published in English as Civilization and Its Discontents) or Benjamin’s “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit” (The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility) are subjected to meticulous reading, the goal is not only to disseminate and discuss the insights of their authors but also to develop a

McGlothlin.indd 75

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

76



STEPHAN BRAESE

sense for the world of intellectual and artistic creativity that was annihilated by the Holocaust. The most striking point of overlap between Holocaust studies and Germanistik in the curriculum of the “History of European-Jewish Literature and Culture” concentration is located neither in the reading of canonical Holocaust literature nor in the study of classic monumental texts of German-speaking Jewish authors. It can be detected rather in the multitude of courses in which postwar and contemporary German literature is the primary focus. All students, arguably without exception, who might have read works by authors such as Alfred Andersch, Heinrich Böll, or Günter Grass in high school or on their own initiative experience in these classes for the first time how the personal histories of these authors and the histories of the surrounding society impact their works, often in a manner uncontrolled and uncomprehended by the authors themselves. The ever-recurring effects of astonishment on the part of students can only be understood in view of the still-undiminished admiration that these authors, two of whom are after all Nobel Prize winners, continue to enjoy in German society. It generally comes as a surprise to students that virulent resentments and prejudices, ideological deployments, and conscious calculation belong to a comprehensive view of these and other literary works. The archive of the Gruppe 47 provides a repertoire hardly surpassed in its abundance of such a complex mixture of desires to come to terms with the past, awareness of guilt, repressive energies, polished biographies, unintended telltale moments, radicalness even toward oneself, and an insufficient willingness to communicate. The lecture series “Die Gruppe 47: Ihre Geschichte in Dokumenten” (Gruppe 47: Its History in Documents), held in the Winter semester of 2013–14, serves as an example of how precise readings of the most disparate text types allow one to recognize how the merits and deficiencies of the Gruppe 47 are often inseparably intertwined. The Holocaust may be most “genetically recovered” in the contemporary teaching of Germanistik in Germany with the precise analysis of such documents and in discussion with students about them. The conviction underlying such research and teaching is that postwar and contemporary German literature, even today, is not “legible” or historically comprehensible in any adequate way outside the context of the Holocaust. My brief sketch of the work in Aachen would be incomplete without mention of an array of further programming that supplements the regular curriculum, including international conferences on topics such as “Lessing and the Jewish Enlightenment,” “Meine Sprache ist Deutsch: Deutsche Sprachkultur von Juden und die Geisteswissenschaften” (My Language is German: Jewish German-Language Culture and the Humanities), or “NS-Medizin und Öffentlichkeit: Formen der Aufarbeitung nach 1945” (Nazi Medicine and the Public Sphere: Forms of Coming

McGlothlin.indd 76

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



77

to Terms after 1945). These conferences, often organized in cooperation with on-site colleagues, are always open to all students. This also applies to the Franz Hessel Lecture, held annually since 2012, which is given by a scholar first in Aachen and then on the following day at our partner institution, the Sorbonne in Paris. The most recent topic was Walter Benjamin’s theory of translation; the previous year the lecture addressed Heinrich Heine’s “Witz” (humor). Furthermore, a guest lectureship such as that of Mark Gelber in the summer semester of 2013, made possible by the German Academic Exchange Service, makes a contribution that cannot be valued too highly, by exposing Aachen students both to texts in German by Jewish authors and to the effect that the virulence of the Holocaust had on the literature and culture of the past decades and of the present. A research symposium with internationally renowned speakers as well as a reading by Ruth Klüger impressively complemented and rounded off this visiting lectureship. Many aspects of the German constellation work against an adequate—and that means at the same time a systematic—inclusion of the most important insights of Holocaust studies in German studies in Germany. An abundance of societal and institutional circumstances with a thoroughly and significantly specific—that is to say, German—orientation determines from the start the environment and the potential for impact in Germanistik. It might seem platitudinous to say that our students are the most important partners in our endeavor that aims to comprehend the Holocaust as a European event with universal meaning. But the students, with their generational distance from the cohort of perpetrators and their increasing exposure to non-German historical narratives and memories, do in fact seem best prepared for a perception of the Holocaust that is able to fulfill such criteria. It is then the task of the instructors to avoid overhastily marginalizing those conditions that continue to create a nationally specific form of Holocaust memory. Instead, they should carefully register and recognize them as (preliminary) conditions of their own work in the classroom. We should strive for a universalization of Holocaust memory, one without quotation marks. The undisputed location of such memory in German studies within Germany could be one of the most important indicators that this universalization may actually be at hand. —Translated by Timothy Kyle Boyd

Notes 1

Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, Erinnerung im globalen Zeitalter: Der Holocaust (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2001), 147; in English, The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, trans. Assenka Oksiloff (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006), 17.

McGlothlin.indd 77

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

78



STEPHAN BRAESE

2

Imre Kertész, “Imre Kertész—Banquet Speech,” December 10, 2002; English translation from www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/2002/kertesz-speech.html. 3

See Stephan Braese, “Im Schatten der ‘gebrannten Kinder’: Zur poetischen Reflexion der Vernichtungsverbrechen in der deutschsprachigen Literatur der neunziger Jahre,” in Chiffre 2000—Neue Paradigmen der Gegenwartsliteratur, ed. Corina Caduff and Ulrike Vedder (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2005), 81. 4

Levy and Sznaider, Erinnerung im globalen Zeitalter, 15–16; The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, 7–8. 5

Braese, “Im Schatten der ‘gebrannten Kinder,’” 81.

6

Levy and Sznaider, Erinnerung im globalen Zeitalter, 72; The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, 61.

7

“Anne Frank: Was schrieb das Kind?” Der Spiegel, January 4, 1959, 55. All translations in this essay are my own, except where otherwise noted. 8

Anne Frank, Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank: 12. Juni 1942–1. August 1944 (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1955), 73, 40, 50; and Anne Frank, Die Tagebücher der Anne Frank: Vollständige kritische Ausgabe (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer 1988), 414, 324, 366. Since the quotes cited refer to Schütz’s problematic translation of the Dutch text into German, the English translations given here are from Schütz’s text and the critical edition and not from an English edition of Frank’s book. 9

See Stephan Braese, Die andere Erinnerung (Munich: edition text + kritik, 2010), 195. See also Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler, eds., Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012).

10

Hanno Loewy, “Das gerettete Kind: Die ‘Universalisierung’ der Anne Frank,” in Deutsche Nachkriegsliteratur und der Holocaust, ed. Stephan Braese, Holger Gehle, Doron Kiesel, and Hanno Loewy (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 1998), 24. 11

Alvin H. Rosenfeld, The End of the Holocaust (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 123–24. 12

Levy and Sznaider, Erinnerung im globalen Zeitalter, 74; The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, 63. 13

See the introduction to this volume, 000.

14

George Steiner, Language and Silence: Essays, 1958–1966 (London: Penguin, 1979), 143. 15

Sabine Moller, Karoline Tschuggnall, and Harald Welzer, Opa war kein Nazi (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2002). 16

Press release of the Swedish Academy, September 30, 1999, www.nobel.se/ literature/laureates/1999/press.html. 17 Christoph König, ed., Internationales Germanistenlexikon, 1800–1950, 3 vols. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003). 18 See Inka Bertz and Michael Dorrmann, Raub und Restitution—Kulturgut aus jüdischem Besitz von 1933 bis heute (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2008), 6. 19

McGlothlin.indd 78

See the introduction to this volume, 000.

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

TEACHING HOLOCAUST MEMORIES AS PART OF “GERMANISTIK”



79

20

See William Collins Donahue, Holocaust Lite: Bernhard Schlinks “NS-Romane” und ihre Verfilmungen (Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2011); and William Collins Donahue, “Der Holocaust als Anlass zur Selbstbemitleidung: Geschichtsschüchternheit in Bernhard Schlinks Der Vorleser,” in Rechenschaften: Juristischer und literarischer Diskurs in der Auseinandersetzung mit den NS-Massenverbrechen, ed. Stephan Braese (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2004), 177–97. A recent special issue of Der Deutschunterricht on “Literarischer Antisemitismus” rectifies this neglect, especially Oliver Müller’s essay “Ich-Erzähler mit beschränkter Haftung: Zum hermeneutischen Hintergrund des Antisemitismusvorwurfs gegen Bernhard Schlinks Roman Der Vorleser,” Der Deutschunterricht 2 (2015): 62–71. 21

Merkel made these remarks in a speech before the Israeli Knesset on March 18, 2008; Die Bundesregierung, Bulletin 26-1, https://www.bundesregierung.de/ Content/DE/Bulletin/2008/03/26-1-bk-knesset.html. 22

Saul Friedländer, “German Struggles with Memory,” in Saul Friedländer: Memory, History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 7. 23

Levy and Sznaider, Erinnerung im globalen Zeitalter, 161; The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, 142. 24

Quoted in Jochen Vogt, Einladung zur Literaturwissenschaft (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2002), 38–39. 25

Ibid., 42.

26

Dan Diner, Kreisläufe: Nationalsozialismus und Gedächtnis (Berlin: Berlin Verlag, 1995), 79. 27

Werner Mittenzwei, preface to Exil in der UdSSR: Kunst und Literatur im antifaschistischen Exil, 1933–1945, vol. 1, ed. Klaus Jarmatz, Simone Barck, and Peter Diezel (Leipzig: Reclam, 1979), 5. 28

Ernst Loewy, “Zum Paradigmenwechsel in der Exilliteraturforschung,” Exilliteratur: Ein internationales Jahrbuch 9 (1991): 212. 29 See Herlinde Koelbl, Jüdische Portraits: Photographien und Interviews (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1989), 197. 30

Mark H. Gelber, “German-Jewish Literature and Culture and the Field of German-Jewish Studies,” in The Jewish Contribution to Civilization: Reassessing an Idea, edited by Jeremy Cohen and Richard I. Cohen (Oxford, Portland, OR: Littman Library, 2008), 170. 31

Sander L. Gilman and Jack Zipes, eds., Yale Companion to Jewish Writing and Thought in German Culture, 1096–1996 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997). 32

Gelber, “German-Jewish Literature and Culture,” 182–83.

33

Dan Diner, “Imperiale Residuen: Zur paradigmatischen Bedeutung transterritorialer jüdischer Erfahrung für eine gesamteuropäische Geschichte,” in Figuren des Europäischen: Kulturgeschichtliche Perspektiven, ed. Daniel Weidner (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2006), 261. 34

See Yfaat Weiss, “Post-Soviet Jews in Germany after 1989,” Jewish Studies at the Central European University 6, 2007–2009 (2011): 72.

McGlothlin.indd 79

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

4: “Aber das ist alles Vergangenheitsbewältigung”: German Studies’ “Holocaust Bubble” and Its Literary Aftermath William Collins Donahue The book of history cannot be written at the same time as the actual history itself. There must be at least a little distance, or it feels contrived —Cees Nooteboom, Roads to Berlin1

Introduction

I

T HIT ME WHILE I WAS listening to the political debates prior to Germany’s last federal election. Peer Steinbrück—who has the manner and even some of the looks of Dick Cheney, though not of course his right-wing politics—was at the microphone. Never one to mince words, Steinbrück dismissed the interviewer’s query regarding a past disagreement with the CDU with the assertion, “Aber das ist alles Vergangenheitsbewältigung.” He was not, of course, referring to the Holocaust, or to anything associated with Germany’s “unmasterable” or “uncompleted past”—to reference just two classic studies.2 The interviewer did not bat an eye, and it did not cause a stir in the press. But when did “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” take on the meaning of “water under the bridge,” or, to stick with the German, “der Schnee von gestern” (yesterday’s snow)? When did it become a moniker for things that are no longer worth bickering about, perhaps no longer even relevant? While Steinbrück’s remark is surely a symptom rather than a cause— I don’t mean to suggest that he is actually denigrating the serious work of “mastering the past”—it nevertheless handily symbolizes what I take to be a shift in public discourse about the Holocaust that is echoed in our discipline. We have, in short, experienced a “Holocaust Bubble” in German studies. It grew to large proportions in the 1990s, inflated further in the decade thereafter, and then in the ensuing years began to spring a

McGlothlin.indd 80

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



81

leak. If it did not burst at any particular, easily identifiable point in time, it certainly has deflated significantly. In the following, I want to examine this claim first with reference principally to German studies in the United States; second, with reference to the broader German public sphere; and third, with a sidelong glance at some trends in the presentation of the Holocaust in contemporary German literature. There I will be referring not to bubbles and attention-grabbing expansion, but to embeddedness, enclosure, internment, and marginalization. While at first glance incommensurate with the first two sections, this third part briefly explores the way in which contemporary German literature navigates this new “postbubble” landscape. The metaphor of a bubble is of course imperfect and runs the risk of equating the intense social and academic interest in the genocide of the European Jews with an inflated real-estate market or with the over-zealous ambition and greed of “dot com” investors. Still, it can serve as a shorthand way to designate that time when study of the Holocaust enjoyed a particularly emotionally intense period within German studies. I make no claim to a systematic “sociology-of-knowledge” approach; rather, this essay draws liberally upon my personal experiences as a participant and observer, though with reference to more systematic studies whenever available. In the first part I demonstrate that the trajectories of public discourse (both US and German) and German studies run roughly parallel; in the second part, I argue that German studies is becoming somewhat less preoccupied with the Holocaust precisely because the (German) public sphere has taken on the task of Holocaust remembrance with relative success. While academic interest has not declined, the emotional intensity once associated with the enterprise certainly has.

US German Studies and the Holocaust If we are looking for a start date, 1993 would seem a good candidate, for that year marked the dedication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) as well as the release of Steven Spielberg’s widely acclaimed (and in scholarly circles widely criticized) film Schindler’s List.3 And it was in the wake of that film, of course, that the massive worldwide effort to record the testimony of all Holocaust survivors began. It was also at this point that a dramatic shift occurred in our field. Within the space of just two years, the AATG (American Association of Teachers of German) ceased to be the professional organization of choice, as the majority of our colleagues in higher education voted with their feet in favor of the GSA (German Studies Association). The shift was dramatic and measurable, but for our purposes it is crucial to note that it meant a shift in emphasis as well. For now scholars of language and literature were attending a conference where they were sitting cheek by jowl with

McGlothlin.indd 81

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

82



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

historians frequently interested in Nazism and the Holocaust. As Christopher Browning pointed out in his 2012 GSA Presidential Address, the association’s growth was closely linked to the rise of Holocaust studies in the United States.4 In 1961 Raul Hilberg finally succeeded in publishing his pathbreaking study, The Destruction of the European Jews. Widely considered to be the founding father of Holocaust studies, Hilberg may then have been a lone prophet, crying out in the desert, as it were. But by the early to mid-1990s his goal—at least within German studies—had been achieved: the Holocaust in the broadest sense—its prehistory, the peak of genocidal murder from 1941 to 1944, and the “memory aftermath” that is perhaps with us still—had become part and parcel of the German studies enterprise. This did not please everyone, to be sure; in fact, detractors were at times quite vocal.5 But their opposition has only served to further affirm the significant place occupied by the Holocaust in German studies. The rise of public awareness of and scholarly interest in the Holocaust has of course a more complex genealogy, one recounted for example in the late Peter Novick’s controversial study The Holocaust in American Life (1999),6 and by Hilberg himself in his 1996 memoir, The Politics of Memory: The Journey of a Holocaust Historian.7 I would only add to the factors they cite and the cultural milestones they adduce—for example, the influential broadcast of the 1978 TV series Holocaust—another, very concrete, even pecuniary, consideration: the German government subsidized the GSA on the explicit condition that it provide certain minimal numbers of panels treating the Holocaust.8 I suppose it should not surprise us to discover that our field is shaped not only by unfettered intellectual inquiry but also by political and economic forces. German federal tax dollars are one source of the “bubble” in more indirect ways as well: one thinks, for example, of the state-sponsored Holocaust breast-beating that occurred by way of the Goethe Institute’s sponsorship of numerous leftleaning intellectuals’ visits to the United States.9 The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington itself became a target of German federal funding: as noted historian of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust Sybil Milton related to me in 1992, the German government offered to subsidize the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s permanent exhibit in return for a fuller, more rounded (read: more positive) picture of Germany, especially in the postwar period. Though the USHMM declined this quid pro quo, the episode remains a powerful reminder of the manifold ways in which Germany itself fueled the rise in US Holocaust studies. While public awareness of the Holocaust has certainly developed more gradually than my summary of these events may suggest,10 the relatively sudden “inflation” of Holocaust consciousness went hand in hand with the metamorphosis of the survivor into a kind of cultural hero.11 This was

McGlothlin.indd 82

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



83

due, as I have noted, in no small part to Steven Spielberg and the global documentary efforts of the Shoah Foundation. Immediately after the Second World War, and for decades later, survivors often remained undifferentiated from other victims and refugees, and, as Novick recounts, were in some cases treated with reserve, if not suspicion and even derision. What had they done to survive? Had they perhaps been Kapos? Whom did they rob, beat, or cheat in order to gain the opportunity to survive? Survival was not then an unambiguous badge of honor. When celebrated, as in the now well-known “This is Your Life” TV episodes of the early 1950s, survival was not infrequently deemed a matter of “fate,” “good luck,” or the result of the brave efforts of American liberators.12 But there was a palpable shift in the early 1990s. The Shoah Foundation, for which I conducted several interviews, employed an elaborate training session instructing volunteers in interviewing technique as well as the larger project mission. To the chagrin of many historians—even those willing to consider survivor testimony as credible historical evidence—the Shoah Foundation set out equally to “document” and to celebrate the survivor. Each video was to conclude, whenever possible, with a shot of the survivor surrounded by his or her family—“proof,” as many would say (almost on cue), that Hitler had not won out. One of my interviewees, a bestselling German author who had fictionalized her life story in numerous novels to the point where I seriously doubt that she could separate fact from fiction, was convinced that “Mr. Spielberg” was making a film about her. She was put off by my probing questions, which, as she told me with some annoyance, interrupted the carefully packaged delivery of her story. I think it is fair to say that the fifteen or twenty years following the onset of the bubble were marked by an emotional intensity and moral urgency that is simply no longer quite there—or no longer so pronounced. What happened? The most frequently cited factor, and one frankly long anticipated by commentators across the political spectrum, is the death of the survivors. And it is true: their personal appearances in schools, community centers, and other forums were often powerful encounters that made history “real” for countless auditors. My own life and work remain deeply touched by the detailed and personal stories of Ruth Gutmann, a child survivor of Auschwitz and a “Mengele twin.” Her husband Al was part of the Kindertransport, which took him to the safety of England. I have done my best to see that their stories remain available to future students, but I know that the printed word or even the video image will never quite exert the same visceral impact—above all because Ruth will not be there to answer questions and challenge her auditors (as she often did).13 In the early 1990s I worked with students in an elementary German language course to record, edit, and publish an interview they initially

McGlothlin.indd 83

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

84



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

conducted with the German-Jewish refugee grandparents of one of their classmates. It is the story, in their own (German) words, of the Dreifus couple who escaped Germany in 1938, late enough to have personally experienced plenty of anti-Semitic, exclusionary Nazi policies, but early enough to evade deportation to the death camps. At the same time, I worked with my friend and colleague Abby Gilman—we were both students at the time—to rewrite the Harvard Elementary German language curriculum to include the basics of Holocaust education. One result of that effort was my article in Die Unterrichtspraxis that reviewed the top ten German language textbooks then in circulation (it is hard to believe that at one time there were that many in use!); I found them all wanting.14 It was a moral failing, I argued (somewhat high-handedly, as it appears in hindsight), that German studies as a profession could find plenty of space in its elementary textbooks for all manner of cultural trivia and even bogus, fictionalized, and oblique references to the Holocaust, but could not, for some reason, include something of substance that even my elementary students could understand. The article in Unterrichtspraxis, which appended the interview with the Dreifus couple, garnered some attention, winning the journal’s Best Article of the Year (1995) prize, but it very nearly never saw the light of day. One of the authors whose college textbook I had criticized approached the editor of Unterrichtspraxis and the president of the AATG in an attempt to have the piece quashed prior to publication. Another pedagogical piece that I wrote on Austria’s belated “coming to terms with the past” also ran into difficulties.15 Though modest in its aims, it was the first piece of its time to approach the lacunae in Holocaust education as it relates to Austria. The Austrophile editor of Unterrichtspraxis accepted the piece on the advice of the external evaluators and then embarked upon a protracted series of delays and surgical edits that left very little of the original essay intact. I was making Austria look bad, I was given to understand, and the points I was making could surely be made in a much more concise manner (one that just happened to elide key stages in Austrian collusion in the Holocaust). I relate these anecdotes not to make much of myself—the article itself was very soon superseded by much richer and more up-to-date scholarship—but rather as a kind of testimony to the rather charged atmosphere of the times. There was outrage, accusation, counter-accusation, well-intentioned efforts at “Aufklärung” aimed at a generation (or group) of Germanists who thought the Holocaust would be bad for business or would somehow bury all the positive accomplishments of centuries of German culture under the sensationalist cover of, well, a Spielberg Hollywood film. And there was, on my part too, a selfrighteousness from which I today recoil. While the work of survivors remains unquestionably valuable, we may, in valorizing “the” survivor and in our fervor to bring Holocaust

McGlothlin.indd 84

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



85

studies into the provenance of what were then largely language and literature programs, have generalized too greatly, too indiscriminately. This elevation of survivors’ moral authority would paradoxically leave them vulnerable to instrumentalization and exploitation. This is what happens, as Ernestine Schlant first pointed out in The Language of Silence, when Bernhard Schlink deploys a Jewish survivor to bestow victim status upon the second-generation German protagonist of his bestselling novel Der Vorleser (1995; The Reader, 1997): near the end of that still quite popular novel, the German Michael Berg (the novel’s narrator) receives the “blessing” of the now lone Jewish survivor, who remarks on Berg’s suffering at the hands of the camp guard, Hanna Schmitz.16 At a time when German victimhood was enjoying a literary comeback, Schlink knew that no one possessed the authority to cast Germans as victims like a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. It was a brilliant move—at least strategically.17 The fact that our reverential posture vis-à-vis survivors as a group had become too uncritical is perhaps best symbolized by the way we all fell for Binjamin Wilkomirski’s falsified memoir Bruchstücke: Aus einer Kindheit, 1939–1948 (1995; published in English as Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, 1996).18 Even the august Raul Hilberg—no friend of survivor testimony, he—could not keep from endorsing its authenticity on behalf of the USHMM, though he told me privately that he had always had his suspicions. Nevertheless, it did receive his imprimatur and sold quite well at the museum’s gift shop, at least until the author was unveiled as a fraud. It is perhaps helpful to remember that by the time we had reached a consensus on our identity as German studies—or at least by the time the name had achieved wide circulation—Holocaust studies was already part of the enterprise. The heady years of moral urgency, I contend, were the product not only of “secret” funding by the German government but also of a kind of missionary zeal to inculcate teaching of the Holocaust more systematically within the paradigm of Germanic languages and literatures. This was still the case in the late nineties, when Hilberg himself led the first Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies summer seminar on how to teach the Holocaust at the university level. Germanists were wellrepresented in that inaugural class. We were on a mission to tell the truth about a culture we had studied principally from the perspective of its literary masterpieces. Popular culture was already exploiting the Holocaust for entertainment; we had the obligation to tell a more truthful story. I do not wish to understate the concomitant opposition: naysayers said that we were exploiting the Holocaust for enrollments, or worse, for professional gain. But whatever the case, I think we can agree that words like “obligation,” “responsibility,” “ethical duty,” “urgency,” and so on, were very much in the air.

McGlothlin.indd 85

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

86



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

The Shift in German Demography and Public Discourse This same atmosphere pervaded the first Fulbright Commission German Studies Seminar titled “Jewish Studies in Germany Today.” In 1996, so different from today, the topic of Jewish life and Jewish studies was still, as the editors of Die Zeit asserted in their coverage of the seminar, a “very sensitive” topic in Germany. And that was true on “our” side as well: there was a high level of emotion that marked that scholarly visit. Some participants were visiting Germany for the first time since the war; some were tracing family roots. A number of my colleagues related deep and personal feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and anger at various times during the seminar. Some refused to speak German. The US members of that delegation were, for the most part, treated with inordinate respect and personal attention—something that in my more recent experience of the Fulbright Summer seminar (2013) was sorely missing. And we had disputes about language and semantics in a manner that we don’t seem to have anymore. The term “German Jews” was, for example, maybe (just maybe) acceptable for pre-Holocaust history; but henceforth we were to speak only of “Jews in Germany.” Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Avi Primor, told us that the thought of Jews living in Germany was “perverse” and that Jews’ only true homeland is Israel. Now, almost twenty years later, the number of Jews in Germany has dramatically increased, with an estimated 15,000 Israelis in Berlin alone.19 When Dieter Mahncke from the German Ministry of Defense piously invoked the obligation that German youth preserve and pass on the truth of the Holocaust to subsequent generations, we nodded in agreement. But then he went off script during the question and answer period and agitatedly warned that “you American Jews” (he apparently thought we were all Jews) had no business coming to Germany to tell Germans how to handle Vergangenheitsbewältigung, and above all no brief to demand more penance of German youth. Though no one had suggested anything of the kind, he must have seen us as some kind of high commission sent to investigate the state of German Holocaust education. At any rate, Mahncke warned ominously that any effort on our part to augment the German Holocaust curriculum would be tantamount to “overkill.” Overkill? That word in that context upset a lot of participants. Language mattered. But not so much today: “Das ist ja alles Vergangenheitsbewältigung.”20 What has changed? What marks the end of the bubble?21 As I have said, I do not think it is sufficiently accounted for merely by the aging and passing of the survivor generation. There is another demographic axis that may in part explain the shift, namely the rise of a multicultural Germany.

McGlothlin.indd 86

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



87

Many colleagues are, in my experience, aware of this more as a political debate than as a demographic fact.22 In his excellent piece, “Toward a Multicultural Society?,” William Barbieri observes: . . . it is hard to deny the proposition that Germany, with a foreignborn population of roughly 13 percent and half again as many native-born children of migrant parents, presently encompasses a significant variety of cultural identities. By comparison, the foreignborn population of France in 2003 was 7.8 percent; of Spain 8.8 percent; of the UK 8.9 percent; of the Netherlands, 10.7 percent; of Sweden, 12.0 percent; and of the USA, 12.6 percent. In this sense, it is hard to contest that Germany is a multicultural society. (Emphasis mine.)23

Few of us, I would venture to say, are accustomed of thinking of Germany as a proportionally more ethnically diverse country than the United States. By other, more precise measures, however, the figure is actually much higher, namely 20 percent.24 This almost tectonic population transformation has consequences for our discussion: To what extent does this growing multiethnic demographic “own” Holocaust history? Does it (or can it) bear the responsibility that Mahncke was so willing to impose on German youth 20 years ago? In an interview from 1995, the Turkish-German author Zafer Şenocak declares: One can immigrate to a country, but not to its past. In Germany, history is read as a diary of the “community of fate” [Schicksalsgemeinschaft], the nation’s personal experience, to which Others have no access. This conception of history as ethnic, collective memory was tied to the question of guilt after the crimes of the Nazis . . . Can immigrants participate in shaping the German future without having access to a shared history with the native population?25

The newly constituted German multiethnic and younger society is simply not as connected to—or as interested in—the Holocaust. To pose a counterfactual scenario in order to make the point: this demographic, I postulate, would not be found among those overflowing crowds that once welcomed Daniel Goldhagen with open arms on his reading tour of Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1997).26 For many it is simply not “their” history. The ever-changing “immigration Germany” will ipso facto have a different, and, as I claim, much less emotionally invested relationship to its Holocaust past.27 In passing, we might note the probable effect of similar demographic shifts in the US population on interest in Holocaust studies in this country: what will 2042 (to take the date which the US census estimates will mark the passing of “whites” into minority status) mean for this endeavor?

McGlothlin.indd 87

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

88



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

And it was the 1990s that exhibited, as I think we can now see more clearly in retrospect, the trends that simultaneously inflated and ultimately deflated the so-called bubble. We recall the violent and even lethal “Ausländerfeindlichkeit” in the first years of that decade, in the years immediately following unification, particularly in Hoyerswerda, Rostock, Mölln, and Solingen.28 At the time there was no shortage of concern about alleged latent Nazi and neo-Nazi tendencies within the “German psyche.” Some commentators worried more specifically whether the failure of the GDR ever to come to terms with the Holocaust was to blame—though this would prove an unsatisfactory hypothesis in any case, since two of those towns belonged to former West Germany. What a different world we inhabit now: during the summer of 2013, the German press was awash with coverage of the dramatic arrest and initial trials of members of the NSU (National Sozialistischer Untergrund). Day after day the topic hit the front pages of newspapers across the social spectrum and was frequently the top story in radio, newspaper, and television coverage. I was in Berlin at the time and tracked the media treatment fairly assiduously. Despite the overt neo-Nazi affiliation of the perpetrators, it was astounding to me that virtually no reporter or commentator made any serious claim that the NSU crimes had anything to do with the legacy of historical Nazism and fascist ideology from the 1930s and 1940s.29 When the connection was even noted, it was typically only to dismiss it, usually as the confused self-appellation of the perpetrators themselves. No major media outlet worried about a resurgence of Naziera hatred or saw in this a serious connection to the Holocaust.30 Rather the NSU was consistently depicted as a violent fringe group that said nothing about the larger polity’s failure to achieve Vergangenheitsbewältigung—and I think this is true. The focus was rightly on the present and the recent past, namely on the egregious failure of the Bavarian police to take violence against Turks (and foreigners perceived as Turks) seriously enough to pursue in a timely fashion. The same, roughly, could be said about perceived trends in antiJewish sentiment, and in the truly disturbing anti-Islamacist movement that goes by the acronym “PEGIDA” (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes / Patriotic Europeans against the Islamicization of the Occident): both are generally understood to be rooted not in the Holocaust of the prior century but in contemporary political conflict. The former is often linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while the latter draws on numerous sources, but most obviously on the fear generated by ISIS terror and by Muslim immigrant groups. Looking back on all this from the perspective of the 2013 NSU trials, it does seem that we allowed the Holocaust to distort our view of those postunification outbreaks of Ausländerfeindlichkeit. We were in the bubble and didn’t know it.

McGlothlin.indd 88

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



89

Not to be overlooked in this thumbnail sketch is the boom in the public commemoration of the Holocaust in Germany that followed unification. This is a story that has been best told by William Niven in his important (and pedagogically useful) study Facing the Nazi Past: United Germany and the Legacy of the Third Reich (2002); thus I will not even attempt to recount it here. Suffice it to say that once a united Germany achieved a consensus about the Holocaust that departed from the ideologically blinkered narratives of the Cold War, we witnessed a heretofore unseen explosion of public commemoration.31 The Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the (productively) controversial memorial at the Neue Wache, Libeskind’s Berlin Jewish Museum, the relatively recent memorials to other victim groups (homosexuals, Roma, and Sinti) in the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate—these are just a few of the better-known monuments that can stand in for a plethora of other memorials throughout Germany. The list is easily expanded: think of the new Holocaust Museum to be built in Munich, the recent establishment of Jewish studies at the Humboldt University, and the revival of Yiddish.32 The point here is not to enumerate them all or to comment on their political efficacy and aesthetic strategies (both of which have been done by scholars such as Niven and of course James Young, whose The Texture of Memory of 1993 led the way).33 The net effect however, is that this unprecedented official remembrance of state-sponsored atrocities has to some extent taken the wind out of the sails of those who would inveigh against Germany’s “inadequate” level of public commemoration. There are still those who will say that it came too late, or that it is (in part) window-dressing or public relations, or that some of the memorials’ aesthetic dimensions obscure or deemphasize the story of the Holocaust itself. But on the whole, I would argue, the consensus has emerged that Germany today, far from exhibiting some paucity in this area, has become a model state in this regard, unprecedented in its public acknowledgment of the Holocaust. In his memorable review of the 2006 film Das Leben der Anderen (which is so much more than a film review) Timothy Garton Ash singles Germany out for its exemplary Holocaust historiography and public commemoration, concluding his piece with this somewhat ominous praise: In this good land, the professionalism of its historians, the investigative skills of its journalists, the seriousness of its parliamentarians, the generosity of its funders, the idealism of its priests and moralists, the creative genius of its writers, and, yes, the brilliance of its filmmakers have all combined to cement in the world’s imagination the most indelible association of Germany with evil. Yet without these efforts, Germany would never have become such a good land. In all the annals of human culture, has there ever been a more paradoxical achievement?34

McGlothlin.indd 89

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

90



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

In noting this truly astounding “achievement,” Ash is surely also sounding a note of caution about overdoing it—maybe even resurrecting Mahncke’s warning about “overkill.”35 But for our purposes, his statement serves to remind us that Germany’s success in commemorating and documenting the Holocaust—particularly in the decades following unification—has in a sense deflated the moral urgency one might have felt a generation ago. One cannot quite be a crusader for memory—or at least not with the same heated passion—when Holocaust remembrance is practiced so widely today.36 Indeed, the unwitting tourist in December of 2013 could not wend her way through the maze that is the Alexanderplatz subway station without encountering an impressive exhibit on the complicity of the BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe, the metropolitan masstransit authority) during the Nazi period, an impressive piece of public “enlightenment” that was in fact spread throughout the mass-transit system. In the same year, one could not walk from the Kaufhaus des Westens to the Wittenbergplatz subway stop without encountering imposing Litfasssäulen documenting the exclusion of Jews from German society, the “Aryanization” of their property, and their deportation and murder. Before that it was the carefully documented 2010 exposé of the German Foreign Ministry, admirably initiated by former minister Joschka Fischer himself, and before that, the Deutsche Bahn exhibit “Zug der Erinnerung” (2007–13).37 I am not saying that the work is done. Or done to everyone’s satisfaction. Of course not. But if we are no longer working within a bubble, it is in part due to the success of the enterprise. And dispensing with the emotional hype may not be an entirely bad thing.

German Studies Today The deflation of Holocaust studies in the context of German studies does not, I hope it is clear by now, suggest that German studies has somehow left the topic behind or neglected it. If anything, the opposite may be true. This at any rate is suggested by David Blackbourn’s jeremiad from the 2013 GSA annual meeting. Addressing one of the plenary banquet sessions, Blackbourn laments the failure of German historians to attend to the larger swath of German history, by which he means their relative neglect of earlier periods. In “Honey, They Shrunk German History,” he argued that the growing preponderance of research and specifically of GSA papers take modernity, in particular the Nazi period, as their focus.38 The only significant shift he sees is not a return to earlier periods of scholarly neglect but a shift, as he puts it, from 1933 (the rise of Nazism) to 1940 (the eve of the Holocaust). One conclusion that can safely be drawn is that the Holocaust and the Nazi period continue to fascinate—perhaps even to the exclusion or crowding out of other worthy topics and periods.39

McGlothlin.indd 90

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

Figs. 4.1 and 4.2. Wittenbergplatz. In 2013 the city of Berlin mounted an open-air exhibit called “Zerstörte Vielfalt” (Destroyed Diversity); these temporary Litfasssäulen (advertising columns) on the plaza in front of the Wittenbergplatz subway station document the “Aryanization” that took place in this very neighborhood, including especially that of the world famous “KaDeWe” luxury department store just across the street. © William Collins Donahue. Reproduced with permission of the photographer.

McGlothlin.indd 91

10/16/2016 2:05:36 PM

Figs. 4.3 and 4.4. Alexanderplatz. In Berlin’s largest and busiest subway station, the BVG (Berlin Mass Transit Authority) mounted a six-month exhibit (May–December, 2013) called “Aus Rot wird Braun: Die BVG nach 1933” (From Red to Brown: The BVG after 1933) detailing the Nazi-era history and complicity of the city’s mass transit system. © William Collins Donahue. Reproduced with permission of the photographer.

McGlothlin.indd 92

10/16/2016 2:05:37 PM

Figs. 4.5 and 4.6. Women of the Rosenstrasse Memorial. Just a portion of the centrally located permanent outdoor exhibit on the resistance of German women who in 1943 successfully demanded the return of their incarcerated Jewish husbands. © William Collins Donahue. Reproduced with permission of the photographer.

McGlothlin.indd 93

10/16/2016 2:05:38 PM

94



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

I think the same is true for sessions on the cultural studies side, though I am not exactly sure how to define this category. I have not tracked the numbers of panels in the same (semi)systematic way that Blackbourn seems to have, but my informal review of Holocaustthemed GSA panels suggests that in absolute numbers (though perhaps not as a proportion of the growing total number of papers presented) the “Holocaust” has held strong. I use quotation marks here because it is in many cases difficult or frankly impossible to identify, from the title alone, to what degree the Holocaust is actually treated in the respective panel. But if we are capacious in our view, and include literary studies focusing on anti-Semitism as well as the allied fields of trauma, memory, and genocide studies—all of which have their roots in Holocaust studies—then there is little doubt that the Holocaust is still quite strongly represented in our field. If anything, Holocaust studies has somewhat outgrown German studies. It has done so in two specific ways: first, by moving beyond the realm of German-language documentation and perpetration; and second, by shifting some of its portfolio to other professional organizations and institutions (such as “Lessons and Legacies” and the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the USHMM). Its founding father, Raul Hilberg, was an Austrian who focused on the German perpetrators and German documents. (Tellingly, the cover of the first edition of his memoir of 1996 features not a picture of the author—as does the subsequent 2002 paperback edition—but rather a Nazi document on the Holocaust.40) Germanists of my generation, trained primarily in literary studies, were bound to focus on German victims, German memoirs, and German Holocaust literature when we wandered into the field. While we have always known that the Holocaust was an international phenomenon, German studies tended, understandably, to focus on things German. Yet I think it is fair to say that the focus has in the last fifteen years broadened significantly, and has in fact shifted eastward. One thinks, for example, of the work of Jan Gross on Polish collaborators, as well those studies by Omer Bartov, Michael Meng, and Christopher Browning that attend to East European theaters of the Holocaust.41 With their interest in non-German collaborators, perpetrators, and non-German-Jewish victims, they have significantly altered the field. Developments in professional organization structures may also account for the perceived “deflation” of the Holocaust within German studies per se. Indeed, at about the same time that some observers were joking about the German Studies Association serving as a kind of cover name for the de facto “Holocaust Studies Association” (similar to the joke about the History Channel serving essentially as the “The Hitler Channel”), Holocaust studies was in fact developing its own professional group and publication, namely Lessons and Legacies.

McGlothlin.indd 94

10/16/2016 2:05:40 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



95

Epilogue: Post-Bubble Holocaust Literature—Episodic “Tripping Stones” German literature has long since ceased living in the land of the bubble. It has developed a kind of Holocaust narrative that is commensurate with this new, cooler dispensation—one in which the Holocaust “episode” appears within a larger web of narrative, where it can both be lost and, paradoxically, powerfully framed. In the following, I can only adumbrate this trend with a few examples. But I think even this brief introduction can suffice to characterize this widespread literary practice. When speaking of Holocaust literature as it has developed since the 1960s, it is tempting to proceed genealogically, with a traditional conception of genre and literary history. This is the approach taken by James Brice, for example, in his impressive wide-ranging survey.42 Yet while tremendously useful from a documentary perspective, I find it in the end too restrictive, because the works I want to treat might not, in that paradigm, even be recognized as Holocaust literature. And that would be a loss, an unnecessary blind spot. If we continue to use the “classics” of Holocaust literature—Peter Weiss, Rolf Hochhuth, Elie Wiesel, Tadeusz Borowski, Imre Kertész, Ruth Klüger, et al.—as a normative standard, we may miss the many “minor” literary “Stolpersteine” (artist Gunter Demnig’s countermemorial stumbling blocks) that lie embedded in contemporary German literature, awaiting our discovery. The demand for documentary-style evidence and a readily evident didactic agenda will simply not accommodate this more recent, more subtle trend in Holocaust literature. I take my controlling metaphor from that not uncontroversial movement of artists and activists that began several decades ago. Originally, the idea was to create actual tripping stones: pieces of pavement that stick up above the level of the sidewalk—more or less inviting one to trip. That plan was shelved when German courts mandated that these commemorative “stones” (they are actually little brass plates mounted on top of paving stones) be made level with the rest of the walkway. They are usually placed outside the former residence of German Jews. The brevity of the text engraved into the metal stones is striking: typically included, in addition to the victims’ names, are the their birth and deportation dates, as well as the place and date of their murder or death. While the history and implementation of these mini-memorials are far more intricate than what I’ve recounted here,43 this may suffice to indicate the basic homology I am proposing between Stolpersteine themselves and mini-Holocaust narratives embedded in larger, other-focused stories that proliferate in contemporary German literature.44 When you encounter a little brass plate on the sidewalk, you are more than likely pursuing your daily routine, perhaps rushing to a class or returning from shopping. You may have dropped a coin or stepped on a

McGlothlin.indd 95

10/16/2016 2:05:40 PM

96



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

Fig. 4.7. A typical Berlin “Stolperstein,” literally a “tripping stone,” but actually a ground-level brass marker, here partially occluded by scuffing, but legible to the interested eye. © William Collins Donahue. Reproduced with permission of the photographer.

piece of gum; maybe your scoop of ice cream fell to the ground. You look down, and there it is. This was my experience. In the middle of a sunny day spent sight-seeing, I looked down to see if my packages were secure and ascertained instead that a number of Jews were deported to their deaths from the very buildings that now house restaurants, shops, and movie theaters at Berlin’s Hackische Höfe. I had known all this; I’d actually given a tour of this very area to my students in our “Jewish Berlin” course. But the “stones” hit me with a special force that day because of the unexpected framing: I was pursuing, you could say, an entirely different “plotline,” only to be taken totally off balance by this small but powerful Holocaust narrative. This is exactly how “post-bubble” Stolperstein texts function: they take us on another set of journeys entirely, often having absolutely no obvious connection to the Shoah, only to surprise us all the more with a focused Holocaust episode. Let me in conclusion provide a few brief illustrations. Would you ever have connected Christa Wolf’s Was bleibt (1990) to the Holocaust?45 It has attracted enormous amounts of scholarship, almost exclusively focusing on the narrator’s subjection to Stasi espionage or the vituperative “Literaturdebatte” that this book inaugurated.

McGlothlin.indd 96

10/16/2016 2:05:40 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



97

But virtually no one has yet tripped over the passage that potentially shifts the entire debate about this book.46 At a liquor store the narrator encounters a salesclerk who launches into a story about her best friend from her youth—a Jew by the name of Elfi. She had a boyfriend in the SS who offered to hide her, but when she held out for safe haven for her entire family, he dropped her, leaving her to her fate. She and her family were deported in 1942. It is a brief but stark passage that is brought into sharper relief, I would argue, precisely by the relatively amorphous, selfpitying cogitation that surrounds it.47 The narrator stumbles across the story while seeking distraction from her own woes. But when she realizes what she is being told, she willfully diverts her attention: “Darauf wollte ich nicht gleich zurückkommen” (27; That’s not a topic I much wanted to return to). If we allow ourselves to think about Wolf’s deliberate “installation” of this piece of narrative within the larger story of her own observation by the Stasi, we come to a fresh understanding of the narrator’s obliviousness and of the way we generally repress traumatic narratives of atrocity. Do we even recall the monologue about the deported Jewish salesclerk? Most readers apparently do not.48 What about Thomas Brussig’s Leben bis Männer oder Der Fußballtrainer (2001)?49 Most critics recognize it as an accomplished one-man play about the pain of unification for East Germans. But few—if any— have considered the episodes that compellingly allude to Nazism and the Holocaust. But when the protagonist refers, stunningly, to “Adolf,” we are presented with a link in the historical chain between Nazi and SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) authoritarian mindsets. Throughout this play the coach tries to exonerate his star player of a charge of homicide for shooting an unarmed GDR civilian who was attempting to flee to West Berlin. The audience serves in a sense as the jury, as we witness every possible attempt to explain away murder as simply a matter of following orders. Brussig defamiliarizes this shopworn excuse by linking it first to socialization through sports—the barking of orders by an aggressive coach to unwitting youths. But with the sudden mention of Hitler—and specifically with the coach’s all too familiar use of the first name—another narrative strand, far more sinister, comes into view. Whether the critical focus is on Brussig or the phenomenal actor, Jörg Gudzuhn, who really made the role of the soccer coach in the play’s premiere at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, critics have repeatedly tucked this piece too neatly into the category of post-unification literature—as if the Holocaust ceased to pop up in the most unexpected places.50 In other cases, for example Uwe Timm’s Rot (2001), Walter Kempowski’s powerful Alles umsonst (2006), or Jenny Erpenbeck’s masterful Heimsuchung (2008), we encounter stories whose critical mass centers on other, non-Holocaust, narratives. The first is largely about the (sometimes comic) accommodations of aging “68ers”; the second treats

McGlothlin.indd 97

10/16/2016 2:05:40 PM

98



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

the flight of Germans from the Eastern territories in the last months of the Second World War; and the third is the story of a place, a site of German history, as it were, that stretches from prehistoric geologic time to post-unification.51 Yet the attentive reader will surely not miss the “minor” Holocaust references in these works—they may in fact shine even brighter for being embedded in contrastive narrative frames. In Rot it is the brief story about the widow who as a child hid a Jew in the basement of her apartment building. In Alles umsonst the tripping stone is the haunting dialogue of the refugees from the East who know about the Holocaust but barely speak its name, shutting down further discussion with the ominous assertion that the Jews will certainly seek revenge for this genocide. In the case of Heimsuchung it is one relatively brief narrative about the deportation of a little girl, Doris. The risk to each of these works, and to the genre I am describing, is that these “minor” narratives can be ignored, forgotten, or lost in the thicket of other stories. One critic of Erpenbeck’s novel declared that the “Doris narrative” is simply out of place and might just as well be published separately.52 Just like the narrator of Wolf ’s Was bleibt, readers may feel that they just don’t want to revisit these narratives or stay with that larger “story” to which they metonymically refer. Ignoring, repressing, forgetting—these are the hazards we must accept if the respective Stolperstein narrative is to retain its paradoxical potential to surprise and provide a fresh encounter and insight. At a talk he gave to the Duke Jewish Studies Seminar in 2008 (where he first recanted his thesis on the alleged non-representability of the Holocaust, by the way), Saul Friedländer expressed optimism that Holocaust literature has not become passé, not as long as it retains its intrinsic potential to arrest the reader and incite a sense of outrage. The Stolperstein technique I have been illustrating here is, I believe, the only way we can both justify Friedländer’s optimism and be true to the changing times in which we live. The post-bubble era has brought with it numerous advantages for the study of the Holocaust, as we have seen. But there was also virtue, I contend, in at least some of the emotional intensity of that period. The great advantage of “literary tripping stones” is that they allow us, to varying degrees, to have it both ways: on the one hand this literature possesses the power to thrust us, if only momentarily, into the emotional concentration that characterizes the height of the bubble period. Literature, if not academic study, is after all made up of such moments and will not do without them. On the other hand, by embedding these narrative fragments within other, often more contemporaneous stories, this literature witnesses the fundamental fact of our post-bubble era in which the Holocaust can all too easily be ignored, sidelined, and overlooked. It is now truly history, and risks being forgotten.

McGlothlin.indd 98

10/16/2016 2:05:40 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



99

Notes This essay is dedicated to Ruth and Al Gutmann, in memoriam, untiring Holocaust educators to a generation. My gratitude to Richard Levy (University of Illinois-Chicago), Jakob Norberg (Duke University), Mark Roche (University of Notre Dame), and Erin McGlothlin (Washington University in St. Louis), all of whom provided valuable critical responses to the lecture that was the precursor to this chapter. I received extremely valuable input on the essay from the coeditors of this volume as well as from the anonymous readers. 1

Cees Nooteboom, Roads to Berlin (London: MacLehose, 2013), 236.

2

See, respectively, Charles Maier, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust and German National Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998) and Judith Ryan, The Uncompleted Past: Postwar German Novels and the Third Reich (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1983).

3

Michael Rothberg makes a compelling case for the significance of 1993 as “The Year of the Holocaust” in part 3 of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 181–263. Yosefa Loshitzky identifies 1993 as a critical juncture in her Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler’s List (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997). 4

German Studies Association Newsletter 36, no. 2 (Winter 2011–12): 74–75.

5

See W. C. Donahue, “How Much German in German Studies?” German Quarterly 78, no. 4 (Fall 2005): 521–24.

6

Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999); reissued in paperback in 2000. 7 Raul Hilberg, The Politics of Memory: The Journey of a Holocaust Historian (New York: Ivan R. Dee, 1996); released in paperback, 2002. 8

This emerged during the 2012 GSA session “In eigener Sache: Roundtable on Our History—From WAGS to GSA, 1980s and 1990s (Session #230, October 6, 2012). 9

This public relations campaign, as it were, is mercilessly and hilariously savaged in Walter Kempowski’s still-neglected novel Letzte Grüße (Munich: Knaus, 2003). 10

See Jeffrey Shandler, While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) as well as this brief clip that documents two “Holocaust episodes” aired in the 1950s on the popular TV show “This Is Your Life”: http://www.cinema.ucla.edu/sites/default/files/TIYLv8.pdf. 11

On this point see Ruth Franklin, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1, as well as chapters 5 and 13 of Daniel H. Magilow and Lisa Silverman, eds., Holocaust Representations in History: An Introduction (London: Bloomsbury, 2015). 12

See especially the episode of “This Is Your Life” featuring the survivor Hanna Bloch Kohner, aired on NBC on May 27, 1953: https://archive.org/details/ this_is_your_life_hanna_bloch_kohner. As even a cursory review of the show illustrates, the upbeat, redemptive treatment of the Holocaust fits best under

McGlothlin.indd 99

10/16/2016 2:05:40 PM

100



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

the category of what Barbie Zelizer would later call “Remembering to Forget”; Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory through the Camera’s Eye (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). One should not think of these episodes as strictly limited to the 1950s, however, as they have been rebroadcast since then and are posted to multiple websites and web archives, including of course YouTube, with well over 40,000 “hits” as of this writing: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=R4ckFEnn5Bo. 13

See W. C. Donahue, “Beyond Cultural Literacy: ‘Interactive Autobiography’ as Holocaust Pedagogy,” in Shedding Light on the Darkness: North American Germanists Teach the Holocaust, edited by Miriam Jokiniemi and Nancy A. Lauckner (New York: Berghahn, 2000), 211–24. 14

W. C. Donahue, “‘We shall not speak of it’: Nazism and the Holocaust in the Elementary College Course,” Die Unterrichtspraxis 27, no. 1 (1994): 88–104. 15 The reference is to W. C. Donahue, “‘Bless My Homeland Forever’: Teaching Austria and the Holocaust,” Die Unterrichtspraxis 29, no. 2 (Fall 1996): 188–200. 16

Ernestine Schlant, The Language of Silence: West German Literature and the Holocaust (New York: Routledge, 1999); Bernhard Schlink, Der Vorleser (Zurich: Diogenes Verlag, 1995); in English, The Reader, trans. Carol Jane Janeway (New York: Vintage, 1997). 17

For further discussion of this point, see W. C. Donahue, Holocaust Lite: Bernhard Schlinks “NS-Romane” und ihre Verfilmungen (Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2011), chapter 3 (112–46). 18

Binjamin Wilkomirski, Bruchstücke: Aus einer Kindheit, 1939–1948 (Frankfurt am Main: Jüdischer Verlag, 1995); In English, Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, trans. Carol Brown Janeway (New York: Schocken, 1996).

19

Estimates vary, but all agree on the significant increase of Jews, Israelis, and “people with a Jewish background.” See, for example, Lucy McKeon’s “Being Jewish in Today’s Germany,” Boston Review, January 24, 2014, http://www. bostonreview.net/books-ideas/lucy-mckeon-yascha-mounk-jewish-modern-germany. The Berliner Zeitung puts the number of Israelis in Berlin alone at 20,000 (BZ, May 7, 2013, 5). 20

Robert L. Cohn and I first recounted this exchange, without identifying Mahncke by name, in “Ein Besuch, der manche Fragen offenließ: Amerikanische Wissenschaftler auf den Spuren jüdischen Lebens in Deutschland,” Die Zeit, July 26, 1996, 8. Mahncke responded with an irate and rather detailed letter. I reflect on this in the introduction to my Holocaust as Fiction (New York: Palgrave, 2012). 21

Gavriel Rosenfeld documents the relatively recent proliferation of popular and popularizing Nazi and “Holocaust” representations throughout a variety of media. See his accessibly written recent study Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Being Normalized in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). 22

For example, between the advocates of German Leitkultur vs. the proponents of Verfassungspatriotismus. For an excellent overview, see William A. Barbieri, Jr., “Toward a Multicultural Society,” in The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History, ed. Helmut Walser Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 807.

McGlothlin.indd 100

10/16/2016 2:05:40 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG” 23



101

Ibid., 797.

24

Indeed, “the German government has recently found it necessary to deploy a new category, that of ‘persons with a migration background,’ to designate the fifth of the state’s residents who come from elsewhere or were born to parents who did” (ibid., 802; emphasis mine). His article is now almost a decade old, and the data upon which he bases it are somewhat older. But the trends he identifies and analyzes have held steady. Indeed, German birthrates remain low and are dropping, while those of “people with a migration background” are higher and rising. 25

Quoted in ibid., 809; emphasis mine.

26

Joseph Joffe, “Goldhagen in Germany,” New York Review of Books (November 28, 1996) and Robert R. Shandley, Unwilling Germans: The Goldhagen Debate (University of Minnesota Press, 1998); Daniel Jonah Goldhagen: Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New York: Vintage Books, 1997).

27

In the mid-1990s, the time that is the focus of much of this paper, it was indeed taboo to compare (which was then often unfairly taken to be tantamount to “equating”) the role of Turks “now” and Jews “then,” as Barbieri recounts (“Toward a Multicultural Society,” 809). However, as he goes on to relate, this was not universally or evenhandedly applied. When, for example, Sander Gilman addressed the 1996 Fulbright group mentioned above at the then new Simon Dubnow Institute in Leipzig, he glibly asserted that “the Turks are Germany’s new Jews.” Of course position (and positionality) matter: Gilman spoke as a prominent American Jew; the risk for a Turkish immigrant to Germany, even one as prominent as Faruk Sen, “one of the foremost authorities on the Turkish minority in Germany” (809), was then much greater. He “was unceremoniously fired in 2008 for comparing the situation of Turks in Europe to that of the Jews under the Nazis” (809). 28

Barbieri puts this in the context of “xenophobic attitudes and violence against members of migrant communities. Hoyerswerda, Rostock, Mölln, and Solingen lead the litany of sites of major attacks against foreigners that welled up in the early 1990s in the wake of German unification and played a much-debated role in the government’s subsequent abridgment of the right of asylum” (Barbieri, “Toward a Multicultural Society,” 803–4). 29

The papers I consulted include the Münchner Merkur, Der Tagesspiegel, the Handelsblatt, the Berliner Morgenpost, the Berliner Zeitung (BZ), the Bild (BerlinBrandenburg), the Express, the Jüdische Allgemeine, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the Hamburger Abendblatt, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung. During a Skype lecture/discussion at Duke University, Lutz Heinke, Pedagogical Director of the Internationales Haus Sonnenberg, remarked that the “Nazi period is insufficient to explain and understand what these [NSU] extremists did . . . To say ‘these are Nazis’ would be too simple. Therefore I am not at all unhappy that [Nazism] was not brought into connection with the NSU summer [2013].” With regard to the impact of demographic shifts on Vergangenheitsbewältigung, he stressed the importance of teaching residents with an immigrant background why German policies are the way they are. This has particular urgency for him because “of course it’s not their history” (emphasis mine). Dorothee Hermanni and Lutz

McGlothlin.indd 101

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

102



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

Heinke, “Politische Bildung made in Germany—erfolgreich und exportfähig?” Heinke, Skype lecture, Duke University, April 14, 2014. 30

In contrast, The New York Times did make a passing connection: see Nicholas Kulisch, “Germans Boo Nazi Scenes in an Opera by Wagner,” New York Times, May 9, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/world/europe/uproarin-germany-over-nazi-scenes-in-new-wagner-opera.html?emc=eta1&_r=0. 31 William Niven, Facing the Nazi Past: United Germany and the Legacy of the Third Reich (London: Routledge, 2002). 32

If we were to cast our gaze upon Austria, we would see a similar trend, though much belated, and, I think, still far less pervasive than in Germany. Nevertheless, the very interesting “Vienna Project” can stand as one compelling example of this trend. The reason for belated Holocaust commemoration, as I explain in my essay “Bless My Homeland Forever: Teaching Austria and the Holocaust” is essentially the incredibly durable “First Victim Myth” authorized by the Soviet communiqué of 1943. 33

James Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993).

34

Timothy Garton Ash, “The Stasi on Our Minds,” New York Review of Books, May 31, 2007, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2007/05/31/the-stasi-onour-minds/. 35

Ash, for example, links the great success of German Vergangenheitsbewältigung to a tendency to see “Nazism” in almost any kind of oppressive regime—in this case, in the GDR and in the Stasi in particular: “A generation of West German contemporary historians, trained in the study of Nazism, turned their skilled attention to the GDR, and especially to the dissection of the Stasi. Only the existence and character of West Germany, with its fiercely moral and professional approach to dealing with a difficult past, explains the unique cultural transmission of the Stasi phenomenon” (ibid.). 36

This view of successful Holocaust remembrance is articulated also by Jonathan Franzen, who in a recent Spiegel interview observes: “Natürlich weiß ich, was diese Zäsur bedeutet, und es ist bemerkenswert, dass da zum ersten Mal in der Geschichte ein Land ist, das sich entschieden hat, die Vergangenheit in die Gegenwart zu holen. Reue und Scham sind Teil des deutschen Selbstbildes geworden.” Der Spiegel, December 2014, 123. 37

See W. C. Donahue, “Elusive ’68: The Challenge to Pedagogy,” Die Unterrichtspraxis 41, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 113–23, where I place this event in context. 38

David Blackbourn, “Honey, I Shrunk German History,” German Studies Association annual meeting, 4 October 2013. 39

To be fair, I should note that Blackbourn is not explicitly concerned with the Holocaust, but one can fairly extrapolate this position from the arguments and data he provides. 40 Raul Hilberg, The Politics of Memory: The Journey of a Holocaust Historian (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996), paperback edition 2002. 41

The following are some examples of this Eastern-European turn in Holocaust studies: Omer Bartov, “Understanding Local Genocide: A Galician

McGlothlin.indd 102

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

“ABER DAS IST ALLES VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG”



103

Town in the Time of the Holocaust,” J. B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Annual Lecture, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, February 13, 2013; Michael Meng, Shattered Spaces: Encountering Jewish Ruins in Postwar Germany and Poland (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011); Christopher Browning, Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave Labor Camp (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011); and of course the pathbreaking work by Jan T. Gross: Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). Most recently, this eastward trend is illustrated in the major new study by Timothy Snyder, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (London: Tim Duggan Books, 2015). The increased availability of non-German, East European language Holocaust sources is reflected also in the archival expansion of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; see, for example, https://www.ushmm. org/online/archival-guide/list.php. 42

James Brice, German Holocaust Literature: Trends and Tendencies, Diss., Universität Konstanz, 2006, accessed November 21, 2013, http://kops.ub.uni-konstanz.de/handle/urn:nbn:de:bsz:352-opus-58461. 43

For a fuller treatment of the topic with respect to Germany’s capital, see Stolpersteine in Berlin: 12 Kiezspaziergänge (Berlin: Aktives Museum Faschismus und Widerstand in Berlin e.V., 2014). 44

For a pithy account of Stolpersteine in English, see Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Trial: A Great-Grandmother, Auschwitz, and the Arc of Justice,” New Yorker, Feb. 16, 2015: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/16/-trial. The Stolpersteine movement remains controversial; see, for example, “Gekommen, um zuzuhören: NS-Opfer und Fachleute diskutieren, ob künftig in München Stolpersteine als Form des Gedenkens erlaubt sein sollen,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 16–17, 2014, 45. 45

Christa Wolf, Was bleibt (Berlin: Aufbau, 1990).

46

This section is drawn from my 2012 GSA paper “Literary Tripping Stones: The Case of Christa Wolf’s Was bleibt” (Milwaukee, 2012), and is treated more fully in my forthcoming book Literary Tripping Stones: The Holocaust in Contemporary German Literature. 47

The passage in question can be found in Christa Wolf, Was bleibt, 25–27. All translations in this essay are my own, unless otherwise noted.

48

The 2012 GSA featured six sessions devoted to Christa Wolf (in the wake of her death in December, 2011), and thus drew a high number of Wolf experts. I queried those in attendance at my session: none recalled the passage about Elfi, though a number of my auditors had actually written about this book. 49

Thomas Brussig, Leben bis Männer (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 2001).

50

I discuss both this piece and Timm’s novel Rot at greater length in “Normal as Apolitical: Uwe Timm’s Rot and Thomas Brussig’s Leben bis Männer” in German Culture, Politics, and Literature into the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Normalization, ed. Paul Cooke and Stuart Taberner (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2006), 181–94.

McGlothlin.indd 103

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

104



WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE

51

Uwe Timm, Rot (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2001); Walter Kempowski, Alles umsonst (Munich: Albert Knaus Verlag, 2006); Jenny Erpenbeck, Heimsuchung (Frankfurt am Main: Eichborn, 2008). 52 See Michael Faber, “‘Visitation’ by Jenny Erpenbeck—Review,” Guardian (October 29, 2010): http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/30/visitation-jenny-erpenbeck-fiction-review. Faber’s criticism is, however, mixed with praise: “Even once Erpenbeck has settled into the book’s distinctive form, the concept of the Brandenburg estate as the narrative’s picture-frame is not consistently adhered to: a chapter covering the fate of Doris, one of the exiled Jews, shifts the action to an abandoned house in the Warsaw Ghetto. (A forgivable diversion. This 11-page episode, set mostly inside a pitch-dark closet, is one of the most powerful distillations of the Holocaust I’ve ever encountered in fiction: it deserves to be widely anthologised as a classic short story.)” For a useful discussion and bibliography, see Holly Sarah Eades, “The Girl in the Closet: Historicization of the Holocaust in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Heimsuchung,” MA Thesis, Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies, March 18, 2014.

McGlothlin.indd 104

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

Part III. Disentangling “German,” “Jewish,” and “Holocaust” Memory

McGlothlin.indd 105

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

McGlothlin.indd 106

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

5: Epistemology of the Hyphen: German-Jewish-Holocaust Studies Leslie Morris

T

HIS ESSAY EXPLORES the links and the disjunctions between German studies, Jewish studies, and Holocaust studies by first thinking about the hyphen between German-Jewish-Holocaust studies as a “third space”—a mark that both opens and potentially de/forms, enabling a polysemic textuality that complicates “Jewish” and “German” text and the matrix of German-Jewish history, memory, culture, and urban space. To speak of the hyphen as a “third space” that joins and separates the terms German and Jewish, however, is to merge—intentionally—discourses about German-Jewish culture with those about postcolonialism. To be sure, Homi Bhabha’s “third space,” that hybrid space in which “the structure of meaning and reference [are] an ambivalent process,” the “cultural space” “where the negotiation of incommensurable differences creates a tension peculiar to borderline existences” operates in a distinctly different political field than the one that has occupied scholars of German and Jewish culture.1 And yet, I argue, the insights from Bhabha, Spivak, Butler, and others on the contingencies of postcolonial textuality and culture have much to contribute to the work of Jewish culture, including German-Jewish culture. For if we are to truly “locate” German-Jewish culture, and the resonance of the Holocaust within it, then we must take into account the complex, perhaps even “klezmerical,” mechanisms of place, history, and subject positions that have been at the center of discussions in literary and cultural studies of alterity.2 I am less interested in exploring “hyphenated” national, ethnic, or disciplinary identities than in thinking more broadly about the disciplinary (in all senses of that word) role the hyphen plays in academic discourse about German-Jewish studies and the Holocaust. It is by now almost a truism that the abrasions, marks, and echoes of “the Jewish” are always present as traces within German text; similarly, the intrinsic Jewishness of German studies and the fundamental Germanness of Jewish studies point to the porousness and entanglement of the textual, philosophical, and cultural encounter between German and Jew. I thus propose that we think about the hyphen not as a mark of constriction or of limits, nor as

McGlothlin.indd 107

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

108



LESLIE MORRIS

a mark that preserves separate terms even while placing them in relation to each other, but rather as a sign that invites a space of encounter into which we can enter and that enables us to expand the text beyond the borders of German studies, Jewish studies, and Holocaust studies. I turn first to the work of the pioneering voice in queer theory, Eve Sedgwick, who argues that the “open secret” of the closet underlies all epistemological structures.3 Sedgwick reads Proust’s excavation of the buried palimpsest narrative of Esther, from the Book of Esther, as closeted Jew through the lens of Racine’s Esther, positing the “closet” as a “weighty and occupied and consequential epistemological space” (77). Significantly, Sedgwick turns first to this paradigmatic biblical tale of “passing” to elaborate her theory of the closet, linking the homosexual closet with the story of Queen Esther’s concealed Jewishness. The biblical figure of Esther—the queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus—is predicated precisely on concealed Jewishness.4 Ahasuerus acquiesces in Haman’s plot to commit genocide against the Jews; in order to save the Jews from genocidal destruction, Esther divulges (for Sedgwick, “comes out”) that she is a Jew. As Sedgwick notes, “the story of Esther seems a model for a certain simplified but highly potent imagining of coming out and its transformative potential.”5 For Sedgwick, the trope of the closet, while “indelibly marked with the historical specificity of homosocial/homosexual definition,” has evolved to encompass multiple cultural narratives of secrecy/ disclosure beyond the historical one of homosexuality.6 Indeed, for Sedgwick the “closet,” with its attendant narratives of secrecy and knowledge, serves as a central organizing principle of late twentieth-century culture. I propose that we begin an epistemology of the hyphen that would, like Sedgwick’s closet, dismantle the referents and inherent binarisms of national and other stable identities, enabling a reading of the spaces between German and Jewish and Holocaust as precisely the “weighty and occupied and epistemological spaces” Sedgwick assigns to the “closet.” For, like Sedgwick’s “open secret” of the closet, the hyphen is a textual space that undoes the system that requires it for its own epistemological basis. While the metaphor of the closet suggests that it is a hidden space in which signification is both enacted and erased, the hyphen invites us to consider textual space in its most palpable and literal form. There is, in contrast to the closet, no hiding out in the hyphen. What might it mean then to propose a similar way of “knowing” and uncovering the hyphen—in other words, to investigate that which both joins and separates the German, the Jewish, and the Holocaust? And yet the hyphen—the perennially open mark, the wound that evokes Derrida’s circumcision as the violence of all writing—will and must always resist scrutiny of this sort. The hyphen is a grammatical and punctuation mark that is both a conjunction but, even more importantly, a disjunction. In German it is the “Bindestrich” (connecting line): the

McGlothlin.indd 108

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE HYPHEN



109

mark that brings together and that simultaneously cancels, deletes, whitewashes; in French, the “trait d’union” (trace of a union) that does not simply join together but also reveals the traces of what had been. Like Sedgwick’s closet, perhaps, the hyphen is a mark that both stages and undercuts binarisms, inviting us in, if only to probe at its contours and hidden crevices. It enacts a link that on the one hand holds dissimilar, related terms at a respectable and decent distance from each other; on the other hand, however, it figuratively “pulls” the two terms together— the Italian word for hyphen, “trattino,” comes from the same Latin root as “traction” and “tractor,” suggesting that a force is applied that yanks two terms into collision with each other, perhaps violently, and potentially deforms both. I have argued elsewhere for an approach to German-Jewish texts that—rather than reading these as discrete sets of literary texts brought together by a common linguistic, national, and spatial rubric—would instead push the very boundaries of the German and the Jewish.7 The poets I consider in this essay—Alan Sondheim, Heimrad Bäcker, and Robert Fitterman—do, I maintain, precisely this. They all inhabit their own border zones among Jewish, Holocaust, and even German texts, as they challenge—sometimes overtly, sometimes obliquely—the now-weary debates about representation and Holocaust iconography. The work of these experimental, digital media, and conceptual poets is intentionally non-expressive, embodying what Marjorie Perloff has lauded as “uncreative” and “unoriginal” writing.8 Writing against any effort to assign transparent meaning to the text, Sondheim, Fitterman, and Bäcker embody the poet as collector or even appropriator of images and ideas that are in circulation.9 Similarly, their works are not expressive of their experience or inner life, but a compilation of “permutations,” in which the “poet” rearranges and transposes existing texts, like “information designers.”10 They all write in the associative, “weighty and occupied,” open-ended mode of the hyphen—the poetic space that Heather McHugh captures as the following: “The place of the poem is the place of our homelessness, our groundlessness. A poem is untoward.”11 The work of experimental poet and digital code-worker Alan Sondheim is a place where one can begin to explore the spaces between German studies, Jewish studies, and Holocaust studies. Sondheim’s poems are a hybrid form that exists somewhere between English and codework (a term coined by Sondheim for this sort of digital media experimental writing, or [net.writing]), filtering the English through the mesh of computer code languages to suggest a new process of encryption. He opens up the space between Jewish text and computer code language, creating an “intralingual” text that points to an ever-expanding notion of literary expression, where the codework “infiltrates the surface” of the text, making it impossible to determine where code begins and poetry ends.12

McGlothlin.indd 109

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

110



LESLIE MORRIS

The codework that animates Sondheim’s texts is, for Maria Damon, an instance of minority writing (although enacted in the majority language of numbers and letters) as Deleuze and Guattari conceptualized the term: “highly deterritorialized, not only from natural language, but, when corrosively and imperfectly integrated with it, from the language of computer programmers, who use it in their own hegemonic and hidden way.”13 In a work from 2003, “After Auschwitz,” Sondheim embeds Adorno’s most famous (and misquoted) line about “poetry after Auschwitz” as one node among many in a matrix of digital codes.14 Arguably the formative text that has shaped—and continues to shape—the discourse about German and Jewish memory after the Holocaust, Adorno’s statement becomes the very fabric of the poem Sondheim creates. And yet, as “fabric,” it is torn, fragmented, and ruptured, captured between the lines of codework and other Internet debris as an eavesdropped conversation; as part of the acoustic memory of the postwar era, Adorno’s heavilyparsed and yet continually recited “poetry after Auschwitz” becomes, in Sondheim’s text, simply broken. Comprising hyphens and a host of other diacritical marks that disrupt any attempt at legibility, Sondheim’s poem is broken beyond the tropes of unspeakability and incommensurability to which Adorno’s statement is understood to refer. Sondheim breaks referentiality and meaning, creating in the polysemic flow of digital code and citation an asemic text that suggests, in the end, the dissolution of meaning after Auschwitz: After Auschwitz 0.109299 19k one might speculate that art may be the most powerful device to create some understanding, despite Adornos warning of No lyric poetry after Auschwitz.. true /Reviews/reviews.html 35k death camps with the efficiency of a factory. No wonder Adorno said that to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz was itself 15k (She has read a later quote by him: I have no wish to soften the saying that to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric ... read a later quote by him: I have no wish to soften the saying that to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric true with the efficiency of a factory. No wonder Adorno said that to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz was itself barbaric. true Culler, Ch. 5. 09/19 No class. Translation assignment due. Week 6 Lyric Poetry 10/01 Extrinsic

McGlothlin.indd 110

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE HYPHEN



111

criticism. Adorno essay on lyric after Auschwitz.

Sondheim breaks the formative “statement” (in German, “das Wort”) about art after Auschwitz, nestling it with debris found on the Internet, syllabi from classes in which Adorno’s essay is read, and a series, significantly, of blank spaces that further break the text. The historical arc from Adorno’s statement of 1955 to 2003, the year George Bush began the Iraq War, is similarly suggested and also broken: historical continuity is as “historical” and “continuous” as the endless rumblings of Alan Sondheim’s Internet search that produces this poem. There is no “end” to this poem, as the codework signaling its end is also a part of the poem, looping back to earlier moments of the text: One more aside: it is quite possible that many of the people who are influenced by the ideas formulated by Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm Bush Judges = Bad true Zu George Bush, zu George W. Bush, zu allen Bushs. Zu Theodor W. Adorno Zu Fritz Ha Jörn [email protected] â ©Fritz Jörn MM Zurück zur Ãbersicht Zurück in joined the firm of Adorno Zeder in 1988, and quickly rose through support from Hispanics in South Florida, many of whom already support Bushs re-election true FIRST HISPANIC SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NAMED Governor Jeb Bush announced the appointment of an attorney and head of the appellate department at Adorno Zeder, PA true pdf 40k Between them, Milgram and Adorno explain both the Muslim and American responses to a It seems ironic that bin Laden and Bush both behave in authoritarian ways. true an.htm 38k Bush said he was well aware of that fact. Cantero heads the appellate division of a Miami firm, Adorno Yoss and was the only finalist who was not a judge. true Adorno and Bush at ./looply.pl line 32 $ exit Script done on Fri Sep 12 15:36:48 200315

Sondheim’s “After Auschwitz” is exemplary of Heather McHugh’s call for a poetry that “is not exposition. . . . It is the place that suffers inscription. It bears the mark or scar of what was seen and what was grasped.”16 Indeed, Sondheim’s work bears the marks, or “inscriptions,” of multiple historical and cultural traumas and abrasions onto the surface of his text.

McGlothlin.indd 111

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

112



LESLIE MORRIS

Maria Damon has described Sondheim’s “codework” as the “esoteric language of the underneath brought to the surface and forced to integrate, bumpily and bumptiously, with natural language.”17 The abrasions and textual lacerations that Sondheim creates from the hypostatized Adorno text are, as Damon describes Sondheim’s oeuvre as whole, what Sondheim conceives as “wryting”: “Wryting is wrything (85), an agonized, shimmy-shimmy nod to ‘writing’’s etymological kinship with ‘writhing.’ . . .To carve, scratch, cut: wryting is laceration.”18 Unlike Sondheim’s “wryting,” which is, as Damon notes, an “agonized” series of textual lacerations, Robert Fitterman’s Holocaust Museum is a poem that consists solely of the captions, without the photographs, taken from the photo archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).19 In many regards it is both anti-writing and also, in its lucid and seemingly straightforward reproduction of the captions, anti-“wryting”: instead, Fitterman can be read, as Patrick Greaney has suggested, as a “permutational poet.”20 He does not lacerate language (digital, visual, or “natural”) but rather is interested in the processes of textual reproduction and remediation. Following each caption is the number, in parentheses, from the museum’s archive. Fitterman organizes the book into seventeen chapters, listed in the Table of Contents: “Propaganda; family photographs; boycotts; burning of books; The Science of Race; Gypsies; deportation; concentration camps; uniforms; shoes; jewelry; hair; Zyklon B canisters; gas chambers; mass graves; American soldiers; Liberation.”21 In a collection of his own essays entitled Rob the Plagiarist, Fitterman describes the “appropriator” as one who “sees all objects as equal, as equally up for grabs. The appropriator is interested in borrowing the material that is already available—not as a null set in retaliation to invention, but as a new way of participating in invention.”22 He goes on to elucidate his critique of the restrictions of seeing the poet as the “singular keeper and sharer of personal experiences, of the “poet as shaman,” in order to “illuminate the hierarchical relationship that many readers of poetry express: that somehow original language expresses a deeper, truer experience”; earlier in the essay he states: “I am interested in the inclusion of subjectivity and personal experience; I just prefer if it isn’t my own” (18, 17). In the Holocaust Museum project, Fitterman borrows from the archive of stored images found in the USHMM (more precisely, in the online museum, that is, the USHMM website), curating an “exhibit” that enters into the debates about mediation, remediation, and the status of text/image in post-Holocaust art. Fitterman’s project complicates Sontag’s claim that the caption is traditionally neutral and “informative,” giving us “a date, a place, names” and that “while the image, like every image, is an invitation to look, the caption, more often than not, insists on the difficulty of

McGlothlin.indd 112

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE HYPHEN



113

doing just that.”23 The caption, for Sontag, helps to manage the shock of the visual. But the captions that make up Fitterman’s book work in a register of meaning entirely different from the one Sontag is describing. For one thing, the photographs, while not present in the text, are nonetheless present with us, the readers and viewers, as iconic images that circulate in the media and are imprinted in our own memory bank of images. If, for Sontag, captions give us a sense, however false, of mastery over the shock of traumatic images, Fitterman undoes the very possibility of mastery, giving us simply a pile-up of text.24 Fitterman’s project evokes the trace of the pictures that haunt us, reminding us that we have been haunted and, with the omnipresence of these captions, will continue to be haunted. Like Barthes’s refusal to show us the Winter Garden photograph of his mother in Camera Lucida, claiming (in a passage inserted parenthetically) that it would merely be our “studium” but would not contain the “wound,” Fitterman similarly disrupts the relationship between studium and punctum in Holocaust Museum in not showing us the photos from the museum.25 A caption claims to be ancillary to the photograph (as narrative it is the studium, working against the punctum, for Barthes); in Fitterman’s project, however, the entire relationship between studium and punctum is disrupted, deformed, set askew. For Barthes, “punctum” is the element that rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow and pierces me. . . . this wound, this prick, this mark made by a pointed instrument . . . the word suits me all the better because it also refers to the notion of punctuation, and because the photographs I am speaking of are in effect punctuated, sometimes even speckled with these sensitive points; precisely, these marks, these wounds are so many points . . . punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole—and also a cast of the dice. A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me. (26–27)

Yet the question, in Fitterman’s work, remains: do captions in Holocaust Museum contain the possibility of punctum—is punctum evoked through the captions and manifested in the absence of the photographs themselves?26 In this, Fitterman’s project is reminiscent of the work of recent erasure poets such as Uljana Wolf and Christian Hawkey, whose Sonne from Ort “erases” while simultaneously translating Rilke’s translations of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese.27 Erasure poetry reminds us, as Heather McHugh writes, that “all poetry is fragment: it is shaped by its breakages, at every turn. It is the very art of turnings, toward the white frame of the page, toward the unsung, toward the vacancy made visible, that wordlessness in which our words are couched.”28 Like Fitterman’s project of giving us only the captions,

McGlothlin.indd 113

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

114



LESLIE MORRIS

erasure poems work by removing words from the page deliberately, with poetic “intention,” forcing a confrontation of the reader with the traces that lie beneath the surface. Fitterman’s Holocaust Museum, as an instance not only of erasure but also of curatorial poetry, enables a rethinking of the role of the referent and representation in Holocaust art; by taking away or replacing the “object” and giving us instead only the caption, the absent photograph has led critics such as Charles Bernstein to want to anchor the project in the discourse about loss, absence, and the impossibility of representation in the aftermath of the Holocaust.29 However, I think that Fitterman does something more interesting here: rather than locating this as an elegiac project about loss and erasure, I claim it as a highly generative project, one that is interested in transposing the “found object” of the caption and making it into a new poetic text. The captions generate a memory of images that are not necessarily the same as the actual images to which the captions refer but nonetheless call on our visual archive to supply. It is not, as Martin Glaz Serup claims, that the caption “now refers to a referent that is no longer there,” but rather that the image—the referent, the Holocaust, the Disaster—is one more series of linguistic and visual displacements, yet always already there in its absence.30 The chapter entitled “Propaganda” gets right to the heart of the debate Fitterman might be staging with Sontag. Since propaganda photos by definition are a conscious manipulation of image and “fact,” by giving us only the captions Fitterman is also relinquishing his own ability to manipulate his readers. Instead, he strips the power from the original propaganda material, reducing the image/text to the emptiest and most meaningless of signifiers. The majority of captions in this chapter begin with an anaphora—a rhetorical figure of repetition in which the first word or set of words in one sentence, clause, or phrase is repeated at or very near the beginning of successive lines—in the formulation “Propaganda slide entitled.” By consciously placing the captions so that the anaphora dominates, the reader is confronted with the repetition of the “propaganda slides” and the “repetition” of the absence of the object (that is, the image). This strategy of creating the monotony and tedium of repetition produces a mesmerizing, intoxicating physical response to the enormity of the information (the visual “proof” and the historical fact) that is being withheld. Fitterman’s project demands that we rescore the Holocaust in a new key; like Sondheim’s poems, which in their massiveness resist pointing to any referent and instead are a polysemic, lingual play with the endless signifiers of languages (“natural” and digital), Fitterman’s book of captions forces as well a rethinking of the borders between original and translation, between creation and erasure, between the banal and defamiliarization, demanding that we think of the poetic text no longer as sacred or

McGlothlin.indd 114

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE HYPHEN



115

inviolable but instead as part of the porous interplay among various nodes in a network (to paraphrase Foucault). One of the precursors for his project whom Fitterman acknowledges (in a series of epigraphs that also include Charles Reznikoff and the philosopher Vilem Flusser) is Heimrad Bäcker, whose nachschrift consists of quotations from a wide range of sources, including H. G. Adler’s massive archival Theresienstadt volume, Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews, Mein Kampf, and Albert Speer’s memoir, as well as bits of letters, newspaper sources, and transcripts from the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The Library of Congress designation for Bäcker’s book is “Holocaust—Jewish (1939–1945)—Poetry”; Fitterman’s book is, however, listed as “Mass media—Philosophy,” then “Photography,” and finally “Conceptual Art.” And yet, as I have tried to show, Fitterman’s project is poetry in the largest sense of the word. Bäcker is more clearly classifiable: as a major figure in the German-language concrete poetry movement of the 1970s, his collage of the “found texts” of historical sources and documents in transcript are legible as part of a poetic project that addresses the faultlines between memory, narrative, and textuality more generally. A complicated figure in the postwar Austrian avant-garde, Bäcker, born in 1925, was a member of the Hitler Youth and joined the National Socialist Party at the age of eighteen. Yet as Patrick Greaney (Bäcker’s translator) argues, Bäcker’s documentary word-art projects are to be understood not as a form of atonement for youthful lapses into National Socialist ideology but rather as an insistence on the always mediated and remediated nature of historical knowledge, also indicated by the blank spaces to be found on every page.31 The book is a mix of concrete poetry, declaring allegiance to the power of the image/typeset/blank spaces within the words, and also a piece of conceptual writing that prefigures contemporary work that rethinks the status of the archive and the documentary image and text. Bäcker’s project, originally entitled nachschrift yet translated as “transcript” (and not, significantly, “postscript”), is nonetheless concerned with the after-writing or the writing after and, like Fitterman’s work, with the act of appropriating as part of the process of invention. In Bäcker’s work it is impossible to determine the borders between the text, the aftertext, the blank spaces, and the transcript. As Patrick Greaney has elaborated so elegantly, transcript is also not legible without the notes and bibliography that follow the text.32 On the page separating the end of the “poem” and the start of the notes—perhaps the true “Nachschrift” of the project—Bäcker has written “Monumenta Germaniae Historica (q.v.),” and on the following page we read above the notes: Every part of transcript is a quotation; anything that might seem invented or fantastic is a verifiable document. Slight changes and

McGlothlin.indd 115

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

116



LESLIE MORRIS

omissions (which allow the unaltered contents to stand out in sharper relief) are not explicitly indicated. The notations from or based on (for example, ‘based on Hilberg’) indicate that new textual patterns were configured from passages reproduced verbatim, sometimes to the point of a methodical gibberish that replicates a deadly gibberish. (131).33

The designation “Monumenta Germaniae Historica (q.v.)” is more than an ironic nod to the layers and complexity of the textual sources linking German nationalism and historiography; it renders his own “nachschrift” (both the book as a whole and the “Nachschrift” “Monumenta Germaniae Historica (q.v.),”) one more palimpsest layer in the already weighted vault of German history, by structuring the book as a series of encryptions, but one in which the reader is only able to crack the code by referring to Bäcker’s inclusion of the notes and bibliography. But even when one knows the “source” for the “poem”/text on any given page, the textual space (and the accompanying blank space of each page) suggests a sort of epistemological darkness and bewilderment. The inclusion, at the end of transcript, of the notes and bibliography is less an attempt to document the Holocaust than it is to point, indexically, to the possibility and impossibility of knowledge itself, telling us that we might know but reminding us of the always incomplete status of this knowledge. After all, Bäcker intentionally keeps the quotations and extracts brief and organizes them seemingly randomly. This is a book that arrests the reader on many levels: with its initial illegibility, with its mix of documentary and other sources, with its admission that there is indeed “source” behind the texts that might “explain” or guide the reader, yet always with the suggestion of the fragmentary and the incomplete nature of this knowledge, which Bäcker suggestively alludes to by the overwhelming presence of the blank spaces to be found on every page. In this way, Bäcker’s erasure is poetry on a grand scale: it does not just erase lines from one text to create a new one; it creates a collage, or assemblage of texts that can only exist on the page as partial “truths.” The work of digital codework poet Alan Sondheim and conceptual poets Robert Fitterman and Heimrad Bäcker invite the reader and spectator to both “know” and at the same time “not know” (or to see and not see), that is, to acknowledge the always fragmentary nature of knowledge and the limits of knowing what we are reading and seeing. In this, the work of all three poets also suggests that the digital circulation of texts (most importantly seen in the work of Sondheim) opens up a space for the critical reflection on, and reassessment of, the dispersed and forever textualized geographic spaces of Germans, Jews, and German-Jewish culture in a post-Holocaust age. Conceptual poetry, as it seeks to create texts that disavow the very act of creation, dissolves the binaries of secrecy and

McGlothlin.indd 116

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE HYPHEN



117

knowledge, presence and absence (Fitterman’s captions, that is, the withheld images). If for Sedgwick the power of the (homosexual) closet is its structural capaciousness, its ability to house a range of political, social, ethnic, and sexual nodes of difference, so too is the hyphen a textual space of openness. The works by Sondheim, Fitterman, and Bäcker open up the spaces between German, Jewish, and Holocaust text, enabling a rethinking of the status of textual knowledge: an epistemology of the hyphen.

Notes 1

Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 58, 312.

2

I am indebted to Jonathan Freedman for his use of the term “klezmerical.” Freedman opens up a space for thinking about Jewish culture in light of the debates about hybridity and cosmopolitanism that have shaped postcolonial discourse. “The move from klezmer beyond klezmer, through Jewishness beyond Jewishness to an avant-garde modernity that is shaped by Jewishness but transcends any specific ethnic identification, has significance for the rethinking of what Jewish culture can be and can do in the United States . . . The art of the queer diasporite, of the rootless cosmopolitan . . . an art that, by its relentless and systematic syncretism, challenges simple, reductive predictions of national, ethnic, racial, or religious identity across the board (including but not limited to Jewish identity).” Jonathan Freedman, Klezmer America: Jewishness, Ethnicity, Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 92. 3

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). Here she quotes D. A. Miller on the “open secret”: “And the phenomenon of the ‘open secret’ does not, as one might think, bring about the collapse of those binarisms and their ideological effects, but rather attests to their fantasmatic recovery” (67). 4

There is some debate among scholars on the etymology of Esther’s name. While some have suggested a midrashic explanation of the Hebrew verb “saitar,” which means concealment, as its root, it is more likely derived from Ištar, the Akkadian name for the goddess of war and love in ancient Mesopotamia. 5

Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 75. See also Elaine Marks, who draws on the story of Esther (both the biblical text and the Racine play) to suggest that the condition of hiding, of being a Marrano, is constitutive of Jewishness. Elaine Marks, Marrano as Metaphor: The Jewish Presence in French Writing. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). 6

Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 72.

7

See Leslie Morris, “Placing and Displacing Jewish Studies: Notes on the Future of the Field,” PMLA 125 no. 3 (2010): 764–73. 8

Marjorie Perloff, “Towards a Conceptual Lyric: From Content to Context,” Jacket2, July 28, 2011, http://jacket2.org/article/towards-conceptual-lyric. 9

The work of conceptual poetry has come under fire lately by critics who see it as a poetic “in group” that speaks largely to itself, as part of a privileged white male bastion of rarefied discourse. The recent incident at Brown University, in

McGlothlin.indd 117

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

118



LESLIE MORRIS

which one of the main spokespeople for Conceptual writing, Kenneth Goldsmith, read the autopsy report of Michael Brown, has served only to intensify the debate about the political meaning of appropriating texts of the “other.” 10

For instance, “Flarf,” which is defined by the American Academy of Poets as “the work of a community of poets dedicated to exploration of ‘flarfiness.’ Heavy usage of Google search results in the creation of poems, plays, etc., though not exclusively Google-based. Community in the sense that one example leads to another’s reply—is, in some part, contingent upon community interaction of this sort. Poems created, revised, changed by others, incorporated, plagiarized, etc., in semi-public.” Accessed May 9, 2016. Gary Sullivan, “A Brief Guide to Flarf Poetry,” http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/brief-guide-flarf-poetry. 11

Heather McHugh, Broken English: Poetry and Partiality (Middletown, CT:Wesleyan University Press, 1993), 1.

12

Rita Raley has raised the interesting question of whether this sort of “machine language” will, in the end, be institutionalized as “foreign languages” within the humanities in universities. Rita Raley, “Interferences: [Net.Writing] and the Practice of Codework,” Electronic Book Review, September 8, 2002, http://www. electronicbookreview.com/thread/electropoetics/net.writing. 13

Maria Damon, “Simultaneously Reading/Writing Under/Destroyed My Life,” Electronic Book Review, October 5, 2013, http://www.electronicbookreview. com/thread/wuc/simultaneous. 14

Alan Sondheim, “After Auschwitz,” AlanSondheim.org, accessed February 6, 2015, http://www.alansondheim.org/nd.txt. 15

Ibid.

16

McHugh, Broken English, 2.

17

Damon, “Simultaneously Reading/Writing Under/Destroyed My Life.”

18

Ibid.

19

Ibid.

20

Patrick Greaney, “Next to Nothing: Poetic Information in Robert Fitterman and Vilem Flusser,” English Language Notes 50 no. 1 (2012): 228. 21

Robert Fitterman, Holocaust Museum (Denver: Counterpath, 2013).

22

Robert Fitterman. Rob the Plagiarist (New York: Roof Books, 2009), 16.

23

Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador, 2004), 45.

24

See Sontag, ibid.: “To remember is, more and more, not to recall a story but to call up a picture . . . narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt us” (89). Sontag first addressed this “haunting” in her earlier essay “On Photography,” in which she writes of her memory of first seeing images of Dachau and Bergen-Belsen in a bookstore in 1945: “Nothing I have ever seen—in photographs or in real life—ever cut me as sharply, deeply, instantaneously. Indeed, it seems plausible to me to divide my life into two parts, before I saw those photographs (I was twelve) and after, though it was several years before I understood fully what they were about.” Sontag, On Photography (New York: Picador, 1973), 20.

McGlothlin.indd 118

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE HYPHEN



119

25 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, translated by Richard Howard (New York: Hill & Wang, 1981), 73. 26

For a different reading of the “punctum” in Fitterman’s work, see Martin Glaz Serup, “Captions without Images: On Robert Fitterman’s ‘Holocaust Museum,’” Jacket2, January 26, 2015, http://jacket2.org/article/captions-without-images. 27

Christian Hawkey and Uljana Wolf, Sonne from Ort (Berlin: Kookbooks, 2012). Of course, the history of “erasures” in modernist art and poetics, from Dada to Rauschenberg, attests to the very modernist project of showing that the creation of art is simultaneous with its undoing. As poet (and erasure poet) Mary Ruefle notes that erasures are not unique to written text—she cites Bill Morrison’s film Decasia and William Basinski’s musical work, The Disintegration Loop. Mary Ruefle, “On Erasure,” Quarter after Eight: A Journal of Innovative Writing, 16, accessed February 6, 2015, http://quarteraftereight.org/ruefle.html. 28

McHugh, Broken English, 75.

29

Charles Bernstein, “This Picture Intentionally Left Blank: Rob Fitterman’s ‘Holocaust Museum,’ Heimrad Bäcker’s ‘Transcript,’ Christian Boltanski’s ‘To Be a Jew in Paris in 1939,’ and the documentary poetics of Raul Hilberg,” Jacket2, February 23, 2012, accessed February 6, 2015, http://jacket2.org/ commentary/picture-intentionally-left-blank. 30

Serup, “Captions without Images.’”

31

Patrick Greaney, “Afterword to the English Edition,” in Heimrad Bäcker, transcript, trans. Patrick Greaney and Vincent Kling (Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 2010), 151. Greaney also wrote: “The blanks are ‘striking’ because of how they function in different, even contradictory ways in Bäcker’s text: as full of other possible quotations and as a blankness that simultaneously contributes to and undercuts the text’s harmony and identity with itself.” Patrick Greaney, “Aestheticization and the Shoah: Heimrad Bäcker’s transcript,” New German Critique 37 no. 1 [2010]: 50. 32

Greaney, “Aestheticization and the Shoah,” 131. See Greaney’s reading of the notes, not as a source to document and illuminate transcript, but rather as another textual vacuum: “Far from filling in the gaps left by quotation and montage, the note incompletes the text, and this incompleteness becomes a central formal element in Bäcker’s works.” Greaney, “Aestheticization and the Shoah,” 45. 33

See Greaney, ibid., for an illuminating parsing of Bäcker’s use of “Kauderwelsch” (gibberish) in his statement that precedes the notes and bibliography to transcript. Significantly, what Greaney translates as “deadly gibberish” is, in the original, “ein Leben kostendes Kauderwelsch,” a formulation that suggests, in the extended adjectival modifier “ein Leben kostendes,” a drawing out of language and the agency inherent in the process of killing.

McGlothlin.indd 119

10/16/2016 2:05:41 PM

6: Writing before the Shoah, and Reading After: Charlotte Salomon’s Life? Or Theater? and Its Reception Liliane Weissberg

Artistic Documents

E

the international art exhibition Documenta takes place in Kassel, Germany. For the duration of each exhibition, Kassel turns into a center of the international art world and displays work by leading and emerging artists in multiple exhibit halls and buildings and in parks, streets, and public squares. Gallery owners, museum curators, and art lovers travel from all over the world to this small German town that then vies for attention with other art-friendly locales such as New York, Basel, or Miami. The Italian-American curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, known as CCB, was in charge of the dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012. She chose a motto for the exhibit (“The dance was very frenetic, lively, rattling, clanging, rolling, contorted, and lasted for a long time”1) and designed a concept that paired older art work, and even some antiquities, with work that was to be shown here for the first time. In making her choice of already existent material, CCB was interested in work that gives evidence of artistic techniques of present-day significance as well as in art that is politically informed. Specifically, she chose items that dealt with, or worked through, historical events that could be termed “traumatic.” Thus she included pictures featuring the photographer Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub in his Munich apartment, taken by David E. Scherman shortly after Germany’s capitulation in 1945, and the traditionally woven tapestries featuring images of Nazi persecution produced by the Swedish-Norwegian artist Hannah Ryggen in the late thirties and forties. Many of the artists included in the show were women, among them contemporary conceptual and video artists who had been working in places that had experienced recent armed conflict or uprisings, such as Mariam Ghani, the Brooklyn-based daughter of the current president of Afghanistan, whose video installation dealt with Kassel and Kabul. Indeed, a small VERY FIVE YEARS

McGlothlin.indd 120

10/16/2016 2:05:42 PM

WRITING BEFORE THE SHOAH, AND READING AFTER



121

event related to the Kassel exhibitions was also staged as part of dOCUMENTA (13) in Kabul.2 In one of the Kassel exhibition halls CCB displayed pages from Charlotte Salomon’s most important work, Life? Or Theater? (Leben? oder Theater?), on loan from the Jewish Historical Museum (Joods Historisch Museum) in Amsterdam.3 She highlighted two aspects of Salomon’s work, setting it beside the work of other women artists, most of them non-European: first, its inherent modernity, which places Salomon and her project right in the midst of a contemporary discussion on conceptual art, and second, its political core and message. Despite the fact that Salomon’s work was produced in a lone hotel room in the South of France, never displayed during her lifetime, and perhaps not even intended for general viewing, Life? Or Theater? was to be viewed in this context as what would be called a public intervention. Salomon’s gouaches were included, moreover, in a group of women artists’ work to express “chorality.”4 In a room at the Fridericianum, Salomon’s pages were partnered with the drawings and collages of Anna Boghiguian, an artist born in Cairo in 1946, who describes her life as “nomadic” and produces work on paper that reflects her experiences of travel and political conflict. Her work was pinned to the wall and provided the background to Salomon’s gouaches.

Fig. 6.1. dOCUMENTA (13) Kassel, 2012, Fridericianum. © Liliane Weissberg. Reproduced with permission of the photographer.

McGlothlin.indd 121

10/16/2016 2:05:42 PM

122



LILIANE WEISSBERG

To further highlight the importance of Salomon’s work, both for the art world and for this specific Documenta, CCB asked the feminist art critic Griselda Pollock to contribute a text on Salomon; this was published and sold as an individual “notebook” accompanying the exhibition and furthermore was included in the larger catalog, entitled, with an ironic glance toward religious significance, the The Book of Books, or Buch der Bücher. Pollock herself had already published extensively on Salomon, largely in the context of women’s art; for example “Theater of Memory: Trauma and Cure in Charlotte Salomon’s Modernist Fairytale” appeared in 2006, and “Jewish Space/Women’s Time: Encounters with History in the Artworking of Charlotte Salomon, 1941 to 1942” appeared in 2007.5 For the dOCUMENTA (13) Pollock wrote a piece entitled “Allo-Thanatography or Allo-Autobiography,” which, despite its exploration of the personal, that is, autobiographical side of Salomon’s endeavor, tried to come to conclusions within the context of the guidelines of dOCUMENTA (13), which were, after all, in CCB’s formulation: artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory. These are terrains where politics are inseparable from a sensual, energetic, and worldly alliance between current research in various scientific and artistic fields and other knowledges, both ancient and contemporary.6

With the dOCUMENTA (13) Salomon thus entered the fold of political artists and contemporary theorists. What are the consequences, however, of treating Salomon’s work as both representative of the Holocaust and relevant for an understanding of the contemporary political situation? Can Salomon’s work really be subsumed under the category of “Holocaust Art,” and does its political impact derive from this contextualization? And what kind of artistic researcher is Salomon meant to be here?

Framing Salomon could only be represented at the dOCUMENTA(13) by a few pages of her oeuvre. These were placed in horizontal glass vitrines and offered both as paintings and as parts of a larger book, another The Book of Books of sorts. Life? Or Theater? had to be shown by default only in part. Salomon painted Life? Or Theater? during an eighteen-month period, beginning in 1940; she revised and reorganized this work in 1942. It consists of 769 numbered loose-leaf pages that form the core of her endeavor; but unnumbered pages are included in the main part as well. Moreover, Salomon did not discard any work that she decided to

McGlothlin.indd 122

10/16/2016 2:05:42 PM

Fig. 6.2. Charlotte Salomon, Life? or Theater? Reproduced with permission of Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, © Charlotte Salomon Foundation, Charlotte Salomon®, www.jck.nl.

McGlothlin.indd 123

10/16/2016 2:05:42 PM

Fig. 6.3. Charlotte Salomon, Life? or Theater? Reproduced with permission of Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, © Charlotte Salomon Foundation, Charlotte Salomon®, www.jck.nl.

McGlothlin.indd 124

10/16/2016 2:05:42 PM

Fig. 6.4. Charlotte Salomon, Life? or Theater? Reproduced with permission of Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, © Charlotte Salomon Foundation, Charlotte Salomon®, www.jck.nl.

McGlothlin.indd 125

10/16/2016 2:05:43 PM

Fig. 6.5. Charlotte Salomon, Life? or Theater? Reproduced with permission of Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, © Charlotte Salomon Foundation, Charlotte Salomon®, www.jck.nl.

McGlothlin.indd 126

10/16/2016 2:05:44 PM

Fig. 6.6. Charlotte Salomon, Life? or Theater? Reproduced with permission of Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, © Charlotte Salomon Foundation, Charlotte Salomon®, www.jck.nl.

McGlothlin.indd 127

10/16/2016 2:05:45 PM

128



LILIANE WEISSBERG

Fig. 6.7. Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin, advertisement poster for the exhibit “Art of the Holocaust,” 2016. © Liliane Weissberg. Reproduced with permission of the photographer.

exclude, and more than 500 pages survive that provide alternative renderings of her story, repeated renderings of events, and excised scenes. Together with a postscript, Salomon’s Life? Or Theater? totals more than 1300 pages. And despite Salomon’s own numbering of pages, there are many questions concerning their sequence. While the work’s size may make it impossible to exhibit Life? Or Theater? in its entirety, it also did not survive in its complete form. Salomon’s stepmother, Paula Lindberg, remembers her visit to Villefranche in 1947, when the work was given to her. Salomon had wrapped the manuscript in brown paper; she dedicated and bequeathed it to Ottilie Moore, a wealthy American in whose house Salomon had spent the last months of her life.7 But Moore left France and returned to the United States in 1941, traveling back to Europe only after the Second World War. Not

McGlothlin.indd 128

10/16/2016 2:05:45 PM

WRITING BEFORE THE SHOAH, AND READING AFTER



129

until 1947, in Lindberg’s presence, did Moore open the parcels and view the manuscript of Life? Or Theater? for the first time. Lindberg censored the work right away, removing and destroying pages that depicted Moore and her daughter.8 Despite the elisions, the surviving manuscript of Life? Or Theater? is still not only fragmentary but also excessively large in comparison to Salomon’s planned project. Lindberg and Salomon’s father, Albert, had survived the war in Amsterdam and continued to live there. Lindberg took Life? Or Theater? with her back to the Netherlands. Years after the rediscovery of Salomon’s work, she and Albert Salomon selected various pages for viewing, and Willem Sandberg, the director of the Amsterdam Stedelijk, introduced them to his institution. Ad Petersen served as curator for the first exhibition of Life? Or Theater?, staged at the Stedelijk Museum in 1961. 1961 was also the year in which Adolf Eichmann was tried in Jerusalem, of course, and this event drew new attention to the so-called Final Solution and the Holocaust. The first exhibition of Salomon’s Life? Or Theater? resonated with this event. Eager to play down tension among the characters depicted, this early show focused on Charlotte Kann, the main protagonist of the work. Its success was due to the choice of material and censorship. The work was shown at Amsterdam’s prominent museum of contemporary art, but it emphasized Salomon’s Jewish background and her personal history.9 Two pages that Salomon had excluded from the main corpus and that contained rare images alluding to Judaism were included in the show. One of these pictured Salomon and her father in front of the gate of the Jewish cemetery; the other showed her in front of a synagogue. One text, however, was censored. At one point, Charlotte Kann declares, “I feel as if the world needs to be put together again,” and her grandfather responds: “Well, go ahead already, and kill yourself!” For this early exhibit, the grandfather’s words were airbrushed out of the picture; the cruelty in this dialogue was thus erased. Following the success of the Stedelijk show, Petersen and Gerhard Schoenberger put together a traveling exhibition that was shown in various cities in Germany and Israel.10 For a book of her work published in England and the United States in 1963, Charlotte: A Diary of Pictures, the pedagogue, politician, and Holocaust survivor Emil Straus provided a biographical note and the well-known Protestant theologian Paul Tillich wrote the preface.11 Salomon’s manuscript was viewed as the legacy of a victim of the Holocaust, but Tillich’s introduction made a reference that became seminal for its future reception: he compared her work to that of Anne Frank.12 Anne Frank’s diary was first published in excerpts in Dutch in 1947, and in German and French translation in 1950; two years later, it appeared in English translation. By 1961, the year of the first exhibition of Salomon’s work, it had already become a success and a sensation worldwide, as a book, as a text that was turned into a play, and as a play that was turned

McGlothlin.indd 129

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

130



LILIANE WEISSBERG

into a movie.13 Indeed, the The Diary of a Young Girl was soon viewed not just as a document or literary work but as the prime example of a new genre of Holocaust literature. Like Frank’s diary, Life? Or Theater? was for Tillich a document of sorts, both of Salomon’s life and of a life that perished after the work’s completion. Frank and Salomon seemed to have much in common. They were German Jews who during the Nazi period had tried to flee to safety and who had both settled on the Netherlands as a refuge. For Frank, Amsterdam was the new home for the whole family; Salomon’s father and stepmother moved to Amsterdam as well, while Salomon joined her grandparents in the South of France. Moreover, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, had been a friend and adviser of Charlotte’s father Albert Salomon; they had known each other in Amsterdam. Like Anne Frank’s diary, the first exhibition of Salomon’s work was to offer both an image of girlish innocence and a lesson for future generations, documented by the choice of pages, the censorship of her grandfather’s words, and the appeal of a young woman’s work to a younger audience.14 The title of the book publication that accompanied the traveling exhibition, Charlotte: A Diary of Pictures, also resonated with Frank’s work. Salomon’s Life? Or Theater? was to be understood as a “diary,” even though her text referred to events before her’s birth as well as events that she could not possibly have witnessed. Salomon and the protagonist of her work, Charlotte Kann, became indistinguishable from one another, and like Frank, Salomon was seen as offering not fiction or artistic experiment but a documentary tale and history lesson. While the work Life? Or Theater? may complicate all presuppositions of autobiographical discourse and the very binary of fiction or truth, the early publications and exhibitions of her work took Salomon’s text at face value.15 The link between Anne Frank and Charlotte Salomon, once established, continued to exist in the years that followed. In 1986 the Akademie der Künste in Berlin published a small book that brought together the respective presentations delivered at the openings of exhibitions on Frank and Salomon. Both exhibitions were organized by the Anne Frank Stiftung. Harry Mulisch’s lecture on Frank, “Das Mädchen und der Tod” (Death and the Maiden), drew its title not only from Schubert’s musical piece but also from one of Salomon’s drawings, which she had, moreover, executed while still in Berlin. In 1981 the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam curated a second exhibition of Salomon’s work. Following Sandberg’s advice, Lindberg and Albert Salomon had presented Life? Or Theater? as a gift to that museum in 1971, and not to the Stedelijk.16 With this gift, the specifically Jewish experience of Salomon’s work was stressed once again. Moreover, the Jewish Historical Museum now housed both Frank’s diary and Salomon’s major work. The 1981 show was more substantial

McGlothlin.indd 130

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

WRITING BEFORE THE SHOAH, AND READING AFTER



131

than the first one; it featured about 250 pages of Life? Or Theater? in narrative sequence. This exhibit, along with later ones, proved that there were many other problems inherent in the physical shape of Salomon’s work besides the consideration of its size. For the first 210 pages, Salomon painted pictures, writing her text on transparent paper that functioned as an overlay to the painted page. With the help of these overlays, Salomon could use the text as a commentary to the image but also could remove it from the picture. Her writing was able not only to complement but also to contradict the image at times. Salomon’s text veils and sometimes nearly hides the image, rendering it hard to see, but protecting and preserving it as well. The transparency serves as a theatrical curtain and replicates the image of a curtain with which Salomon’s work commences. To view the image properly, the transparent paper has to be lifted, and this cannot be done by multiple viewers without damaging the work. Salomon abandoned the transparencies in the later pages of Life? Or Theater? and introduced text directly to the painted page. It is unclear why she changed her procedure. Perhaps she was unable to purchase more tracing paper during what was, after all, a time of war; furthermore, she seemed eager to complete her work. Her later images are painted more hurriedly, as well, and offer quick sketches. But even on these later pages, text is not separated from image. It often invades it, challenges it, covers the image like a blanket, or becomes simply ornamental. In the pages of the postscript we face writing only, rendered in expressive lettering and in colored paint. Text becomes image here. Salomon herself described her work, however, neither as a series of paintings nor as a text, but as a “three-colored Singespiel” [sic], a work to be performed on stage rather than viewed or read. This description itself points, of course, to a contemporary of hers, a German playwright whom she must have studied and whose productions she may have seen before 1933, namely Bertolt Brecht. Brecht’s Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera ), with music composed by Kurt Weill, was a great success when staged in Berlin in 1931. From Brecht, Salomon seemed to have learned to work with oppositions and jarring differences between words and text, with the “alienation” or Verfremdung that Brecht demanded. His audience was to react thoughtfully, and not emotionally; it was not to identify with the persons onstage. Brecht’s Threepenny Opera is a vibrant critique of capitalism and Germany’s economic system, and it is interesting to note Salomon’s variation here. It is not the economic exchange of money—the three pennies of the play’s title—that is at stake here. Rather, Salomon works with three colors—red, yellow, and blue—and puts them into circulation. Specific colors designate family members, friends, and foes, combined into a threatening brown that characterizes Nazi uniforms. But visible colors are not the only colors important here; colors

McGlothlin.indd 131

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

132



LILIANE WEISSBERG

can also be heard in a kind of coloratura, a coloring of the song by voice. Salomon puts special emphasis on music; after all, Life? Or Theater? is a Singespiel, a play with songs. She writes: The origin of the present set of pages is to be imagined as follows. A person is sitting at the sea. And painting. A melody suddenly comes to mind. Starting to hum it, the person notices that the melody exactly resembles what needs to go down on paper. A text takes form in thought, and now in a loud voice, the melody begins to be sung, countless times, along with the text being painted, until the page appears ready. Often, several pages are painted, and a duet arises, or it even happens that all the characters have different texts to sing, from which emerges a chorus.17

Salomon wants to achieve her own form of “chorality,” rendered by folk songs, opera arias, popular tunes, film music, and many other examples to which her text alludes again and again. In an essay that focuses on Salomon’s use of music, Mark Rosinski lists her musical references, thus pointing to another aspect of Salomon’s work,18 which attempts to be a version of a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk and offers a coming together of words and song and image and a staged performance.19 Today, the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam offers a CD with music referred to in Salomon’s work as a guide for its visitors. Furthermore, Marc-André Dalbavie used many of the musical citations in Salomon’s text as a foil for his own operatic composition Charlotte Salomon, which premiered at the Salzburger Festspiele in July 2014.20 In Salomon’s work, however, visual art, text, and music do not join easily to form a synesthesia of sorts. Everything seems to come together, but just like the overlying sheets of text, it can come apart as well. The work’s content stresses broken relationships, borders, and impossible transitions. Figures appear squeezed to the page’s margins, cut apart, or doubled up. At times, the impression is one of movement or of a filmic rendering of narrative.21 Renderings of buildings or interiors mirror the expressionist architecture of silent film; cartoon-like bubbles seem to contain sentences, but are unable to do so.22 Visual planes multiply, and again and again there are images of a window that opens up to the beyond.23 It was a window through which Charlotte’s mother jumped to end her life, through which her grandmother jumped to end her life. The window is sometimes closed, but mostly it opens out. Within the work itself, nothing can really be contained.

Orpheus A play with music (or Singspiel) was a popular form of theatrical presentation in the early modern period, and many eighteenth-century

McGlothlin.indd 132

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

WRITING BEFORE THE SHOAH, AND READING AFTER



133

examples, for example the Singspiele composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, are still performed today. In contrast to operas, a Singspiel’s plot is carried by dialogue and merely supported by songs. Often, early Singspiele did not have a single composer. Its authors introduced a variety of musical sources, many of which were already familiar to audiences from other contexts. Many early Singspiele resembled morality plays, while later ones were more often composed for amusement and lighter entertainment. In calling her work Singespiel instead of Singspiel, Salomon chose a slightly old-fashioned tone, one that incorporates an imperative of sorts. Besides raising a painterly curtain to offer a playlist of characters and singers, it may even invite its audience to join in. A Singspiel, or Singespiel, is primarily written for the ear, while a drama or Schauspiel stresses the eye and vision. But the Singespiel is nevertheless a theatrical performance and features a story to be staged. The audience becomes a witness and, watching the story develop in the present, it is asked to appreciate what it hears and sees in the here and now. And indeed, Life? Or Theater? is written entirely in the present tense, although it unfolds as a work of memory. Life? Or Theater? narrates the story of Charlotte Kann, a young girl in Berlin, who describes family and friends, vacations in Italy, and her emigration to the South of France after Kristallnacht, where she joins her maternal grandparents. The artistic project puts borders and limitations into question; the plot does the same thing. Crossing borders is here both fun and lifesaving. But there are also different and more subtle ways in which borderlines are crossed. Visual and musical references cross genres from opera to popular song and call into question the distinction between high and low. In regard to the visual tradition, Salomon is conversant not only with painters who were widely recognized, canonized, and politically acceptable in the mid- and late thirties, such as Michelangelo, but also with expressionist painters.24 She must have encountered their art in far-away gallery wings at Berlin museums, in art books, or perhaps most likely at the exhibit “Degenerate Art” (Entartete Kunst), which moved from its initial presentation in Munich in 1937 to Berlin for a further run.25 Charlotte Kann is Jewish, but many elements—a Christmas tree, for example—point to a Christian tradition as well. Moreover, despite the images selected for the 1961 exhibition of Salomon’s work, Life? Or Theater? does not focus on religious issues, depicting rather a secular family and home. Amadeus Daberlohn, a voice teacher who takes center stage in the main part of the play, compares himself not only to the mythical Orpheus but also to Christ. In Salomon’s work, religion is difficult to ascribe to clearly marked categories. In terms of gender, borderlines are also crossed. The author who is inspired to paint Life? Or Theater? is called “Der Verfasser” (a masculine

McGlothlin.indd 133

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

134



LILIANE WEISSBERG

designation meaning “editor” or “author”) and “er” (he); the author thus assumes a male role that would seemingly contradict Charlotte Kann’s or Salomon’s female positions. Charlotte’s first declaration of love is moreover not for a man but for her stepmother, a well-known Jewish singer of Bach’s church cantatas, here named Paulinka Bimbam. She describes an affair with Daberlohn who had in turn confessed his love for her stepmother, calling her his “Madonna.” This triangulated constellation, which seems to describe Lindberg, her voice teacher Alfred Wolfsohn, and Salomon, was repeated later on in Salomon’s life as well: the manuscript of Life? Or Theater? was offered as a gift to her French host Moore, whose former lover, Alexander Nagler, Salomon married in 1943, already pregnant with their child. Of course, we do not know for sure whether Kann’s affair corresponds with the real-life experiences of Salomon, who invented names for figures in her life that would put Life? Or Theater? in close reference to her real-life experiences. But the reader may wonder about Kann’s attention to the film poster of Mädchen in Uniform, a 1931 movie that caused a minor scandal because of its depiction of Lesbian desire; a song was featured there as well that seemed to comment on this desire.26 In Salomon’s work, desire is expressed toward a man (Daberlohn) as well as a woman (Paulinka), but perhaps not accidentally, this is a man who desires the desirable woman. There is a particular political message offered in the blurring of categories and border lines. Drawing border lines was a primary endeavor of Nazi ideology, which sought a clear distinction between worthy and degenerative life, between Aryans and Jews. What Salomon’s work displays, however, is the impossibility of such an undertaking. The distinction between Aryans and Jews has little relevance in a play that features almost exclusively spaces occupied by Jews. Moreover, the most radical border line that Salomon (and Kann in the text) considers crossing is not that of gender, religion, sexual orientation, or race.27 It is instead the border line between life and death. Salomon’s prequel, or Vorspiel, begins with the time before Charlotte’s and Salomon’s births and tells a story of family suicides. First, there is Kann’s maternal aunt Charlotte, after whom she was named, who decides to end her life by drowning herself in the Schlachtensee in Berlin. Many other relatives—mostly female ones—go on to take their own lives. Her own mother does not die of influenza, as she is once told, but by throwing herself out of a window, as Kann’s grandfather explains to her late in his (and Kann’s) life. If Kann were to follow the contemporary theories of degeneration, her life would be doomed as well, and an early suicide would be almost inescapable. But in Life? Or Theater? death enters via a different, musical path as well. A few years after her mother’s death, Kann’s father marries the singer Paulinka Bimbam. In Salomon’s book Paulinka not only garners fame as a

McGlothlin.indd 134

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

WRITING BEFORE THE SHOAH, AND READING AFTER



135

Bach interpreter; she also prepares to sing the role of Orpheus in Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Eurydice. As a singer, Paulinka crosses gender roles here as well, but she also attempts the part of a mythical figure who is able to enter the realm of the dead and to return from it. And unlike the Greek myth, Gluck introduces Amor into his play, who rescues Euridice as well and returns her to life for the sake of love. In Life? Or Theater? Daberlohn enters the story as a person injured and traumatized in the First World War. He lost his voice in the war and has struggled to regain it by forcing himself to teach others to sing and by developing his own Orphic theory of music and life. He views himself as a person who has returned from the dead; he states that life can be won again and appreciated, not by avoiding death, but only by embracing it. He even commissions his own death mask as a life mask. His relationship with Paulinka commences when she offers him a gift, a drawing entitled “Death and the Maiden.”28 Daberlohn interprets the image as a representation of himself and Kann. He asks Kann to search for the inner child in herself and to accept the whole variety of her emotions. Only in this way can she find her true self and accept life. If music is one path of this exploration, painting is certainly another. Most of Salomon’s Singespiel takes place in Berlin, but its epilogue takes the reader/viewer/listener to the South of France. After Kann’s grandmother commits suicide—she, too, throws herself out of a window—Kann learns from her grandfather the real circumstances of her mother’s death and the seemingly inescapable series of suicides that mark her family’s history.29 But for Kann this knowledge leads not to desperation but rather to a decision that takes into account Daberlohn’s lessons and her faith in the power of art. Instead of ending her own life, she begins to paint her life. The epilogue explains Life? Or Theater? as above all the story that leads her to this decision and features the fulfillment of her given task. It relates the story of the origin of her undertaking as a history of the birth of art out of the experience of death. Art may be an eccentric occupation, but it is deeply therapeutic and life-embracing. While Daberlohn and his theories receive much ironic treatment in Salomon’s work, they also serve as a model and inspiration for it. It is in the end not Paulinka and Daberlohn who find themselves in the role of Orpheus, but Charlotte herself. Her relatives and friends, alive or dead, form yet another kind of chorus or “chorality,” namely that of a classical tragedy that turns out to be enduring because of the power of art. Whereas a Greek chorus tells of the unavoidable fate offered by the Gods, in her work Salomon indicates agency and choice. And when Kann chooses art over death, her heroine faces the water again. This time it is not the Schlachtensee that seals the first Charlotte’s fate but the Mediterranean, unbound by any window. Life? Or Theater? appears on this page now without any question marks.

McGlothlin.indd 135

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

136



LILIANE WEISSBERG

Holocaust Art How do we then situate Life? Or Theater? between the early view of document and diary and the more recent one of experimental art and theoretical exploration? The final images of Life? Or Theater? are life-affirming; following Daberlohn’s theory, art may be able to overcome the experience of death. Salomon’s Singespiel pursues this thesis in eccentric, daring, and self-confident ways. This Charlotte is, after all, no wise judge Salomon but a person who lives up to her name, she can, kann. Her father and grandfather earn their living as doctors; for her part, Kann adopts, if not discovers, the pharmakon of art. And art not only empowers her personal life: it also reacts to the political events that frame her story. Again and again we learn about the power of Nazis and Nazi ideology. But in Salomon’s pictures the swastika is reversed, as if viewed in a mirror. There are no images of Sachsenhausen or Gurs included in Salomon’s manuscript. Salomon’s perhaps most dramatic experiences with the political regime before her artistic undertaking—her father’s internment in Sachsenhausen, her own internment in Gurs—are barely reflected in Kann’s story of a return to life. Elision, or silence, may be as important in this Singespiel as music is. But as the political reality turns grim for the Kann family, it is never really central, instead existing only as the frame for an intensely private story. The trauma that Charlotte Kann wants and must face here is her family history of suicides and death. The achievement of art is the remembering, repeating, and working through of this trauma that seems to be located in the period before the Nazis seized political power, and even before Charlotte’s or Salomon’s birth. The work deals with a fate other than political events, although such events encourage misery and provide a resonance to that other biological inescapability. Death may threaten from the outside, but it raises its head from the inside as well, and for that seemingly inescapable verdict Kann finds the open window of art. Life? Or Theater? is a work of mourning that tries to respond to the stillness of death with the visual means of film, the temporal flow of music, and repetitions and variations that should assert existence and identity. It would be easy to read Life? Or Theater? as the story of Charlotte Salomon as well, and to contribute our knowledge of the events of her later life to our reading of her work. Indeed, the early reception of Life? Or Theater? drew on Salomon’s life after 1942, her capture, and that of her husband, by the Gestapo, and their deportation to and death in Auschwitz in 1943. In this reading, Orpheus is unable to emerge from the underworld, and art proves to be nothing but a testament of sorts. This reading, begun in 1951, continues until today, and offers comparisons of Life? Or Theater? to works about death camps. Two more recent examples of this trend in reception are also illuminating. In her essay “Ornament,

McGlothlin.indd 136

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

WRITING BEFORE THE SHOAH, AND READING AFTER



137

Boundaries, and Mourning after Auschwitz,” Shelley Hornstein draws parallels between Salomon’s Singespiel and Chantal Akerman’s art projects dealing with Auschwitz, the photographic installations of lost Jews by Christian Boltanski, and Shimon Attie’s light projections of past architecture and people onto present sites to render a lost “Jewish” Berlin visible.30 In Hornstein’s reading, Life? Or Theater? is less a Haggadah, that is, a story of Jewish exile and return, than a Kaddish, a memorial prayer for the dead. Mary Lowenthal Felstiner, Salomon’s biographer, offers a counter-story to Salomon’s life by interlacing the biographical account of her life with that of Alois Brunner, the Nazi official responsible for the deportations of Jews in the South of France to Auschwitz.31 Brunner survived the war, assumed a false identity and spent the last years of his life in Syria. Until the end of his life, he remained true to his racial ideology, this particular interpretation of the inescapability of fate. He confirmed that biology was destiny. With the inclusion of Salomon’s work in the dOCUMENTA (13), CCB continued this kind of reading—despite her emphasis on experimental artistic form—as evidenced by the first sentence of the biographical information offered in the catalog: “A Jewish German artist born in Berlin, Charlotte Salomon was murdered in Auschwitz in 1943, at the age of twenty-six, five months pregnant.”32 How easily can one bring together, or differentiate, personal and political trauma? And is any work conceived by victims of the Holocaust automatically considered to be Holocaust literature and art? The author wrote in perilous times and became a victim of the fascist regime after the completion of her work, but while the category of “Holocaust Art” must always be filled belatedly, the case of Salomon’s book is particularly problematic. The story of Charlotte Kann’s life has to be viewed against the background of historical events, yet at the same time it offers a very personal tale whose drama may lie elsewhere. The story of Life? or Theater? both is and is not that of Charlotte Salomon. Most importantly, Kann’s story ends happily. In Life? or Theater? the plot’s resolution points in a different direction than Solomon’s own tragic end of life: a certain redemption of fate. Perhaps the true tragedy of Salomon’s book is that it finally offers this much hope, at least for Kann. Thus she would insist on the affirmation of life, and call the artistic process that leads to it perhaps the most eccentric task: “Just view the flowers in the meadow, so much beauty, so much joy, look at the mountains up there, so much sunshine, so much light.”33

Notes 1

See Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, “The dance was very frenetic, lively, rattling, changing, rolling, contorted, and lasted for a long time,” in The Book of Books, Catalog 1/3 dOCUMENTA (13) (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2012), 30–45.

McGlothlin.indd 137

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

138



LILIANE WEISSBERG

2

dOCUMENTA(13) was shown June 9–September 16, 2012, in Kassel, and smaller exhibitions and discussion fora were organized in Kabul (June 20–July 19, 2012), Alexandria-Cairo (July 1–July 8, 2012), and Banff (August 2–August 15, 2012). 3

See Das Logbuch/The Logbook, Catalog 2/3 dOCUMENTA (13) (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2012), 158–59. 4 See Quinn Latimer, “Charlotte Salomon Leben? Oder Theater? Ein Singspiel (Life? Or Theater? A Play with Music), 1941–42. Documenta 13. Brothers Grimm Museum / Dcumenta-Halle / Fridericianum / Gloria Cinema / Hauptbahnhof / Karlsaue Park / Neue Galerie / Orangerie / Ottoneum / Ständehaus / Untere Karlstr. 14 and others, Kassel June 9–September 16, 2012. Art Agenda (June 9, 2012), http://art-agenda.com/reviews/documenta-13-2/. 5

Griselda Pollock, “Theater of Memory: Trauma and Cure in Charlotte Salomon’s Modernist Fairy Tale,” in Reading Charlotte Salomon, ed. Michael P. Steinberg and Monica Bohm-Duchen (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), 34–72; Griselda Pollock, “Jewish Space/Women’s Time: Encounters with History in the Artworking of Charlotte Salomon, 1941 to 1942,” in Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive (London: Routledge, 2007), 143–64. 6

Christov-Bakargiev, statement, prefacing The Book of Books, n.p.

7

Salomon painted Life? Or Theater? in a hotel room in a nearby village, but moved back to Moore’s house after the completion of her work. 8 Christine Fischer-Defoy, “Mein c’est la vie-Leben” in einer bewegten Zeit: Der Lebensweg der jüdischen Künstlerin Paula Salomon-Lindberg (Berlin: Das Arsenal, 1992), 141–42. 9

On the early 1961 exhibition, see Fischer-Defoy, Mein c’est la vie-Leben, 143.

10

See Judith C. E. Belinfante, “Leben oder Theater, die Grenzen der Wirklichkeit,” in Die Welt der Anne Frank / Charlotte Salomon, ed. Joke Kniesmeyer, Harry Mulisch, and Judith C. E. Belinfante (Berlin: Akademie der Künste, 1986), 25. 11

Charlotte Salomon, Charlotte: A Diary in Pictures, preface by Paul Tillich, biographical note by Emil Straus (London: Collins, 1963; New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963). 12

Paul Tillich, in Salomon, Charlotte, preface.

13

Anne Frank’s diary was first published as Het Achterhuis: Dagboekbrieven 14 Juni 1942–1 Augustus 1944 (Amsterdam: Contact Publishing, 1947) and in English translation as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (New York: Doubleday, 1952; London: Valentine Mitchell, 1952). Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett turned the book into a play in 1955, which was in turn adapted as a movie version in 1959. By 1961 Anne Frank’s diary had already become a bestseller as a book and as a popular play. For just one example of the many joint references to Salomon and Frank, see Ulrick Roloff-Momin, “Zum Geleit,” in Charlotte Salomon—Leben oder Theater? Das “Lebensbild” einer jüdischen Malerin aus Berlin, 1917–1943: Bilder und Spuren, Notizen, Gespräche, Dokumente, by Charlotte Salomon, ed. Christine Fischer-Defoy (Berlin: Das Arsenal, 1986), 7–8.

McGlothlin.indd 138

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

WRITING BEFORE THE SHOAH, AND READING AFTER



139

14

The book’s American edition was catalogued as “biography: juvenile”; see http://www.worldcat.org/title/charlotte-a-diary-in-pictures/oclc/345220?refer er=br&ht=edition. Accessed May 9, 2016. 15

With regard to the question of autobiographical genre, see Carolyn F. Austin, “The Endurance of Ash: Melancholia and the Persistance of the Material in Charlotte Salomon’s Leben? Oder Theater?,” Biography 31 (2008): 105. 16

Belinfante, “Leben oder Theater,” 25.

17

Quoted in Mary Lowenthal Felstiner, To Paint Her Life: Charlotte Salomon in the Nazi Era (New York: Harper Collins, 1994), 142–43. 18

Mark Rosinski, “Zur Musik in Leben oder Theater? Versuch einer Inszenierung,” in Salomon, Charlotte Salomon—Leben oder Theater?, 91–94. 19 See also Claudia Barnett, “Painting as Performance: Charlotte Salomon’s Life? Or Theater?,” TDR 47 (2003): 97–126. 20

Marc-André Dalbavie, Charlotte Salomon, libretto by Barbara Honigmann, opera premiere Salzburg, July 18, 2014. 21

See also Gertrud Koch’s discussion of Salomon’s references to film, “Charlotte Salomons Buch Leben? oder Theater? als historischer Familienroman,” in Die Einstellung ist die Einstellung: Visuelle Konstruktionen des Judentums, ed. Gertrud Koch (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1992), 189–209. 22

See, for example, Ariela Freedman, “Charlotte Salomon, Graphic Artist,” in Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews, ed. Sarah Lightman (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014), 38–50. 23

With regard to the visual tradition of Salomon’s “window,” see also Michael P. Steinberg, “Charlotte Salomon’s Modernism,” in Jewish Musical Modernism, Old and New, ed. Philip V. Bohlman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 146–52. 24

See, for example, Ernst van Alphen, “Autobiography as Resistance to History: Charlotte Salomon’s Life or Theater?,” in his book Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature, and Theory (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), 65–89, 211–14. 25 The exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) was first shown in Munich from July 19 to November 30, 1937, and was very successful. Subsequently the exhibition traveled to Berlin. It is highly likely that Salomon, who studied art at that time, would have seen the exhibition; the influence of expressionist painting can be traced in her work. 26

See also Pollock, “Jewish Space/Women’s Time, 155; and Pollock, “Back to Africa: From Natal to Natal in the Locations of Memory,” JVAP 5 (2006): 49–72. 27

See Annegret Friedrich, “Charlotte Salomon’s Erinnerungsarbeit Leben? oder Theater?,” in Zwischen Karriere und Verfolgung: Handlungsräume von Frauen im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland, ed. Kirsten Heinsohn, Barbara Vogel, and Ulrike Weckel (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 1997), 129–47.

28

In 1937 Salomon won a student prize for her picture “Tod und das Mädchen” at the Berlin Art Academy, but because she was Jewish, she was not able to accept the prize. Salomon’s friend Barbara Petzel received the prize for Salomon’s

McGlothlin.indd 139

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

140



LILIANE WEISSBERG

submission instead. See Antje Oliver and Sevgi Braun, “Nur in der Kunst das Leid überwinden: Am Beispiel der Charlotte Salomon; Ein jüdisches Familienschicksal aus Berlin,” in Anpassung oder Verbot: Künstlerinnen und die 30er Jahre, by Antje Olivier and Sevgi Braun (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1998), 205. 29 Darcy E. Buerkle reads Life? Or Theater? within the framework of a contemporary history of suicide; she views Salomon’s life less as an extraordinary life than as a good and perhaps typical example of (Jewish) women’s choices at that time; see Buerkle, Nothing Happened: Charlotte Salomon and an Archive of Suicide (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013). 30

Shelley Hornstein, “Ornament, Boundaries, and Mourning after Auschwitz,” in Reading Charlotte Salomon, ed. Michael P. Steinberg and Monica BohmDuchen (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), 126–39. Compare also the constellation of Salomon and Chantal Akerman in Akerman, Neben seinen Schnürsenkeln in einem leeren Kühlschrank laufen (Berlin: Jüdisches Museum Berlin/Laconic Press, 2007); however, the publication accompanied an exhibition that tried to reflect on formal parallels as well. 31

Felstiner, To Paint One’s Life, especially 178–237.

32

“Charlotte Salomon,” in dOCUMENTA (13) Katalog/catalog 3/3 (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2012), 118. My own translation. 33

Charlotte Kann, at the end of the Singespiel. Charlotte Salomon Archive, Jewish Museum Amsterdam, sheet 474. See Charlotte Salomon, Life? Or Theater? An Autobiographical Play, trans. Leila Vennewitz (New York: Viking Press, 1981), 699. In my reading of Salomon’s work as affirming life through art, I agree with the ideas of Sarah Schmidt, in her essay “Die Masken des Orpheus oder Wie man in die Unterwelt steigt, um am Leben zu bleiben: Überlegungen zum intermedialen Bilderwerk Leben? oder Theater? von Charlotte Salomon,” Kultur und Gespenster 7, Dossier Autofiktion (2008): 177–89.

McGlothlin.indd 140

10/16/2016 2:05:46 PM

7: The Power of Paratext: Jewish Authorship and Testimonial Authority in Benjamin Stein’s Die Leinwand Katja Garloff

S

of his 2010 novel Die Leinwand (The Canvas, 2012), Benjamin Stein said in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit: HORTLY AFTER THE PUBLICATION

Für mein Judentum . . . brauche ich keinen Zionismus und keinen Holocaust. Das spielt zwar eine Rolle, kommt aber von außen. Wenn sich jemand an mich wendet, weil er seine jüdische Identität sucht, dann sage ich ihm: “Versuche doch mal, Schabbes-Kerzen anzuzünden, und schau, was das mit dir macht.”1 [For my Judaism . . . I need no Zionism and no Holocaust. These certainly play a role, but they come from the outside. If someone turns to me because he is searching for his Jewish identity, I tell him: “Try lighting Shabbat candles, and see what that does to you.”]

In many ways this quote captures the essence of Stein’s literary project, which seeks to broaden the range of Jewish identities, and especially religious identities, that can be expressed in German-language literature. Indeed, Die Leinwand, the protagonists of which are two observant Jews from different cultural backgrounds, reintroduces into German literature the possibility of representing and affirming Orthodox Judaism as a way of life. Within contemporary German-Jewish fiction, Stein’s novel is unique in its emphasis on the ways that Jewish law structures the everyday life of observant Jews and sets them apart from non-Jews. The opposition Stein establishes in the quote between an embrace of religion and a focus on the Holocaust is nevertheless puzzling, given the actual plot of his novel. For Die Leinwand can be read as a commentary on the Wilkomirski affair, that is, the scandal that erupted in 1998 after Binjamin Wilkomirski’s widely acclaimed Holocaust memoir Bruchstücke: Aus einer Kindheit, 1939–1948 (1995; published in English as Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, 1997) was exposed as a

McGlothlin.indd 141

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

142



KATJA GARLOFF

fake. The formation, fabrication, and transmission of memories are the central theme of Die Leinwand, which exemplifies the nexus between Holocaust remembrance and contemporary German-Jewish writing discussed throughout this book. Indeed, it is interesting to note that the German-Jewish author who most emphatically seeks to stake out a new authorial position—that of the Orthodox Jewish writer whose Jewishness is not primarily defined by the Holocaust—does so by thinking through questions of Holocaust testimony. This connection indicates that Holocaust remembrance is still widely seen as the principle task of contemporary German-Jewish writers. In this essay I argue that Stein’s most salient contribution to contemporary German-Jewish literature is his creative use of paratext. I define paratext with Gérard Genette as the texts and images that surround the published literary text and control its meaning, including book titles, jacket copies, illustrations, prefaces, and afterwords.2 The significance of such elements in Die Leinwand becomes apparent as soon as we realize that the book has two covers, each of which can serve as the starting point of our reading. Other features of the book, such as the glossary and datelines, further draw our attention to the margins of the literary text. As I will show, Stein’s self-conscious use of paratext in Die Leinwand raises questions about authorship and authority that have a bearing on both German-Jewish writing and Holocaust testimony. Through the interplay between author biography and narrator identity, for instance, the novel challenges the notion of contemporary German-Jewish authors as ethnic authors. Stein also engages with the phenomenon of the fake Holocaust memoir on the level of paratext, for example by highlighting the ways in which authorial gestures such as datelines serve to verify an author’s ability to tell the story of his or her life. If Stein questions the paratextual conventions that classify an author as Jewish and a work as testimonial, respectively, this does not mean that he seeks to abolish these conventions. Indeed, I suggest that the proliferation of paratexts in Die Leinwand can be read as an alternative to the collapse of paratextual distinctions in Wilkomirski’s Bruchstücke. My claim is that Stein alerts us to the power of paratext at a moment when the range of German-Jewish identities is expanding and the Holocaust is turning from memory into history.

I. Benjamin Stein belongs to a new generation of German and Austrian Jewish authors, which began to emerge during the late 1980s and whose members self-identify as Jewish in interviews and other public forums.3 How are they identified and characterized in the books they publish? The jacket copies and jacket blurbs show that attribution of a Jewish author identity often occurs indirectly. In books by Maxim Biller, Esther Dischereit, Barbara Honigmann, Doron Rabinovici, Rafael Seligmann, and

McGlothlin.indd 142

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

THE POWER OF PARATEXT



143

Robert Schindel—and by older authors who are still alive and publishing today, including Edgar Hilsenrath and Angelika Schrobsdorff—the jacket copies usually identify the book quite clearly as Jewish, but almost never its author as such. The jacket copies tend to characterize the authors as Jewish in an indirect manner, either by connecting them to the content of their books—often by emphasizing the autobiographical character of the work—or by displacing the adjective “jüdisch” (Jewish) onto other aspects of their life, work, or family. For instance, the book description on the front flap of Barbara Honigmann’s 2004 Ein Kapitel aus meinem Leben (A Chapter from My Life) includes the sentence: “Barbara Honigmann wurde berühmt durch Eine Liebe aus Nichts, die Geschichte ihres Vaters, mit der sie die Geschichte ihrer jüdischen Familie zu erzählen begann. . . .” (Barbara Honigmann became famous through A Love Made Out of Nothing, the story of her father, with which she began to relate the story of her Jewish family).4 The author profile on the back flap of Edgar Hilsenrath’s Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works) identifies neither him nor his family as Jewish but displaces that attribute onto the ghetto to which they were moved during the Second World War: “. . . kam die Familie in ein jüdisches Ghetto in der Ukraine” (. . . the family was sent to a Jewish ghetto in Ukraine).5 This paratextual representation in which authors are never called “Jewish” but described as such metonymically—via references to a place, a genealogy, or a literary work—positions contemporary German-Jewish writers as “ethnic authors” within what has been called “the paradigm of communal and cultural representativeness.”6 This paradigm proceeds from three assumptions: that ethnic writers write about their ethnic identities, that they are capable of speaking representatively for their ethnic group, and that they describe the group’s experience more authentically than authors not considered part of that group. For instance, the book description inside the front cover of Maxim Biller’s Wenn ich einmal reich und tot bin (1990; When I’m Finally Rich and Dead) begins: Der junge Autor Maxim Biller führt uns in seinen Erzählungen eine Welt vor Augen, von der wir wenig wissen: Die Welt der 30,000 in Deutschland lebenden Juden, für uns bislang ebenso exotisch and entfernt wie vor kurzem noch Isaac Bashevis Singers jüdisches Lodz, Warschau oder New York.7 [The young author Maxim Biller shows us in his stories a world about which we know little: the world of the 30,000 Jews who live in Germany and who are as exotic and distant for us as were Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Jewish Lodz, Warsaw, or New York until recently.]

While this description does not call Biller himself Jewish, it treats him as a representative of contemporary German Jews. It endows Biller the

McGlothlin.indd 143

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

144



KATJA GARLOFF

author with a special knowledge about the world he describes, positioning him as the expert narrator of a world that is set apart from that of the readers. Of course, he could theoretically be writing from the perspective of an anthropologist or investigative journalist, but the comparison with Isaac Bashevis Singer, a well-known example of Jewish ethnic authorship, implies that Biller writes representatively about a world to which he himself belongs. This jacket copy is from 1990, when what has since been called “young German-Jewish literature” (Nolden) had just emerged as a new literary phenomenon. Now that Jews have once again become a more integral presence in German public life, editors are less likely to assume so blatantly that “we”—the readers and publishers of German literature—are not Jewish. Yet this is still the backdrop against which Benjamin Stein’s Die Leinwand has to be read. If the novel stakes out a new authorial position— that of the Orthodox Jew who writes German literature—at the same time it unsettles such classifications altogether. The first thing to note about Die Leinwand is that it draws attention to the paratext as a threshold, as a device that defines the boundaries of the literary text and sets the stage for its reception and transmission. The book consists of two parts, each with its own narrator. In one part Amnon Zichroni, who was born into a Haredi (or “Ultraorthodox,” although that term is now considered somewhat pejorative) family in Jerusalem but later became a psychoanalyst in Zurich, tells about his ability to see, feel, and experience the memories of others. Zichroni befriends a man named Minsky, who believes he is a child survivor of Majdanek and Auschwitz, and helps him articulate his fragmentary childhood memories—as a friend, it should be noted, not as a therapist. When the memoir Minsky resolves to write is later shown to be a fabrication, both he and Zichroni are devastated. (The parallels to the Wilkomirski affair are quite obvious here.) In the other part of the book Jan Wechsler, an author and editor who believes he grew up in the GDR and who now lives as a modern Orthodox Jew in Munich, gradually finds out that he had adopted a radically new identity about ten years before, when he was the journalist who exposed the identity fraud of Minsky. Each part ends openly, indeed enigmatically, with (a memory of) the encounter of the two different narrators in Israel. It is up to the reader to decide which part to read first, for the book has two covers. These covers are identical in the upper right and the bottom of the page, which contain the author’s name, the book’s title, and an announcement that the book can be read in several ways. But other parts of the book covers are not exactly alike. In the middle of each cover we find—set off in italics and the colors red and blue, respectively—a name, which we soon learn is the name of the narrator of that part of the book—Amnon Zichroni or Jan Wechsler. Next to the narrator’s name is a photograph of an object that is particularly important to him, and right below that are the first lines of his part of the book. How do we

McGlothlin.indd 144

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

THE POWER OF PARATEXT



145

decide where to begin our reading? There are some powerful paratextual signals that point, however, in different directions. For instance, the flap inside the front cover typically contains a book description or an excerpt from the book. The flap inside the back cover typically provides some information about the author and often includes a photograph of him or her. If we follow that convention, we will begin reading Die Leinwand with the Wechsler part, for it is here that we find the book summary in the front and the author profile plus photograph in the back. However, the book summary itself first describes the Zichroni part and then the Wechsler part—which is also somewhat logical, since Zichroni is older than Wechsler and his narrative reaches further back into the past—all of which suggests the opposite sequence of reading, first Zichroni, then Wechsler. One effect of Stein’s use of contradictory paratextual signals is that it alerts the reader to the presence and the power of paratext. I suspect many readers will find themselves, as I did, holding the book in their hands, turning it around and around, first looking for paratextual signals and then pondering which ones to follow. The double mode of entry into the book also hints at the duality of German-Jewish identity, since the book can be read not only from left to right—as in German—but also from right to left—as in Hebrew and Yiddish. Another paratext likely to confound the reader’s expectations is the glossary that concludes each part. The glossary is identical in both parts of the book, although neither of the narrators uses all of the terms, so it is truly a glossary of the book as a whole. Consisting mostly of Hebrew terms with a religious meaning (and a few Yiddish, Aramaic, and Arabic words, and Hebrew words with a secular meaning), the glossary creates the impression that Judaism constitutes a realm of its own into which non-Jewish readers first have to be initiated. Indeed, the duplication of the glossary and its location in the middle of the book reverse the usual spatial relationship between text and paratext. If Genette defines the paratext as the threshold that allows the reader to enter the literary text, Stein turns the literary text into the threshold of, or entry into, the paratext, namely the glossary that forms the core of the book. All these unexpected paratextual elements—the covers, the jacket copies, and the glossary— make the reader highly aware of the book as the material carrier of the literary text. It is also noteworthy that the very center of the book is a single page with the publisher’s information and a reference to Stein’s literary blog Der Turmsegler.8 This page reminds us that the book is also an occasion for an author’s—potentially infinite—electronic commentary on his or her own work. The most interesting interplay between text and paratext in Die Leinwand is that between the presentation of the author in the jacket copy and the construction of Wechsler the narrator in the literary text. At an important juncture, Wechsler realizes that he is “nichts mehr als eine

McGlothlin.indd 145

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

146



KATJA GARLOFF

literarische Figur” (nothing more than a literary figure) he himself created after exposing the identity fraud of Minsky, the pretend-survivor of Majdanek and Auschwitz.9 Wechsler’s new biography, which he initially made up in a novel that appeared around the same time as Minsky’s memoir, roughly corresponds to Stein’s biography as presented in the author profile. Both Wechsler and Stein grew up in the GDR and now live in Munich; both previously worked as custodians (W, 136/111) and now work as publishers. Other facts about Wechsler—that he was a rower in the GDR (W, 105/85) and that his great-grandfather was murdered by the Gestapo (W, 31/22)—correspond to things Stein mentions on his literary blog Der Turmsegler, which is of course an important paratext of its own. Furthermore, the clothes Wechsler wears during his visit to Israel are quite similar to what Stein is wearing on the photograph in the dust jacket. Zichroni describes Wechsler as follows: “Er kam in schwarzem Anzug mit Weste, weißem Hemd und Krawatte, auf dem Kopf einen jeschiwischen Hut. Er sah aus wie ein Frommer” (Z, 189–90/155; He was wearing a black suit with a vest, a white shirt, and a tie, and a yeshivish hat on his head. He looked frum). Wechsler himself describes his attire as “schwarzer Anzug mit Weste, weißem Hemd und einer großen Kippa aus schwarzem Samt” (W, 192/158; a black suit with a vest, a white shirt, and a large black velvet kippa). Wechsler adds that Israelis tend to mistake him for a “Haredi” (W, 192/158), that is, for more strictly Orthodox than he actually is, because of these clothes. The photograph inserted in the jacket copy shows the author Stein in a similar garb, with a white shirt, a tie and a large black velvet kippah (vest and jacket are missing, though). In other words, the paratextual construction of the author Benjamin Stein considerably overlaps with the made-up identity of the narrator Jan Wechsler. While Wechsler gradually reconstructs the ways in which he fashioned a new identity for himself—apparently out of guilt feelings about his role in the Minsky scandal—the reader is invited to ponder the connections between Wechsler’s adopted identity and Stein’s actual identity. This interplay between text and paratext highlights and potentially undermines the function of the author profile in the cover flap. Such profiles typically offer some information about the author and thereby verify the author’s existence, which is also the function of the author’s name on the book cover. In addition, the profile often invests the author with a special authority to write about the subject at hand. As I have argued, the paratext often positions contemporary German-Jewish authors as ethnic authors, who are metonymically linked to the world they narrate and therefore capable of describing this world with greater authenticity, or at least legitimacy, than those who do not belong to it. But how sure can we be about an author’s identity if it is presented in the paratext of a novel that is all about a literary character’s delusional adoption of a very similar identity? The interplay between text and paratext in Die Leinwand invites

McGlothlin.indd 146

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

THE POWER OF PARATEXT



147

the reader to contemplate the function of the author as the guarantor of the text, as the one who can claim rightful ownership of and take responsibility for the text.10

II. This question of authorship and authority—of how to lay claim to an experience and its transmission through writing—is also at the heart of Stein’s reflections on the fake Holocaust memoir. Die Leinwand contains many allusions to the scandal that erupted when it was discovered that Binjamin Wilkomirski, the author of the celebrated Holocaust memoir Bruchstücke, was not a Jewish child survivor but the out-of-wedlock child of a Christian mother and the adoptee of a wealthy Swiss family.11 At first glance, Stein’s novel passes a surprisingly lenient verdict on a very similar figure, called Minsky, a pretend-survivor of the death camps who now builds musical instruments. The campaign launched against Minsky after the discovery of his identity fraud comes across as a cruel and destructive act, one that is in some ways more problematic than the fraud itself.12 Ultimately, however, Die Leinwand does not so much condone the Holocaust impostor as unhinge the problem of false memory from him. Minsky remains a subsidiary character in a book that focuses on Zichroni and Wechsler, both of whom are shown to engage in acts of sympathetic identification or memory fabrication. Zichroni puts his special gift—the ability to experience the memories of others—to therapeutic usage, but he also ponders the ethical dilemmas involved in accessing the minds of others, especially without their permission (Z, 88/70). Wechsler, who throughout his narrative struggles with the unreliability of his memory, gradually finds out that he has committed an offense similar to Minsky’s: that is, he has assumed a false identity. After the Minsky scandal he invented for himself a new life story and a new family genealogy modeled on a novel he wrote earlier, and from a letter written by his publisher we learn that he is in the habit of ransacking the memories of others to compose his fiction (W, 55/43). Rather than indict the fake Holocaust memoir, Stein examines the mechanisms of transmission that make it possible. In so doing he is in tune with one subset of scholarly responses to the Wilkomirski case. Several scholars have argued that Wilkomirski, who seems to have truly believed that he spent his childhood in the camps, has important lessons to impart about the transmission of traumatic experiences and the conceptualization of such experience in contemporary theory. Amy Hunger ford points out that Bruchstücke was published at a time when the Holocaust memoir had become a genre in its own right and trauma studies an established academic field. Both the Holocaust memoir and trauma studies presume a specific “relation between language and

McGlothlin.indd 147

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

148



KATJA GARLOFF

experience,” a relation “that ultimately asks us to understand Bruchstücke not so much as a fraud, but as the epitome of the very assumptions that underlie trauma theory’s analytic discourse.”13 Hungerford cites Shoshana Felman’s notion that the stories told by survivors can have a traumatic effect on readers or listeners. After showing videotaped testimonies to her class, Felman noticed that her students went through a crisis in which they reenacted the disorientation and the loss of language experienced by the Holocaust survivors they had watched. Hungerford suggests that something similar may have happened when Bruno Dössekker—the real name of the Swiss man who later called himself Binjamin Wilkomirski—immersed himself in the study of Holocaust materials: “He absorbed the accounts of camp life, the stories of extreme violence, the testimonies and histories and photographs, and they finally became him, finally made him Binjamin Wilkomirski.”14 In this reading, Wilkomirski’s deluded identification with a child survivor of the Holocaust is not so much identity fraud as the byproduct of a process of transmission otherwise seen as inevitable and legitimate, even necessary, to pass on the memory of the Holocaust. Indeed, Bruchstücke might be understood as an extreme example of what Marianne Hirsch calls, in her recent book The Generations of Postmemory, “affiliative postmemory.” In contrast to familial postmemory, in which memories are transmitted vertically from parent to child, affiliative postmemory proceeds along horizontal lines and “makes that child’s position more broadly available to other contemporaries.”15 Of course, Bruno Dösseker’s identification with the victims of the Holocaust is on the extreme end of the spectrum of affiliative postmemory. (Hirsch herself, who always emphasizes the mediated character of postmemory, would perhaps be reluctant to apply the term here.) Yet his case still fits the paradigm, in that Dösseker/Wilkomirski, who has neither direct experience of the Holocaust nor family members who survived it, connects so deeply to the remembrances of survivors that he experiences that connection as a form of memory. The main vehicles of this kind of extreme identification are testimonial forms such as documentary films and written memoirs— and to emphasize this again, many theorists claim that some degree of identification is a natural and even desirable response to testimony. As Hungerford points out, the widely shared notion that Holocaust testimony can—perhaps should—produce in its audience a sympathetic identification with the victims and a vicarious experience of suffering rests on two assumptions: first, that memories can be severed from people and transmitted onto texts, and second, that texts can have the same effect on readers as real people. If the case of Wilkomirski raises the question of what constitutes an appropriate affective response to Holocaust testimony, Stein engages with this question through his creative play with paratext. He highlights,

McGlothlin.indd 148

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

THE POWER OF PARATEXT



149

and ultimately undermines, the paratextual mechanisms that enable an unreflecting identification with the survivor-witness. We can see these mechanisms at work in Wilkomirski’s Bruchstücke. In Holocaust memoirs, the paratext often serves to confirm that the author is testifying to his or her own life experience, and that he or she is truly in a position to do so. The reception of Bruchstücke as a Holocaust memoir depended on what Philippe Lejeune calls the “autobiographical pact,” that is, the implicit or explicit agreement by which readers are encouraged to read a text as an authentic representation of real-life experience.16 Among other things, the autobiographical pact stipulates that the author, narrator, and protagonist of a book have to be identical. This identification is typically achieved through the interplay between the text inside the book and the paratext on its cover. The appearance of a proper name on the book cover (above or below the title) tethers the text to a person, the author, who is presumed to exist in the real world and to be capable of assuming responsibility for the text. The use of that same name as the name of the book’s narrator and protagonist, then, signals a commitment to autobiographical truth. This is emphatically the case in Bruchstücke, in which the narrator’s name is not only identical with that of the author but also the source of particularly dramatic moments of recognition and revelation. It is during these moments, in which the narrator hears others calling him Binjamin or Binjamin Wilkomirski, that he begins to get a sense of the true identity of which he presumably has been robbed.17 Wilkomirski further confirms this identity in an afterword he added after rumors had reached his publishers that he was born in 1941 rather than in 1939, and in the Swiss town of Biel rather than in the Latvian city of Riga. In this afterword, which is titled “Zu diesem Buch” (About this book) and is thus clearly marked as a paratext, Wilkomirski seeks to explain the discrepancy between his childhood memories and his legal identity: Auch ich habe noch als Kind eine neue Identität erhalten, einen anderen Namen, ein anderes Geburtsdatum, einen anderen Geburtsort. Das Dokument, das ich in Händen halte—ein behelfsmäßiger Auszug, keine Geburtsurkunde—, gibt den 12. Februar 1941 als mein Geburtsdatum an. Aber dieses Datum stimmt weder mit meiner Lebensgeschichte noch mit meinen Erinnerungen überein. Ich habe juristische Schritte gegen diese verfügte Identität eingeleitet. [As a child, I also received a new identity, another name, another date and place of birth. The document I hold in my hands—a makeshift summary, no actual birth certificate—gives the date of my birth as February 12, 1941. But this date has nothing to do with either the history of this century or my personal history. I have now taken legal steps to have this imposed identity annulled.]18

McGlothlin.indd 149

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

150



KATJA GARLOFF

Wilkomirski’s explanation for the discrepancy between the birthdate on the title page of Bruchstücke (1939) and the one on his birth record (1941) shows how skillfully he manipulates biographical information. In the jacket copy of a book such a discrepancy would signal that the work is at least partially fictitious. Here, however, it serves as further evidence of autobiographical truth. Wilkomirski notes that the 1941 birthdate is recorded on a somewhat dubious makeshift document that he reads as an indication of the hostility of the society in which he grew up after the war. Much of the afterword is about society’s attempt to silence the memories of child survivors of the Holocaust and impose on them a false identity. That is, if the text of Bruchstücke is about Wilkomirski’s struggle to recuperate an identity that has been stolen from him, the paratext presents the legal document as further proof of the difficulty—and thus the reality—of his struggle. Indeed, the afterword of Bruchstücke invests the author with a remarkable power and authority. Wilkomirski insists that 1941 cannot be his birthdate because it does not fit into the life story as he himself just told it. The man who began his account by describing how as a child he even lacked a language to process his experience now seems capable of producing an authoritative autobiographical narrative that can even disprove official documents. If the afterword of Bruchstücke confirms the author’s ability to write authoritatively about his own experience—to produce a valid Lebensgeschichte (life history/story)—the two endings of Die Leinwand have the opposite effect: they create an irreducible gap between experience and writing. The two parts of Die Leinwand mime autobiographical writing—Zichroni presents the story of his life in the past tense and Wechsler describes the gradual retrieval of his memories in the present tense—and both have curiously open endings. Zichroni’s part concludes with a scene in which he pushes Wechsler, whom he holds responsible for Minsky’s downfall, back into the ice-cold water of an ancient mikveh they are visiting together at night. (The context here is that Wechsler has come to Israel as a tourist to complete his transformation into an observant Jew. He has a particular interest in historical mikvot, that is, the ritual baths that are used for purposes of purification. When Wechsler by chance arrives at Zichroni’s house in the West Bank, he does not recognize Zichroni, but Zichroni recognizes him.) Während [Wechsler] sich so auf seine Tevila vorbereitete, zog ich meine Handschuhe aus. Dann holte Wechsler tief Luft und tauchte unter. Ich kniete mich auf den nasskalten Steinrand des Beckens und streckte die Arme aus. Als er wieder auftauchte und zitternd prustete, sah ich ihm direkt in die Augen und griff nach seinem Kopf. Ich hielt ihn wie einen Ball zwischen meinen Händen und drückte ihn langsam, doch so fest ich nur konnte, zurück ins Wasser. Yerushalayim/Ofra Sh’vat—Av 5768 (Z, 193)

McGlothlin.indd 150

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

THE POWER OF PARATEXT



151

[While he was preparing for his tevila, I took off my gloves. Wechsler took a deep breath and submerged. I knelt down at the cold, wet edge of the pool and stretched out my arms. When he resurfaced, huffing and shivering, I looked right into his eyes and grabbed his head. I held it like a ball between my hands and pushed it slowly, but as hard as I could, back into the water.] Yerushalayim/Ofra Sh’vat—Av 5768 (Z, 158)]

Wechlser’s part ends about six months later than Zichroni’s, when he once again returns to Israel. There an Israeli officer suspects Wechsler of having a role in Zichroni’s mysterious disappearance and escorts him to the place where Zichroni was last seen, the ancient mikveh. Wechsler, who has reconstructed the memories of his last trip up to the scene at the mikveh, jumps into the pool in order to recover the last piece of the puzzle. Alas, he finds the mikveh empty: Ich glaube nicht, dass Ben-Or mir erlauben wird, noch einmal hier unterzutauchen. Aber es gibt keinen anderen Weg, wenn ich zu mir selbst zurückfinden will. Also stoße ich ihn entschlossen zur Seite und nehme Anlauf. Ich halte den Atem an und springe. Gleich werde ich in das eiskalte Wasser sinken, und alles wird sein, wie es einmal war. Aber ich sinke nicht. Ich falle. Das Becken, in das ich stürze, ist leer. München/Jerusalem Februar–Oktober 2008 (W, 203–4) [I don’t think Ben-Or will allow me to immerse in this mikvah again. But there’s no other way, if I want to get back to myself. So I push him aside, as hard as I can, and I start running. I hold my breath and jump. In a second I’ll be sinking in the ice-cold water, and everything will be the way it was before. But I don’t sink. I fall. The pool I’m plunging into is empty.] Munich/Jerusalem February–October 2008] (W, 168)

Both parts of Die Leinwand end on a moment of suspension, thus raising the question of how the struggle at the mikveh ends and what happens to the narrators afterward. These open endings are conspicuous, especially because the very last lines of each part inform us about the time and the place of writing: Zichroni, who had been missing since his encounter with Wechsler in January of 2008, composed his memoir after his disappearance, namely between January and August of 2008. The use

McGlothlin.indd 151

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

152



KATJA GARLOFF

of the Hebrew calendar and Hebrew place names further confirms that it was Zichroni who wrote these lines. Wechsler, whom we last saw in July of 2008 falling into the empty mikveh—literally suspended over a void—wrote his account in Munich and Jerusalem between February and October of that same year. As a paratext, the designation of the time and the place of writing at the end of a literary text functions similarly to the author’s name on the title page in that it verifies the author’s existence outside the text. It is a signature of sorts. In Die Leinwand these signatures create a conspicuous gap between text and composition, thereby raising a series of questions about the act of writing: When, where, and why did Zichroni decide to sit down and write up his recollections? How did Wechsler recover from his fall and complete his narrative about the retrieval of his past identity? And why does neither of them bring his story to some sort of a conclusion? There is no direct line from experience to memory to writing in Die Leinwand. In fact, the novel’s two abrupt endings create the impression that the narrators are disappearing as they are writing their texts. These endings highlight the severability of author, text, and memory on which the fake Holocaust memoir hinges and which it at the same time has to disavow, often paratextually. It is noteworthy that the cover flaps of Wilkomirski’s Bruchstücke mix two types of paratexts that are usually printed separately, namely the book description and the author profile. This jacket copy, which runs from the front flap to the back flap, describes how Wilkomirski reclaimed his memory and identity while writing the book. The jacket copy thus completely collapses the distinction between text and author, creating the impression that the author is but the process of writing, the text but the author in action. The paratextual conflation of text and author makes possible what Hungerford and others stipulate: that written testimony can function as a stand-in for its author and affect readers as if it were a real person. By detailing the process in which Wilkomirski purportedly retrieved his memories and turned them into a memoir, the cover flaps invest Bruchstücke with a testimonial authority typically only ascribed to human beings. Once text and author are completely fused—or confused—the text can indeed replace the author. Stein, in contrast, decouples writing from experience and thus prevents the text from taking over the function of the author. The severability of author, text, and memory is especially relevant in our time, when the number of remaining survivors is dwindling and the memory of the Holocaust is becoming permanently severed from the people who lived through it. At such a time, both familial and affiliative postmemory take on a new significance but also raise new ethical questions. German-language authors in particular have to consider what happens when, as Hirsch puts it, “the lines of affiliation . . . cross the divide between victim and perpetrator memory.”19 It is perhaps no coincidence,

McGlothlin.indd 152

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

THE POWER OF PARATEXT



153

then, that identification and memory transfer between the descendants of victims and perpetrators are such popular themes in contemporary German and Austrian Jewish literature. The work of Doron Rabinovici, for instance, features a number of characters who adopt the identities and memories of others. In Suche nach M. (1997; published in English as The Search for M., 2000), the son of two Holocaust survivors compulsively confesses past crimes he has not committed and thereby helps remember these crimes and track down their perpetrators.20 In Andernorts (2010; published in English as Elsewhere, 2014), Rabinovici pokes fun at a non-Jewish scholar who searches for his father and is all too eager to find him in an Israeli businessman and Holocaust survivor.21 As I have shown, Stein engages with the ethical dilemmas arising from the transfer of memories and identities in a different way, through his creative use of paratext. Through a fictional inflation of paratext and an emphasis on the gaps between text and paratext, Stein adds the layer of mediation that Wilkomirski’s Bruchstücke so sorely lacks. By highlighting the defining power of paratext, Stein promotes a more responsible transmission of memories to new generations.

Notes 1 Ijoma Mangold, “Religion ist kein Wunschkonzert,” Die Zeit, April 8, 2010, 47. All translations in this essay are my own, unless otherwise noted. 2 Some texts that are not materially appended to the book, such as interviews, letters, and author-endorsed book reviews, also fall into this category. See Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. Jane E. Lewin (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997). 3 Scholarly books and articles that analyze this new German and Austrian Jewish literature include Reemerging Jewish Culture in Germany: Life and Literature since 1989, ed. Sander L. Gilman and Karen Remmler (New York: New York University Press, 1994); Sander L. Gilman, Jews in Today’s German Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); Thomas Nolden, Junge jüdische Literatur: Konzentrisches Schreiben in der Gegenwart (Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann, 1995); Erin McGlothlin, “Writing by Germany’s Jewish Minority,” in Contemporary German Fiction: Writing in the Berlin Republic, ed. Stuart Taberner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 230–46; Vivian Liska, “Secret Affinities: Contemporary Jewish Writing in Austria,” and Stephan Braese, “Writing against Reconciliation: Contemporary Jewish Writing in Germany,” in Contemporary Jewish Writing in Europe: A Guide, ed. Vivian Liska and Thomas Nolden (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.), 1–22 and 23–42; Rebirth of a Culture: Jewish Identity and Jewish Writing in Germany Today, ed. Hillary Hope Herzog, Todd Herzog, and Benjamin Lapp (New York: Berghahn Books, 2008). 4

Barbara Honigmann, Ein Kapitel aus meinem Leben (Munich: Carl Hanser, 2004). Here and elsewhere, quotes from paratexts are taken from the first German edition of the book.

McGlothlin.indd 153

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

154



KATJA GARLOFF

5

Edgar Hilsenrath, Gesammelte Werke in elf Bänden (Cologne: Dittrich Verlag, 2003). The indirect attribution of a Jewish author identity in German paratexts likely results from the tension between sociocultural taboos, on the one hand, and marketing pressures during a time when many Germans are fascinated with things Jewish, on the other. Thomas Nolden mentions that Rafael Seligmann initially had great trouble finding a publisher for Rubinsteins Versteigerung. In the end the work received good reviews, but only as a “Dokumentationen einer bislang weitgehend unsichtbar gebliebenen jungen jüdischen Lebenswelt” (documentation of a recent sphere of Jewish life that has thus far remained largely invisible; Nolden, Junge jüdische Literatur, 86). Nolden also mentions that it was the editor who insisted on the subtitle “Eine jüdische Geschichte” (A Jewish Story) of Esther Dischereit’s book Joemis Tisch. Gilman observes that editors often seek to bestow an ethnic label while authors complain that the labeling limits the audience they can potentially reach. See Sander L. Gilman, “Ethnicity-Ethnicities-LiteratureLiteratures,” in PMLA 113, no. 1 (January 1998): 19–27. 6

See Florian Sedlmeier, “Rereading Literary Form: Paratexts, Transpositions, and Postethnic Literature around 2000,” Journal of Literary Theory 6, no. 1 (2012): 213–34; here 213. 7 Maxim Biller, Wenn ich einmal reich und tot bin (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1990). 8

Benjamin Stein, Der Turmsegler Blog, https://turmsegler.net.

9

Benjamin Stein, Die Leinwand (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2010), W, 82. All references to Die Leinwand are from this edition and hereafter will be cited parenthetically in the text. The letters “W” (for Wechsler) and “Z” (for Zichroni) refer to the two different parts of the book. In English, Benjamin Stein, The Canvas, trans. Brian Zumhagen (Rochester, NY: Open Letter Books, 2012), here W, 66. References to this translation will hereafter be cited parenthetically in the text after the reference to the German edition.

10

In his literary blog Der Turmsegler Stein explicitly rejects the reduction of the literary work to the presumed identity of its author. After the publication of the Zeit article, which sparked new queries about his Jewish background, he clarifies that his parents are not Jewish in the Halakhic definition and that he himself converted twice, first to Reform and then to Orthodox Judaism. The gist of this entry is a critique of the public voyeurism that forces the author to disclose such information. See “Der Autor als Seelenstripper,” Der Turmsegler Blog, June 3, 2010, accessed April 11, 2016, http://turmsegler.net/20100603/ der-autor-als-seelenstripper/. 11

For a comprehensive reconstruction of Wilkomirski’s fraud, see Stefan Maechler, The Wilkomirski Affair: A Study in Biographical Truth, trans. John E. Woods (New York: Schocken, 2001). Maechler had been commissioned by Schocken to conduct an investigation into Wilkomirski’s life and to publish his findings. 12

Zichroni asks himself rhetorically “Was . . . ist eine Wahrheit, die tötet, wert gegenüber einer Wahrheit, die jemanden leben lässt?” (Z, 179) “What . . . is the value of a truth that kills, compared to a truth that allows a person to live?” (Z, 146). Wechsler, who is tormented by guilt feelings about his role in the campaign,

McGlothlin.indd 154

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

THE POWER OF PARATEXT



155

seems to agree that the public exposure of Minsky was an act of violence: “Meine Schuld hat einen Namen: Minsky. Das muss ich immer gewusst haben. Ich habe ihm eine lückenlos belegbare Identität geschenkt. Seine Erinnerungen aber habe ich ihm geraubt . . . ich habe noch immer Angst vor Entdeckung und einer Strafe, die ich mir nicht einmal auszumalen wage” (W, 189–90; “My guilt has a name: Minsky. I must have always known that. I gave him an identity that has no holes in it. But I robbed him of his memories . . . I’m still afraid of being discovered and enduring a punishment that I don’t even dare to imagine,” W, 156). 13

Amy Hungerford, “Memorizing Memory,” Yale Journal of Criticism 14, no. 1 (2001): 67–92; here 69.

14

Ibid., 88.

15

Marianne Hirsch, The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 36.

16

See Philippe Lejeune, On Autobiography, ed. Paul John Eakin, trans. Katherine Leary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), esp. 3–31. 17

See Binjamin Wilkomirski, Bruchstücke: Aus einer Kindheit 1939–1948 (Frankfurt am Main: Jüdischer Verlag im Suhrkamp Verlag, 1995), 44, 102–3, 106. In English, Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, trans. Carol Brown Janeway (New York: Schocken, 1997), 46, 109–10, 113. 18 Wilkomirski, Bruchstücke, 143; Fragments, 154. The published English translation is slightly different from the German original. A more precise translation of the third sentence would be: “But this date is not consistent with either my life story or my memories.” 19

Hirsch, The Generation of Postmemory, 41.

20

Doron Rabinovici, Die Suche nach M: Roman in zwölf Episoden (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997); The Search for M, trans. Francis M. Sharp (Riverside, CA: Ariadne, 2000). 21

Doron Rabinovici, Andernorts: Roman (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010); in English, Elsewhere, trans. Tess Lewis (London: Haus Publishing, 2014).

McGlothlin.indd 155

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

McGlothlin.indd 156

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

Part IV. Descendant Narratives of Survival and Perpetration

McGlothlin.indd 157

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

McGlothlin.indd 158

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

8: Identifying with the Victims in the Land of the Perpetrators: Iris Hanika’s Das Eigentliche and Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew Sven Kramer

I.

I

N 2010 HISTORIAN ULRIKE JUREIT and psychoanalytically trained sociologist Christian Schneider launched a head-on critique of contemporary practices of Holocaust memorialization in Germany. As the title of their book—Gefühlte Opfer: Illusionen der Vergangenheitsbewältigung1—indicates, they chastise what they perceive as German illusions of coming to terms with the past. In accordance with a widely shared opinion, they do not reproach the Germans for a lack of commemoration. It is, curiously enough, rather the ubiquitousness of Holocaust memory, in conjunction with the way in which the Germans nowadays commemorate the murdered Jews, that the authors find problematic. Their findings suggest an overwhelming trend toward identifying with the victims. They claim that for German practices of commemoration, “die Figur des gefühlten Opfers” (the figure of the felt victim) proves to be “strukturbildend, denn der Wunsch der Identifizierung mit den Opfern scheint mittlerweile zur erinnerungspolitischen Norm geworden zu sein” (10; structurally formative, since the wish for identification with the victims seems in the meanwhile to have become a norm within the politics of memory).2 To empathize with the victims means to position oneself on their side. Jureit and Schneider claim that the Germans have thoroughly internalized this notion: they call them “Olympioniken der Betroffenheit” (19; Olympians of consternation). Their critique highlights the consequences of this identificatory mechanism, first and foremost the self-perception of moral superiority that comes with it. According to Jureit and Schneider, the problematic point is that wherever Germans ground their self-image exclusively in empathy with the victims, they minimize the need to reflect on their forefathers’ massive support of—or even direct involvement with—the perpetrators:

McGlothlin.indd 159

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

160



SVEN KRAMER

Die Täter, das sind diejenigen, die nicht dazugehören . . .. Sie stehen außerhalb der Erinnerungsgemeinschaft . . .. Sie sind die Schuldigen, mit denen man nichts gemeinsam hat. Daher eignen sie sich auch hervorragend zur Dämonisierung, zur pauschalen Verurteilung als fremde Spezies, deren Taten als kaum nachvollziehbar erscheinen. (29–30) [The perpetrators, they are the ones who do not belong . . .. They stand outside the commemorative community . . .. They are the guilty, with whom one has nothing in common. For that reason they are ideally suited to demonization, to comprehensive judgment as a foreign species, whose deeds seem hardly comprehensible.]

Thinking through the Germans’ mass support of National Socialism, according to Jureit and Schneider, would to a certain degree compromise identification with the victims. One would have to admit that participation in the Nazis’ practices of exclusion and persecution was widespread and that today’s politically correct wish to position oneself on the side of the victims tends to obstruct reflection on some unpleasant historical facts. In demonizing the perpetrators and denying any affinity to them, Germans lock out the reflection on possible moral ambiguities. They rather wish to construct their collective identity on a morally unquestionable basis. Following Jureit and Schneider, the envisioned benefit of this behavior is reconciliation—and even redemption: Das jüdische Erinnerungsgebot wird . . . mit dem christlichen Erlösungsversprechen verbunden. Wer nur aufrichtig und intensiv genug an die deutschen Massenverbrechen erinnert, der darf auf Versöhnung, ja auf Erlösung von der überlieferten Schuld hoffen. (11) [The Jewish imperative to remember is linked to the Christian promise of redemption. Only one who remembers Germany’s mass crimes properly and intensively enough can nurse hopes of reconciliation, even redemption from an inherited guilt.]

The authors call this belief one of the salient misunderstandings in victimcentered identificatory memory. Their overall critique of Germany’s contemporary practice of memorializing the Holocaust thus identifies two main components: “Opferidentifikation und Erlösungshoffnung” (11; identification with the victims and [a concomitant] hope for redemption). The politically correct norm of commemoration extends into the aesthetic realm, in Jureit and Schneider’s analysis. As their prime example they choose Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Interpreting remarks made by monument architect Peter Eisenman, they claim

McGlothlin.indd 160

10/16/2016 2:05:47 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS



161

that the structure of the monument, with its walk-in field of 2711 stelae, encourages the visitors to sense how it is to be a victim and, quoting Eisenman, maybe even “wie es ist, in die Gaskammer zu gehen” (29; what it is like to walk into the gas chamber). The aesthetic experience thus serves to amplify a victim-centered identificatory memorialization. At its extreme, this identificatory mechanism wishes to simulate “what it is like to walk into the gas chamber.” Art may help in visualizing that scene. Jureit and Schneider see the Berlin Memorial as the epitome of memorialization practices pertaining to Germany’s second generation after the war, and they unambiguously condemn them: “Die zweite Generation wählt als symbolischen Ausdruck die architektonische Simulation des Todes in Auschwitz und offenbart damit das gesamte Verharmlosungs- und Verleugnungspotential ihres opferidentifizierten Erinnerungskonzeptes” (29; The second generation chooses the architectonic simulation of death in Auschwitz as a symbolic expression and unveils thereby the whole potential of its victim-identified concept of memory to trivialize or deny). As is the case with many books presenting a provocative thesis, Jureit and Schneider’s work is an undoubtedly useful, if somewhat schematic, corrective. However, the flip side of their clear-cut polemic exposes a lack of differentiation, for example in neglecting the transnational implications of the Berlin Memorial. In order to characterize German sensitivities, they rely on Eisenman’s statements without reflecting on the fact that he is not German (not to mention the memorial’s thousands of annual foreign visitors). Nevertheless, long-term changes in the commemoration of the Holocaust are undeniable and have been analyzed periodically.3 Seen from this perspective, Jureit and Schneider ask an urgent question about the current state and possible undesirable developments in how the Holocaust is remembered. In the course of this essay, I will confront their critique of “opferidentifizierte Erinnerungskultur” (10) with twenty-firstcentury German novels that explicitly take up the issue of identifying with Jewish victims. I will take a closer look at two books in which the issue in question is foregrounded. Kevin Vennemann’s novel Nahe Jedenew (2005; published in English as Close to Jedenew)4 and Iris Hanika’s Das Eigentliche (2010; The Bottom Line)5 seem to fit into Jureit and Schneider’s category of victim-centered identificatory memory. And although Jureit and Schneider only marginally refer to literature and the arts, the question may be asked whether these novels also fall into the trap of presumptuousness and denial.

II. Iris Hanika, born in 1962 in West Germany, published her second novel, Das Eigentliche, in 2010. Her work extends to different forms. In addition to fictional narration, she writes essays for publication in periodicals

McGlothlin.indd 161

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

162



SVEN KRAMER

and books. Between 1999 and 2002 she worked for the Berlin section of the prestigious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In two other publications—Die Wette auf das Unbewußte oder Was Sie schon immer über Psychoanalyse wissen wollten (2006; Betting on the Unconscious, or What You Always Wanted to Know about Psychoanalysis) and Tanzen auf Beton: Weiterer Bericht von der unendlichen Analyse (2012; Dancing on Concrete: Another Report on Unending Analysis)—she processes her own experiences with Lacanian therapy. These examples already point to the fact that Hanika is a theoretically minded author used to reflecting on the events about which she writes. She received a lot of attention for Das Eigentliche, including some critique and much praise, and earned two prizes for the book.6 The protagonist in Das Eigentliche is Hans Frambach, a contemporary of our time, presumably born in the early 1960s, like Hanika herself. The novel places him among the “No-future-Generation” (E, 67) of the early 1980s. He is thus a representative of the second or even third postwar generation, although his family history is not a point of reference in the novel. To a certain extent Frambach is the prototype for Jureit and Schneider’s thesis: his main occupation, at work and in private, is to try to identify with the victims of the Holocaust. In the course of her novel Hanika plays through various modes of identification with the victims. In Frambach’s case, the urge to identify is portrayed as a conspicuous personal obsession on the brink of mental illness. This attitude corresponds with related tendencies that Hanika sees in German society as a whole. To assess how Hanika approaches the issue of victimcentered identificatory memory, I will specify and comment on some key aspects of identification in the novel. The text opens with a reflection by Frambach, who notices that his practice of identifying with the victims has changed over the course of the last years: Manchmal erinnerte er sich daran, wie er früher in einem vollen U-Bahnzug stets daran gedacht hatte, daß die Züge in die Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager noch viel voller waren als der, in dem er sich gerade befand. (E, 8) [Sometimes he reflected on the fact that once upon a time, when he found himself in a crowded subway car, he always had to think about the fact that the trains going to the concentration and death camps were much fuller than the one he found himself in now.]

Frambach draws comparisons to the victims in everything he does; he cannot stop thinking about their fate. On the one hand, this behavior is due to a conscious decision. He is knowledgeable and is able to make the case for continuing to think about the Holocaust. On the other hand, his

McGlothlin.indd 162

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS



163

thoughts also originate from the unconscious, cropping up involuntarily and obsessively. The moral imperative to always remember the Holocaust thus defines his character. Frambach is portrayed as a second-generation German who not only takes seriously the advice to never forget but actually takes it literally. The change of attitude upon which he reflects is related to the feelings that accompany the acts of identification with the victims. Formerly, he felt uneasy when he thought about the deportees in the freight trains while he commuted on the subway. While this unease has disappeared, he realizes that something else has changed: Wenn er sich nun daran erinnerte, dann stellte er fest, daß ihm dieses Unbehagen zwar verlorengegangen war, er sich aber nicht dafür schämte. Früher hätte er sich durchaus dafür geschämt, sich nicht zu schämen. (E, 10) [When he remembered this, he realized that he had lost this sense of unease, but that he was not ashamed of having lost it. Earlier he would have been thoroughly ashamed of not being ashamed.]

The shame that once arose whenever Frambach identified with the victims without the accompanying feeling of unease has vanished. He is now able to identify with them without unease or shame. His feelings toward this change are ambivalent. A part of him experiences it as a loss of “Empfindlichkeit” (E, 10; sensibility), rather than as a sign of normalization. In the course of the book the protagonist is occupied with ceaseless thinking about the Holocaust, but as the episode with the subway suggests, he is at least as occupied with monitoring and reflecting on his own reactions toward those thoughts. In this regard, Frambach’s victimcentered identificatory memory entails a narcissistic attitude. The character is unaware of his narcissism, but Hanika uses it as a springboard for satire and even sarcasm. Although Frambach seems to act in accordance with the established moral code for remembering the camps, he overdoes it and therefore misses the point. The satirical layer of Hanika’s novel comes into play some chapters later, when Frambach starts to quarrel with his employer’s secretary about whether to choose business or economy class for a flight to Shanghai. When she remarks that she has been advised to buy an economy-class ticket, he reacts emotionally: Elf Sitze in einer Reihe, eingeklemmt zwischen Fremden, keine Bewegung möglich, zwölf Stunden stillsitzen . . . Menschentransport in Viehwaggons. Auschwitz. Davon haben Sie gewiß schon einmal gehört . . .. Ich fliege Business Class. (E, 90)

McGlothlin.indd 163

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

164



SVEN KRAMER

[Eleven seats in a row, jammed in between strangers, no movement possible, sitting still for twelve hours . . . people in cattle cars, Auschwitz. Certainly you must have heard about that . . .. I’m flying Business Class.]

Such identificatory references to the victims are simply meant to fuel his rhetoric; their true purpose is to serve his convenience. Hanika’s novel walks the line between tragedy and satire. In some ways her negative hero embodies a politically correct, even exemplary attitude toward the Holocaust. He is aware of the crime at all times, he does everything to avoid downsizing it, he takes it as seriously as possible. Without mentioning the respective theoretical references in her text, Hanika devises a character who has internalized the notion of the Holocaust as a caesura. In 1988 Dan Diner suggested that the Holocaust be conceived of as a rupture in civilization.7 In a diagnosis of the contemporary stance toward the Holocaust, particularly in the Federal Republic of Germany, he writes: “Obwohl ein gesellschaftlich konstitutives Grundvertrauen erschüttert, annulliert worden ist, wird Leben nach Auschwitz so fortgeführt als habe sich das Ereignis nicht zugetragen” (8; Although a socially constitutive basic trust was shaken, annulled, life after Auschwitz is carried on as though that event had never befallen it). Twenty-two years later, Hanika seems to put that statement to the test in the new Berlin Republic. Her main character acts as if he wanted to respond to Diner’s earlier criticism. Frambach has undoubtedly drawn consequences from the Holocaust. He performs his daily life and his thinking in constant awareness of that event. Why, then, is he far from being a role model? The answer has to do with his obsessive identification with the victims, which raises more general questions about the possibility of remembering adequately at all. On a personal level, Frambach’s behavior isolates him from his fellow citizens. He is unable to experience happiness or to develop a positive attitude toward life in general; his obsession with the catastrophe casts a shadow on everything. His perpetual references to the Holocaust also undermine the relationship to potential friends. Hanika’s protagonist turns out to be a loner, and apart from a platonic relationship with a woman who is almost as occupied with the Holocaust as he is, he hardly interacts with other people. But Frambach is not just a maverick who has failed to integrate into the social fabric of urban life in post-unified Germany. He can also be regarded as test case for conceptualizing an appropriate way to remember the Holocaust. What puts him beyond satire in the first place is his honest urge to draw consequences from the genocide. He shares the critique of superficial, shallow commemoration and of paying lip service to the victims. What he strives for is non-reductive memory that would somehow

McGlothlin.indd 164

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS



165

pervade his daily life with an awareness of the Holocaust’s inconceivable magnitude. In Frambach’s worldview, Hanika’s enigmatic title Das Eigentliche evokes the genuine feeling that can accompany memory: “Für ihn war dies das Eigentliche. Daß dieses Verbrechen, so groß es war, hatte aufhören können wehzutun” (E, 24; for him that was the main thing. That this crime, as great as it was, could have ceased to hurt). But this longing to feel pain ultimately places him in the realm of satire. As far as we know, neither Frambach nor his family have suffered directly because of the Holocaust, and there is no indication of any familial affiliation to a perpetrator, which could have caused an exceptional degree of emotional involvement like feelings of shame.8 On the contrary, the protagonist’s desire to feel pain is self-induced and based solely on an act of imaginary identification. He obviously wants to share and live through the pain of the victims or the survivors. This, however, leads to the aforementioned narcissistic attitude. Hanika points to the difference between Frambach’s relationship to the Holocaust and that of deportees when she describes the fate of the survivor Siegfried Wolkenkraut and his family. Wolkenkraut, who tragically died in a car accident after having survived the camps, left behind a box of manuscripts. Many pages contain the same short text, differing only in the way in which the lines are broken. It is a two-page-long account of his journey through various camps, mentioning the dates of the deportations and the most important events: for example, Ende Januar 1943 / wurde ich von / Theresienstadt nach / AuschwitzBirkenau / deportiert // In / Theresienstadt hatte ich / zusammen mit meinen Eltern / ein Jahr lang / gelebt. // Meine Eltern wurden erst / im Oktober 1944 nach / Auschwitz / deportiert und / dort / sofort / in der Gaskammer / ermordet.” (E, 36; italics in original) [At the end of January 1943 / I was / deported from / Theresienstadt to / Auschwitz-Birkenau // In / Theresienstadt I had / lived for a year / with my parents. // In October 1944 / my parents were first / deported to / Auschwitz / and / there / immediately / murdered / in the gas chamber.]

What distinguishes Wolkenkraut’s text from Frambach’s approach is the fact that his account omits any mention of his feelings as a survivor. As shown above, emotional involvement is essential for Frambach. He ties his notion of authenticity—which is one of several possible translations for das Eigentliche—to a deeply felt compassion for the victims. This is related to a second difference: Wolkenkraut’s writings emerge from a compulsion to repeat, whereas Frambach’s actions and attitudes derive from a will to repeat. Herein lies the fundamental inappropriateness of Frambach’s position: he tries to share victimhood without being harmed.

McGlothlin.indd 165

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

166



SVEN KRAMER

In her novel, Hanika also looks beyond Frambach’s individual practices of victim-centered memory to focus more generally on German commemoration policies in the Berlin Republic. Frambach works for a huge “Institut für Vergangenheitsbewirtschaftung” (E, 21)—an institute for cultivating or managing the past.9 The state employs “unermeßlich viele Mitarbeiter” (E, 21; an immeasurable number of employees) to uncover every crime related to the Holocaust. Again, Hanika uses the stylistic device of satirical exaggeration when her narrator describes the tasks of that institute: Die meisten Bewohner des Landes waren zur Zeit des Verbrechens noch gar nicht auf der Welt . . . gewesen. Doch lastete die Ungeheuerlichkeit des Verbrechens ihrer Vorfahren schwer auf ihnen, . . . sie . . . erwarteten . . . nie etwas anderes, als ihre Vorfahren als Verbrecher zu entlarven. Das gelang ihnen problemlos und am laufenden Band . . . Da besann der Staat sich auf seine Pflicht seinen Bürgern gegenüber und beschloß, ihnen diese Bürde abzunehmen, indem er das Gedenken an das Verbrechen der Vergangenheit zu seiner immerwährenden Aufgabe erklärte . . . Jeder Ort, . . . an dem das Verbrechen sich ereignet hatte, wurde in eine Gedenkstätte umgewandelt. Es wurde dieses Gedenken . . . als die edelste Aufgabe des Staates angesehen. (E, 23–24) [Most of the inhabitants of the country were not even born at the time of the crime. Yet the monstrousness of the crime of their forefathers weighed heavily upon them; they never expected anything other than to reveal their ancestors as criminals. They had no problem churning out the evidence. . . . Then the state became aware of its obligation vis-à-vis its citizens and determined to relieve them of this burden, insofar as it declared the remembrance of this past crime to be its permanent and ongoing responsibility. Every site at which the crime had occurred was transformed into a memorial. This memorialization was seen as the noblest duty of the state.]

This description seems to echo Jureit and Schneider’s thesis about the paradigm shift regarding the politics of memory. The satirical and even sarcastic thrust of Hanika’s novel exposes the routines of remembrance and the practice of delegating memory. The author envisages what may happen when the state adopts the notion of victim-centered memory, puts itself in charge, and systematically implements the respective policy of remembrance—a process for which Hanika coins the complex neologism of Vergangenheitsbewirtschaftung. Delegating memory to the state means turning it over to the administration and absolving individuals from finding their personal approach to Holocaust memory. Although he works for the institute, it is Frambach’s desire not to delegate memory but to perform it as an individual.

McGlothlin.indd 166

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS



167

The institute’s policy and Frambach’s personal commemorative practices are only two of several variations of victim-centered identificatory memory in Hanika’s novel. But while the book criticizes the official policy, the author’s stance toward her protagonist remains ambivalent. She portrays him as someone with an honest intent to remember the Holocaust, but whose excessive identification with the victims results in an awkward way of life. Throughout her book Hanika implies that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way in which the Germans remember. Every attempt to remember seems to bring about some sort of neurotic behavior. When we compare her fictional world to Jureit and Schneider’s analysis of Germany’s practices of memorialization, the parallels are obvious. Both of their key arguments can be found in the novel. In addition to various practices of identifying with the victims, examples of the hope for redemption that Jureit and Schneider identify can also be found in the novel, for example when Frambach criticizes the church’s notion of explaining Auschwitz in the light of Cain’s murder of Abel, where the death of Jesus is constructed as liberation from that heritage.10 However, Hanika’s world is not as clear-cut as Jureit and Schneider’s. And with regard to the issue of victim-centered identificatory memory, this difference is essential. The substantial merit of Hanika’s novel is that she does not reduce the complexity of the situation: she does not, like Jureit and Schneider, denounce the practice of identifiying with the victims altogether. Rather, she shows how under the current circumstances the politically correct intention to perform a non-reductive memory inevitably transforms into something odd when it is thoroughly pursued. In devising an awkward character such as Hans Frambach, Hanika exposes contemporary aporias pertaining to the memory of the Shoah.

III. Kevin Vennemann represents a younger generation of German writers. Born in 1977 in West Germany, he was only twelve years old when the Berlin Wall came down. Vennemann had lived and studied in several places, among them Vienna and Berlin, before he moved to New York City in 2009 to enroll in a PhD program at New York University. Both of his novels published to date deal with the past: in Mara Kogoj (2007) his characters try to reconstruct the history of the Austrian-Slowenian borderlands during and after the Second World War. In Nahe Jedenew (2005), he leaps back in time and tells a story from the war itself. Both texts were published by the prestigious Suhrkamp Verlag. Nahe Jedenew is written in first-person narrative, adopting the perspective of a sixteen-year-old girl who witnesses an attack on her family during a pogrom. The reader participates in the girl’s thoughts and perceptions while she hides with her twin sister.11 Vennemann sets up a

McGlothlin.indd 167

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

168



SVEN KRAMER

claustrophobic and remorseless situation: nineteen men from the nearby village of Jedenew approach two farms to kill off everybody they can find. The reader learns about the death of a young mother, Antonina, and her baby Julia. A five-year-old boy, Zygmunt, is also murdered. Marian, the twenty-year-old brother of the narrator, also seems to be dead.12 The whereabouts of other family members, for example the girl’s father, remain unclear; they are simply gone. As the murderers come closer, the inhabitants of the farm houses try to escape into the surrounding fields, but only the girl and her sister Anna manage to reach refuge. They hold out in a tree house for six days before the villagers find them. The novel closes with the moment of discovery and surrender. Its last words, “Ich atme nicht” (NJ, 143; I am not breathing) attest to the interruption of vital functions of a person in shock. They also indicate a decisive moment, maybe even the moment of the narrator’s death, because her monologue breaks off with that statement. The readers thus participate in the cruel trajectory of the pogrom from the perspective of a victim. They share her thoughts, her horror, and her fear of being detected and killed. This is why Vennemann’s novel undoubtedly matches the criterion of victim-centered identificatory memory.13 How, then, should the text be assessed in the light of Jureit and Schneider’s theses? The first part of the answer will involve some thoughts on aesthetics reaching beyond Jureit and Schneider, in order to put the issue of identification with the victims into the perspective of twentieth-century theory. In the context of his famous dictum, in which he considers writing poems after Auschwitz as barbaric, Theodor W. Adorno explains why identification with the victims is a double-edged sword in the arts. His argument involves a dialectic. One side reads: “The abundance of real suffering permits no forgetting . . . that suffering . . . also demands the continued existence of . . . art . . .; hardly anywhere else does suffering still find[] its own voice, a consolation that does not immediately betray it.”14 This side of the argument claims that the existence of art is still justified, and even necessary, because artworks provide rare opportunities to give voice to an omnipresent suffering. There is another side, however, which claims that in the light of atrocities such as genocide, art needs to remain silent. Adorno makes the point that even serious works of art depicting the suffering of the victims cannot escape an aporia. When drastic suffering is turned into an image, however, for all its harshness and discordance it is as though the embarrassment one feels before the victims were being violated. The victims are turned into works of art, offered up only to be tossed out by the world that did them in. The so-called artistic rendering of the naked physical pain of those who were beaten down with rifle butts contains, however distantly, the

McGlothlin.indd 168

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS



169

possibility that pleasure can be squeezed from it. . . . Even the sound of desperation pays tribute to a heinous affirmation. (88)

Art is and remains connected to pleasure, and, as Edmund Burke already knew, a certain degree of pleasure may even derive from horror, that is, whenever one’s own life is not threatened. He famously calls the resulting emotions “delightful horror.”15 These deliberations underscore the general problem inherent in identifying with the victims in any art. Seen from this angle, there is always some sort of “embarrassment” involved when we partake in the pain of others through works of art. More to the heart of Jureit and Schneider’s argument goes the following assessment by Susan Sontag, in which she alerts us to another aspect of identifying with the victims related to the mechanisms involved in compassion. With regard to documentary photography she writes: “So far as we feel sympathy, we feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence. To that extent, it can be (for all our good intentions) an impertinent—if not an inappropriate—response.”16 In this passage Sontag does not, like Adorno, criticize identification or compassion because of its belittling effects, but rather because it inevitably elevates the recipient in moral terms. She does not dismiss absolutely identification with the victims in the arts. As an antidote, she demands reflection on behalf of the recipient, in which he or she would establish a connection between the pain of the depicted and the question of “how our privileges . . . may . . . be linked to their suffering” (102). Such an ethics of reading is certainly crucial for an adequate handling of documentary film footage or photographical images—particularly in the case of found footage. In works of fiction, such as Nahe Jedenew, the author’s task is by contrast to devise and compose a perspective in which the reader would not feel innocent when identifying with the victims. If, on the contrary, Vennemann’s book triggered feelings of moral superiority, it would certainly deserve Jureit and Schneider’s reproach; it would suppress the debate about German perpetration. When we examine the structure of Vennemann’s narrative,17 there are aspects that lean in Jureit and Schneider’s direction. Identification with the victims is made easy because they are portrayed as likable, innocent persons, and because many are still children or underage, among them the narrator herself. Through the thoughts of this juvenile woman the readers also learn about the idyllic state of things before the assault. Although some of the adults’ actions are not entirely legal, they are shown as harmless offenses against dogmatic regulations. Marian, for example, who is a Jew, forges a document to facilitate his conversion to Catholicism in order to be able to marry Antonina. From the perspective of the narrator, which is the only perspective the readers get to know, the family members are nothing but victims.

McGlothlin.indd 169

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

170



SVEN KRAMER

However, in opposition to Jureit and Schneider’s misgivings, the novel’s prevailing identification with the victims does not silence reflections on the subject of perpetration. An underlying theme of the whole book is the bewilderment of the narrator about the fact that her neighbors not only suddenly turn against her family but also deliberately become murderers. The narrator remembers, for example, how the Polish farmer Krystowczyk cared for her and her family before the pogrom; he kümmert sich . . . seit Jahren bereits sooft er kann um uns und taucht seit Jahren bereits wenigstens einmal in der Woche bei uns auf, um uns Kindern etwas zu bringen oder uns beim Baumhausbau zu helfen. (NJ, 30) [for years has looked in on us as often as he could and for years has turned up at least once a week, in order to bring something for us kids or help build our tree house.]

This same Krystowczyk participates in the murder of those children he had looked after only a short time ago. Vennemann’s novel circles around this transformation and confronts the readers with the question of how neighbors turn into murderers. With regard to Jureit and Schneider it can be said that in Nahe Jedenew identification with the victims takes place without circumventing the confrontation with perpetration. But at the same time Vennemann portrays the perpetrators as the others. Jureit and Schneider argue that this construction leads to denial. To put this assumption into perspective it would be necessary to examine the vicissitudes of identifying with the perpetrators in Holocaust fiction. Jonathan Littell’s novel The Kindly Ones could serve as a touchstone. The readers participate in cruelties through the eyes of Max Aue, a member of the SS, who remorselessly engages in crimes against humanity. Some critics call Littell’s book pornographic precisely because the narration forces the readers into identifying with the perpetrator.18 Jureit and Schneider do not propose in detail what form identification with the perpetrators should take. The debate around Littell’s novel suggests that thorough identification with Nazi characters and their worldview is a slippery slope. Without the perspective of the victims, art is in danger of reproducing Nazi ideology or turning into pornography of violence. In terms of the aesthetics of the situations portrayed, it must be pointed out that Vennemann does not dwell on acts of violence; he “verzichtet auf die Beschreibung von Gewaltszenen” (forgoes the description of scenes of violence).19 His readers do not encounter any “so-called artistic rendering of the naked physical pain of those who were beaten down with rifle butts” and he does not stimulate voyeurism. The readers do not witness actual killings, because the narrator cannot—or does not

McGlothlin.indd 170

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS



171

want to—look. They are briefly confronted with some corpses, though not with extended descriptions of either acts of slaughter or those who were slain. As a consequence, Vennemann’s novel does perform a victimcentered identificatory memory,20 and in this capacity, the text cannot escape Adorno’s and Burke’s argument of gaining some sort of pleasure from other people’s suffering. However, Adorno does not establish a ban on making art—not even on writing poetry—after Auschwitz, he merely points to an aporia: art needs to find a voice for suffering, but being art, it inevitably diminishes the suffering of the victims. He gives names of artists whose work persists even under these forbidding circumstances: Beckett, Celan, Schönberg.21 Adorno’s dialectical theory should thus not be misused to reject Vennemann’s victim-centered narrative; it rather provides a tool for permanently reviewing and readjusting our assessments of current attempts to depict extreme suffering in the arts. Vennemann’s reserve in detailing acts of violence answers to Adorno’s objection and avoids any involvement with the pornography of violence. Some may interpret this refusal to look closely as an avoidance of confronting the readers with the excruciating results of the Holocaust. However, the fact that the female narrator does not survive—and that Vennemann does not tell a survivor’s story—speaks against this consideration. Sontag’s objection to the mechanism of identification with regard to compassion applies to Nahe Jedenew to a certain degree, but at the same time the novel’s focus on the murderous neighbors puts a strong emphasis on the issue of perpetration. Beyond these aesthetic implications of perspective and identification, Sontag’s argument also contains a political dimension. This takes us to the second part of the answer to the question posed at the beginning, that is, how the text should be assessed in the light of Jureit and Schneider’s theses. If perpetration is a point of reference in the novel, how do we evaluate the depiction of German perpetrators? The main perpetrators of the pogrom portrayed in the book are Polish locals. Vennemann does not explicitly mention the year in which the story is set, but he provides enough information to narrow down the time and the place.22 The pogrom unfolds shortly after an invasion (“Einmarsch,” NJ, 37) of a Polish territory by German-speaking troops: “Die Jedenewer Bauern reden Polnisch untereinander, sie reden auf holprigem Deutsch mit den Soldaten” (NJ, 20; The Jedenew farmers spoke Polish with one another, clumsy German with the soldiers). Before the invasion, the land had been administered by “russischen Kommandanturen” (NJ, 136; Russian headquarters). The pogrom takes place a few weeks after the month of May (see NJ, 14). This information suffices to narrow down the time in question to the German invasion of the eastern Polish territories occupied by the Soviet Union after the Germans breached

McGlothlin.indd 171

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

172



SVEN KRAMER

the Hitler-Stalin Pact. The German war against the Soviet Union started on June 22, 1941. It was led as a war of conquest on the one hand, of extermination against Communists and Jews on the other. The Germans deployed special forces, called Einsatzgruppen, to systematically carry out mass executions behind the front lines. From the first days of the campaign, the main perpetrators against Jewish civilians were of course German troops, not Polish citizens. In contrast to these historical circumstances, Vennemann portrays the Polish neighbors as the main culprits of the pogrom. They kill Antonina and Julia before the Germans arrive. Later, they alert the Germans to the fact that there are two family members missing: “Sapetow and Krystowczyk wissen, daß wir hier noch irgendwo in der Gegend sind” (NJ, 114; Sapetow and Krystowczyk know that we are still somewhere here in the area). Shortly before the pursuers detect the tree house, Anna manages to escape Krystowczyk, who ambushes her in the fields and tries to grab her (NJ, 131). German troops assist the Poles in finding the girls, for example with “Soldatenhunde[n]” (NJ, 137; military dogs), but the ambition to pursue and kill the girls originates with the Poles. In this context it is important to stress that the two siblings in hiding are Jewish and that Vennemann portrays a pogrom directed against Jews, although non-Jewish relatives such as Antonina are also caught up in the massacre. In stressing Polish perpetration, Vennemann’s novel echoes a debate that unfolded in 2001 following the publication of Jan Tomasz Gross’s Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland.23 Although Vennemann does not explicitly refer to Jedwabne, he works with allusions to that place. Jedenew and Jedwabne sound alike, just as the river “Bisa” (NJ, 136) resembles Pisa (or Pissa), the Polish river near Jedwabne that partly marked the line of demarcation between the German Reich and the Soviet Union under Stalin between 1939 and 1941.24 Jedenew is situated east—“diesseits” (NJ, 136; on this side)—of Bisa, like Jedwabne east of Pisa (or Pissa), both being part of the Soviet sphere of influence until the summer of 1941. When German troops occupied the eastern parts of Poland during the assault on the Soviet Union, Jedwabne’s non-Jewish population killed most of their Jewish neighbors: according to Gross, “one day, in July 1941, half of the population of a small Eastern European town murdered the other half.”25 The Germans tolerated the actions; they did not assist. What constitutes the main parallel between the events in Jedwabne and Vennemann’s Jedenew is the sudden switch to perpetration on the part of the neighbors. Gross stresses the victims’ reaction of disbelief and bewilderment: “In Jedwabne ordinary Poles slaughtered the Jews . . .. And what the Jews saw, to their horror and . . . incomprehension, were familiar faces. Not anonymous men in uniform, . . . but their own neighbors, who chose to kill and were engaged in a bloody pogrom.”26

McGlothlin.indd 172

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS



173

Vennemann shows how unexpectedly the turnaround happens, but his narrator does not reflect on its moral implications or judge the neighbors’ sudden change in behavior. In short, neither Vennemann nor his protagonist displays a moralizing attitude. In this respect and following Sontag, the narrative elevates the recipient as much as other depictions of suffering do. Adding to this, though, Vennemann’s book is qualified to elevate particularly a German audience in moral terms. Gross felt the need to point something out for his German readers. In an afterword to the German edition of his book, he emphasizes how the Germans should not interpret his findings. It would be, “gelinde gesagt vermessen, würde ein deutscher Leser die mörderische Grausamkeit des polnischen Pöbels in Jedwabne in irgendeinem Sinne als Entlastung empfinden” (to put it mildly, foolish, if a German reader were to experience the murderous cruelty of the Polish mob in Jedwabne as some sort of exoneration).27 There is good reason to ask to what degree Nahe Jedenew encourages this kind of exoneration. The answer needs to concede that in stressing Polish perpetration, Vennemann inevitably downsizes the historical role played by the Germans. This pattern is more prevalent in other current works of fiction, for example in the depiction of Polish anti-Semitism in the German TV production Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter,28 but it is also present in Nahe Jedenew. Maybe this is why Vennemann decided to erase the abovecited identifier “Polish” from the translated versions of his book.29 In an interview he reports that a Polish translator rejected the text, “weil es ihr zu sehr um polnische Schuld ging und um polnische Täter” (because she thought it dealt too much with Polish guilt and Polish perpetrators) and acknowledges that “manches bleibt in diesem Roman wohl tatsächlich etwas vage oder missverständlich” (certain details in this novel are in fact too vague or capable of being misunderstood).30 While Vennemann should indeed be criticized, following Jureit and Schneider, for losing the focus on the German perpetrators, it should also be stressed that he does not lose the focus on perpetration altogether. And this last point—that he tells the story from a victim-centered perspective without losing that focus—partly removes his text from Jureit and Schneider’s objections.

IV. Hanika’s and Vennemann’s novels, both from Germany, are concerned with victim-centered identificatory memory. To a larger or lesser degree, they also perform it. They thus seem to be examples of what Jureit and Schneider criticize in contemporary German memorial culture. But a closer look reveals that these works of art do not fall into the trap of presumptuousness and denial. In their own ways, both refute Jureit and Schneider’s assumption that victim-centered modes of memory are per se inappropriate for memorializing the Shoah in Germany.

McGlothlin.indd 173

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

174



SVEN KRAMER

Through satire and sarcasm, Hanika’s narrative takes a more distanced approach to contemporary German memorial culture than does Vennemann’s. She works through various constellations of German identification with the victims, which opens up ample opportunity for criticizing personal, collective, and state-run practices of victimcentered memory in the novel. But in spite of all these critical elements she does not denounce her protagonist’s attempt to empathize with Jewish victims. In all his oddity, Frambach is driven by a legitimate, humanely convincing impulse when he turns against the petrification of memory. It is precisely this tension that keeps the novel interesting as an artwork. Vennemann’s text also establishes a tension, although it derives from a different source. On the one hand, he entirely adopts the perspective of a Jewish victim, which results in an imagined identification with the girl and her fate. On the other hand, he also makes mention of the perpetrators; identification with the victims does not result in ignorance vis-à-vis the perpetrators and their deeds. However, while the question of how neighbors turn into murderers propels his entire text, Vennemann also downsizes the German role in the pogroms. This problematic feature makes certain parts of his narration susceptible to Jureit and Schneider’s critique. Both Hanika and Vennemann employ victim-centered references to the Shoah in their novels. Obviously, both hold fast to the idea that a certain degree of identification is necessary to generate empathy with the victims. If all identificatory practices were to be banned, the memory of the Shoah would be an exclusively cognitive and therefore abstract one. Art, by definition, involves the senses as much as reflection and cognition. Works of art establish different connections to the victims than does learned discourse; they must rely on empathy, and on the palpability of suffering. Of course, this thought needs to be situated in the general context discussed earlier, which is the context of inevitable aporias in depicting the victims of the Shoah. Authors Iris Hanika and Kevin Vennemann are not ignorant of these aporias; nonetheless they intentionally engage in telling stories about the mechanisms and limits of identifying with the victims. In their own, quite different, ways—and to a greater or lesser degree—they also perform that identification. Neither neglects the role of the perpetrators and should thus not be accused of denial. What their novels attest to is the need for some sort of identification with the victims on the one hand, and the impossibility of such an attempt on the other hand. In Jureit and Schneider’s terms, they offer victim-centered identificatory perspectives, but at the same time, they do not reduce the complexities of such an approach. What art does, and what these novels do, is to establish a narrative that permits identification and rejects it at the same time.

McGlothlin.indd 174

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS



175

Notes 1

Ulrike Jureit and Christian Schneider, Gefühlte Opfer: Illusionen der Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2010). The book contains a coauthored introduction (7–16), one essay by Jureit (17–103), and one by Schneider (105–212).

2

All translations in this essay are the work of the editors, unless otherwise noted.

3

See, for example, Torben Fischer and Matthias N. Lorenz, eds., Lexikon der “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” in Deutschland: Debatten- und Diskursgeschichte des Nationalsozialismus nach 1945, 3rd ed. (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), and Peter Reichel, Harald Schmid, and Peter Steinbach, eds., Der Nationalsozialismus—die zweite Geschichte: Überwindung, Deutung, Erinnerung (Munich: Beck, 2009). 4

Kevin Vennemann, Nahe Jedenew (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2005). Further references to this work are given in the text using the abbreviation NJ and the page number. 5

Iris Hanika, Das Eigentliche (Graz, Austria: Droschl, 2010). Further references to this work are given in the text using the abbreviation E and the page number. As yet this work has not been translated.

6

Some reviewers’ judgments were primarily critical (see Meike Fessmann, “Shoahspaziergänger,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, June 25, 2010), but most were positive (see, for example, Andreas Platthaus, “In Richtung Ausgang,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, January 30, 2010, and Dennis Scheck’s enthusiastic review in his program druckfrisch on German television ARD, March 28, 2010). Hanika received the Literaturpreis der Europäischen Union in 2010 and Preis der LiteraTour Nord in 2011. 7

See Dan Diner’s influential concept of Zivilisationsbruch in Dan Diner, “Vorwort des Herausgebers,” in Zivilisationsbruch: Denken nach Auschwitz, ed. Dan Diner (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1988), 7–13. 8

Some children of Nazi perpetrators have reflected on how their parents’ legacies have affected their lives. See, for example, Niklas Frank, Der Vater: Eine Abrechnung (Munich: Bertelsmann, 1987), Richard von Schirach, Der Schatten meines Vaters (Munich: dtv, 2005), and Thomas Harlan, Veit (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2011). 9

The reference to the world of business also connotes the concept of “Shoah business,” as introduced by Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (London: Verso, 2000) although the institute in Hanika’s novel does not earn any money with its endeavors. 10

See the episode in the church (E, 101–19).

11

Both girls are sixteen years old (see NJ, 65); they thus seem to be twins.

12

During the assault on the farms he engages in a fight with Krystowczyk (NJ, 18); later he lies near a field path (NJ, 94–95).

13

A comparable case of victim-centered identificatory memory should at least be mentioned here. In Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel Heimsuchung (2008) the author follows a Jewish girl into a ghetto hideout until she is detected and murdered; see Jenny Erpenbeck, Visitation, trans. Susan Bernofsky (London: Portobello, 2010), 58–68.

McGlothlin.indd 175

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

176



SVEN KRAMER

14

Theodor W. Adorno, “Commitment,” in Notes to Literature, vol. 2, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 88.

15

Edmund Burke, “A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful,” A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful and Other Pre-Revolutionary Writings, ed. David Womersley (London: Penguin, 1998), 165. 16

Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador, 2003), 102.

17

Carola Hähnel-Mesnard has carefully analyzed the narrative structure of the book. See Carola Hähnel-Mesnard, “Die Inszenierung von Zeugenschaft im Roman Nahe Jedenew (2005) von Kevin Vennemann,” in Der Nationalsozialismus und die Shoah in der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur, ed. Torben Fischer, Philipp Hammermeister, and Sven Kramer (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2014), 167–86. For further studies about Vennemann’s novel, cf. Elisabeth Katharina Paefgen, “‘Wieviel sich verändern kann in nur wenigen Augenblicken’: Kevin Vennemanns Nahe Jedenew als Erzählung über das Nichterzählbare,” Literatur im Unterricht 12, no. 1 (2011): 1–15, and Kirsten Frieden, Neuverhandlungen des Holocaust: Mediale Transformationen des Gedächtnisparadigmas (Bielefeld: transcript, 2014), 73–106. 18

“Die Wohlgesinnten sind ein pornographisches Werk. . . . Jonathan Littell will die Aufhebung auch der letzten reflexiven wie ästhetischen Distanz.” Thomas Steinfeld, “Ein schlauer Pornograph,” Süddeutsche.de, accessed June 15, 2015, http://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/ jonathan-littell-die-wohlgesinnten-ein-schlauer-pornograph-1.295901. 19

Hähnel-Mesnard, “Die Inszenierung von Zeugenschaft,” 172.

20

Hähnel-Mesnard has already pointed this out: “Vennemanns Anliegen ist es, Opfererfahrung literarisch darzustellen und nachvollziehbar zu machen.” Ibid., 168. 21

In “Commitment,” Adorno develops his thoughts in dialogue with Arnold Schönberg’s piece A Survivor From Warsaw. 22

I do not see a “durchgehend eingehaltene[n] Referenzverzicht” as Kirsten Frieden suggests (Frieden, Neuverhandlungen, 76). The story is not set at the beginning of the Second World War (see Frieden, Neuverhandlungen, 77), but in June 1941. 23

Jan Tomasz Gross, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). German edition: Nachbarn: Der Mord an den Juden von Jedwabne (Munich: Beck, 2001). 24

See Gross, Nachbarn, 39. In addition, Jedenew contains the ending -ew, which might allude to the river Narew east of Jedwabne. 25

Gross, Neighbors, 7. Gross gives the number of 1,600 victims. Gross, Neighbors, 7. During the ensuing debate, the numbers have been downsized; see, for example, “Jedwabne without Stereotypes: Agnieszka Sabor and Marek Zajac Talk with Professor Tomasz Szarota,” in The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland, ed. Antony Polonsky and Joanna B. Michlic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 377.

McGlothlin.indd 176

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

IDENTIFYING WITH THE VICTIMS IN THE LAND OF THE PERPETRATORS 26

Gross, Neighbors, 120–21.

27

Gross, Nachbarn, 123.



177

28

Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, director Philipp Kadelbach. The series, which was produced by TeamWorxX Television & Film, aired on ZDF in 2013. 29

See Hähnel-Mesnard, Die Inszenierung von Zeugenschaft, 178.

30

Georg Diez, “Ein bisschen Moral ist doch nicht schlecht,” interview with Nikolaus Wachsmann and Kevin Vennemann, die tageszeitung, February 16, 2008.

McGlothlin.indd 177

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

9: Laying Claim to Painful Truths in Survivor- and Perpetrator-Family Memoirs Irene Kacandes

C

the experiences of the offspring of Holocaust survivors and the offspring of perpetrators of the Nazi Judeocide first began to be made quickly after those individuals reached maturity, though I am unable to determine with certainty whether it was initially by laypeople, scholars, or mental-health professionals. This similarity surely came into focus in the general public’s mind in the mid-1980s with the publications of journalist Peter Sichrovsky’s twin volumes of interviews with children of survivors and children of perpetrators.1 Like Sichrovsky, I, too, got started on a comparative track by first studying children of Holocaust survivors. In several conference papers and then in a book chapter, I described my investigation of strategies of authentication in such works. I proposed the term “Holocaust family memoir” as a subgenre of life writing that draws heavily on the experiences of family members of the author.2 While the texts that made up that first corpus of mine are diverse in medium, style, tone, and aesthetic merit—including Art Spiegelman’s pathbreaking comix Maus, Anne Karpf’s bitter The War After, Helen Fremont’s investigative After Long Silence, Lisa Appignanesi’s elegiac Losing the Dead, and Martin Lemelman’s tender Mendel’s Daughter3— they share a desire to fill in later generations’ gaps in knowledge about what the parental generation experienced during the Nazi Judeocide. The texts subsequently produced include the story of what happened to family members in the Shoah and the story of the offspring-author tracking down that story. The latter usually sheds some light on the dynamics of the postwar family unit. As demonstrated repeatedly in Sichrovsky’s Schuldig geboren, long before the appearance of that volume children and siblings of perpetrators of Nazi crimes had begun trying to make sense of taboo subjects in their families and the gaps and inconsistencies in the stories they had been told. Many memoirs and memoir-like texts have now been published that OMPARISONS BETWEEN

McGlothlin.indd 178

10/16/2016 2:05:48 PM

LAYING CLAIM TO PAINFUL TRUTHS



179

detail their authors’ discoveries of what their parents, siblings, or other close relatives did during the Nazi period, and the challenges of living with such knowledge. These memoirs, like those by the children of survivors, concern themselves with at least two generations of one family and present at least two stories, one that involves more centrally the parental generation during the war and one that concerns how the younger generation came to know more fully what their elders perpetrated. For these reasons, then, I propose here a parallel term for the subgenre of life writing to which these texts belong: the designation “perpetrator-family memoirs.”4 By assigning related names to the two subgenres, I do not mean to erase their differences. (To state just one obvious distinction, in contrast to the investigations conducted in survivor families, it is rare that the perpetrator generation cooperates with the queries of younger generations.) However, through the inevitable comparison that parallel terms set up, I do mean to underscore a central point of this volume about the entanglement of German studies and Holocaust studies. Examples of “perpetrator-family memoirs” include celebrated novelist Uwe Timm’s Am Beispiel meines Bruders, an account of the military involvement of his older brother and his father; Mein guter Vater: Mein Leben mit seiner Vergangenheit, a “perpetrator biography” by Beate Niemann, daughter of career Nazi and Occupied Belgrade Gestapo Chief Bruno Sattler; and Der Schatten meines Vaters, a memoir by Sinologist Richard von Schirach, youngest child of Baldur von Schirach, former Hitler Youth leader and Reichsleiter of Vienna, convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg. Another relevant title is Niklas Frank’s Bruder Norman! “Mein Vater war ein Naziverbrecher, aber ich liebe ihn” (Brother Norman! My Father Was a Nazi Criminal, but I Love Him), in which the author, following earlier publications interrogating his father and mother, now confronts his oldest brother in an attempt to get him to renounce his love for their father.5 These two groups of memoir writers have in common an unwilled relationship to the atrocities of mid-century Europe. Through their writing, both groups try to bear witness to certain historical events in which their parents were central agents but in which they, the offspring, were not involved, because they were either too young or not yet born. At the same time, the writers address experiences that did concern both them and their parents: treading a minefield of silences, lies, and absences in the postwar period; soliciting information from the parental generation and other sources; and living with the consequences of those solicitations for familial relationships as well as for their own senses of self once painful truths become known to them. How such individuals make truth claims about their own experiences and those of others is critical to their projects—and therefore to mine as I work to characterize these writings. Double witnessing (to the self and to the parental generation) places these texts under two authentication regimes. As memoirs that

McGlothlin.indd 179

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

180



IRENE KACANDES

bear witness to the authors’ own experiences, these texts are covered by Philippe Lejeune’s “autobiographical pact,” by which readers accept the truthfulness of a book’s contents because the author is presumed to be an expert on her or his own life. When I write something about myself and my experiences, you agree to take it as the truth just because “I am saying I,” so to speak. Readers understand writers to be asserting the identity of their works’ authors, narrators, and protagonists.6 Such pacts come with provisos, of course: for instance, that “I” tells the truth “such as it appears to me, inasmuch as I can know it, making allowances for lapses of memory, errors, involuntary distortions” (22). As “biographies” and “histories” about individuals who are not identical to the authors, however, these texts must stand up to verification in external data bases. Dorrit Cohn’s work on the “referential level” and Philippe Carrard’s on the “biographical pact” are relevant here.7 This agreement with readers runs approximately as follows: if I write something about someone else, I am warranting that I have done my homework and have verified what I am writing by having researched in the archives or having secured information beyond what I can know from my own experience. If you, the reader, wanted to, you could check up on me and review the evidence yourself. Perhaps all memoir-like texts that concern themselves extensively with witnessing both to the self and to an other would also resemble these survivor- and perpetrator-family memoirs; I can only confirm here that these two groups share some strikingly similar features in terms of the strategies of authentication they employ both in the paratexts and in the texts proper, and that the consequences of one’s connection to survival or perpetration also lead to some interesting differences. Although space allows me to illustrate only a few key points of comparison, I hope they will adequately demonstrate why these two subgenres of life writing are worth examining together.

Claims in the Paratexts Laying claim to a historical familial connection to the atrocities of the mid-twentieth century is a primary task of all of the books in my corpus. They accomplish this in large part through the components of the text the readers encounter first, namely the paratext, specifically such materials as the front and back covers and the initial pages.8 Most obviously, a word referencing kinship is almost universally present in the title or subtitle of the memoir itself. Interestingly, kinship is referenced most frequently in the main title of the perpetrator-family memoirs and in the subtitle of the Holocaust family memoirs. Thus we have the word “father” in Niemann’s and von Schirach’s books: Mein guter Vater (My Good Father) and Der Schatten meines Vaters (My Father’s Shadow) respectively, and “brother” in Timm’s Am Beispiel meines

McGlothlin.indd 180

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

LAYING CLAIM TO PAINFUL TRUTHS



181

Bruders (Following My Brother’s Example)9 and Frank’s Bruder Norman! Subtitles of Holocaust family memoirs include: “A Family Memoir” (Appignanesi); “A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother’s History” (Helen Epstein);10 “A Son’s Memoir” (Michael Skakun);11 and, of course, the best-known, from volume 1 of Spiegelman’s Maus (Mouse), “My Father Bleeds History.” As these examples illustrate, possessive pronouns also predominate in main and subtitles. Together, kinship designations and possessive pronouns not only stake an initial claim to familial connection but also announce in some kind of preliminary way the very structure of the books introduced above: that they will be about both the war generation and the offspring of that generation or, to put it somewhat differently, that they contain both a personal memoir and biographies of family members. My term “family memoir” is meant to signal this dual project. In addition to this titling convention, there is often a generic designation somewhere on the exterior or copyright page pronouncing the book as a referential text. Niemann’s phrase “a perpetrator biography” has already been mentioned; one could also note the prominence of the word “NONFICTION” on the back cover of Karpf’s The War After. Several other parts of the paratext stake these family memoirs’ claims to recounting factual material—for instance, photos and their captions or lists of sources of information that the authors consulted. The paratexts of Holocaust family memoirs often incorporate maps, glossaries, and dedications that offer guidance to their target audiences, who are located in places quite distant from the places of the central events recounted and whose cultural references are quite different. They can include not only personal names—usually of victims of Nazi violence—but also places and dates, additionally testifying to the historicity of the occurrences and to the author’s familial connection to them. Some of these same texts display endorsements from authorities on the Holocaust (for example, from Eli Wiesel on Michael Skakun’s book or from Helen Epstein on Helen Fremont’s book). A specific strategy employed within the corpus of perpetrator-family memoirs is the staking of painful claims through the use of cover photographs that depict the authors as children and their fathers in Nazi uniforms, as on the covers of Niemann’s and von Schirach’s books. Following this pattern, Frank’s memoir displays a photo of his father and brother in uniform. Uwe Timm’s work has neither a subtitle nor any photographs, though he does describe several photos at length in the main body of his text. All four samples include copy on the back cover that references the author in relation to his or her Nazi relatives.12 On balance, then, while all the memoirs under consideration here exploit the paratext in more than one way to announce their connection to real events and historical individuals, the texts produced by the

McGlothlin.indd 181

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

182



IRENE KACANDES

offspring of survivors deploy the greatest variety of authentication techniques: titles and subtitles, generic labels, explicit statements about factuality, glossaries, and personal endorsements. Without some kind of assurance that one had truly assembled all the books that belong to these subgenres and without quantifying this aspect of authentication in some manner, it could be argued that the differences I am noting here primarily reflect publishing traditions. The only one of my perpetrator-family memoirs to be translated into English, Uwe Timm’s, seems to support such an interpretation: the translation includes an added subtitle, a glossary of historical terms, a photo on the front and back covers (in this case, a “generic” photo of an SS soldier, not a portrait of Timm’s actual brother), endorsement blurbs, and so on, that contribute to making the translation of Timm’s book resemble more closely the features I’ve noted in the paratexts of the Anglophone Holocaust family memoir corpus. In other words, it could be argued that in contemporary Germany one does not need to sell books related to history aggressively (hence the simpler and fewer paratextual elements), whereas in the United States, readers need to be urged on to make the purchase—perhaps especially in the case of translations. Other cultural explanations, however, should not be ignored. For instance, some texts published in German by Germanophone authors in Germanophone countries do not need to work as hard at making claims to documentable history when certain names—say, “Frank” and “von Schirach”—appear on their covers. Such names would be identifiable as connected to a Nazi criminal by virtually anyone with a minimal knowledge of mid-twentieth-century German history. Even in the case of Niemann and Timm, whose relatives were not famous people—and thus, at least prior to publication of their books, their names would not necessarily be familiar to German-speaking populations—mere mention of a Nazi in the family suffices. Who would claim to be related to perpetrators if they were not actually connected? In contrast, there are numerous cultural-historical reasons to stake claims of connection to the Holocaust carefully and thoroughly— even, as we have seen, redundantly. The case of “Binjamin Wilkomirski,” supposed child survivor and author of the highly praised and then completely discredited Fragments, will be familiar to readers of this volume, as will be the scandal around Herman Rosenblatt, wouldbe author of Angel at the Fence. As Peter Novick, Norman Finkelstein, and others have argued, the Holocaust has become an “industry” and carries a cachet that many would like to tap into.13 Fraud and cachet could thus also explain the plethora of authentication strategies in the paratexts of the Holocaust family memoirs in my corpus: one needs to make clear from the outset that one is, indeed, personally connected to the Nazi Judeocide.

McGlothlin.indd 182

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

LAYING CLAIM TO PAINFUL TRUTHS



183

Claims within the Texts Proper Although authors might be involved in making particular decisions about the paratext, editors and publishers usually play an active role in shaping this part of any book, as it can directly affect marketing and sales. The strategies I consider in this section were presumably more fully determined by the authors, since they concern the text proper. Specifically, I examine the ways these writers authorize themselves as individuals with extensive knowledge of their parents’ experiences during the Nazi period. Here, too, similarities are striking, even as differences can be detected. In virtually all the texts with which I have worked, it becomes clear in one way or another, explicitly or implicitly, that the author has had to put an enormous amount of effort into learning more about the (actual) experiences of the perpetrator or survivor—that is, documenting the referential level—than what he or she has been told. Often this effort in documenting the referential level is necessary because of an earlier intentional destruction of documents. Some Jews survived the persecution precisely by virtue of their success at hiding or erasing signs of their (Jewish) existence. For example, in some cases it has become impossible to prove where one’s parents were born or resided at certain points in their life, because official documents such as birth certificates and identity cards were destroyed by the parents. Sometimes this refutation of Jewish identity continued after the war, as is the case in Helen Fremont’s family. As for the perpetrators, we know that they put tremendous energy into erasing their criminal trails, especially once it became clear that Germany would lose the war. This absence of certain Nazi documents obviously affects the reconstruction of both victims’ and perpetrators’ histories. Still, even though Nazis succeeded in destroying much of the official record during or after the war, sufficient material remained to indict them and, in many cases, to provide evidence of survivors’ wartime displacement and persecution. Moreoever, many “new” texts came into being in the postwar period, generated most notably and extensively through the legal prosecution of Nazi criminals. Poignant incidents in which documents were destroyed well after the cessation of Nazi persecution surface in both my corpuses. Maus recounts Vladek Spiegelman’s burning of his wife Anja’s diary after her suicide, and Mein guter Vater tells of the periodic destruction of numerous documents, including the destruction by the author’s mother of all the documents she had been guarding at the time of Bruno Sattler’s death.14 In working with the perpetrator texts I was surprised by how much incriminating evidence survived such purges. Family memoirists’ efforts to learn more can include reading primary documents, and they almost always include reading the works of expert witnesses and historians. To cite just a few specific examples, Timm reads

McGlothlin.indd 183

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

184



IRENE KACANDES

Himmler’s address to the Waffen-SS in Stettin on 13 July 1941, Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, and Primo Levi’s The Drowned and the Saved.15 Niemann spends years reading primary documents in various archives and also books such as Browning’s Ordinary Men and Manoschek’s Serbien ist Judenfrei (There Are No Jews in Serbia).16 Von Schirach and Frank study intensively the protocols of the Nuremberg trials. And both Epstein and Fremont search for signs of their families in the archives of Yad Vashem. Sometimes family memoirists uncover personal and official documents within the household, like Timm’s unearthing of his brother’s diary and letters. Listening to or viewing the formal testimony of eyewitnesses is also an important activity for Frank and von Schirach with regard to their fathers’ trials at Nuremberg, and for Epstein and Appignanesi, whose mothers gave testimony for archives in New York and Montreal, respectively.17 Family memoirists’ efforts also include travel to the locations where critical events occurred: Timm to the place where his brother was wounded and subsequently died; Niemann to Belgrade, where her father played a major role in murdering Serbian Jews; Appignanesi and Fremont back to Poland and Epstein to Czechoslovakia, that is, to the countries where their parents once struggled to survive Nazi persecution. The biggest differences in the research efforts of the authors of the two corpuses concern the role of the war generation itself in providing information to offspring. To begin with parents as sources of information: for children of survivors, as mentioned above, historical records were scarce to begin with and were often destroyed intentionally by either the persecuted or the perpetrators. For this reason oral communication with the parents becomes the single greatest source, quantitatively speaking, of information. Spiegelman’s Maus is exemplary in this regard, as the entire family memoir is essentially based on Art’s interviews with Vladek. Parental stories may have been heard or overheard repeatedly in childhood, as they were by Appignanesi and Skakun. They may have been solicited explicitly by the offspring in adulthood in order to reveal parents’ hidden pasts and confirm children’s suspicions about those pasts. This is a strategy undertaken, for instance, by Karpf, Fremont, and Lemelman. In many cases the authors had been told some stories as children and had learned others—or differing versions of the same—later in their lives, as appears to have been the case with Karpf and Spiegelman. Information about parental pasts may also be acquired by the offspring through oral stories from other eyewitnesses to the original events, as when—to give a specific example from Spiegelman—Mala, Vladek’s second wife, elaborates upon Vladek’s account of the registering of Jews in the stadium at Sosnowiec.18 Appignanesi describes hearing stories from an entire network of Holocaust survivors on a regular basis during her childhood.19 As an adult, she also interviews her older brother, whose memories of his childhood turn out to aid significantly the family memoirist in decoding certain events

McGlothlin.indd 184

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

LAYING CLAIM TO PAINFUL TRUTHS



185

that occurred toward the end of the war and during its immediate aftermath, events that their parents were reluctant to discuss (182–92). As for other types of eyewitnesses or eyewitnessing, Epstein succeeds in locating and interviewing several friends and relatives of her parents from the war period, and Karpf interviews her parents, even incorporating some of the transcripts into her text.20 As for perpetrator-family memoirs, it must be noted that a primary obstacle to parents answering their own children’s questions may have been their very absence. Hans Frank was found guilty at Nuremberg and hanged on 16 October 1946; Baldur von Schirach was incarcerated in Spandau for twenty years; Sattler, Niemann’s father, was abducted in 1947 on a West Berlin street and disappeared into the East German prison system for twenty-five years until his mysterious death there in 1972. Other perpetrators, and sometimes the same ones, went into exile or hiding, or pretended to be dead (von Schirach), or really were dead (Timm’s brother was wounded and died in a military field hospital). However, even in the case of lower-profile Nazis, such as the parents of many of the individuals interviewed by Sichrovsky, the perpetrator generation proved unwilling to talk about the past with their children.21 Some of the most poignant and extensive passages in von Schirach’s book actually concern the interactions between father and son after Baldur is released from Spandau, when the son realizes that his father is not interested in him or his questions, especially not in his expectation that his father clearly state regret for his past actions.22 Similarly, Niklas Frank cannot persuade his brother Norman to retract his love for their father. Beate Niemann is directly and repeatedly lied to by her mother and older sisters about the roles Bruno Sattler played during the war. It is clear that whereas even reluctant Holocaust survivors often come around to the idea of sharing their past experiences when their offspring show genuine interest in them,23 the German perpetrator generation very rarely does. The counterbalance, mentioned above, is the surfeit of documentation, public and private, from which the children of perpetrators can learn about their parents’ pasts if they choose to. Indeed, those documents speak when parents cannot or will not and are often reproduced in their entirety or quoted at length in perpetratorfamily memoirs, as I will point out below. Just as in various parts of the paratext many different authenticating strategies are mobilized, essentially all the memoirists I study rely on multiple ways of authorizing themselves as narrators of their parents’ stories or authenticating the stories themselves. Such authorization and authentication, I wager, tend to be particularly fraught for any memoirist writing from a second-generation position. For this reason, I have investigated authenticating strategies within my texts particularly closely and propose the terms global, local, and regional authenticating strategies to organize my data.

McGlothlin.indd 185

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

186



IRENE KACANDES

In what I call a “global” authorizing or authenticating move, a memoirist tells once how she or he came to know things about the parental generation, and that one admission is implicitly supposed to cover essentially anything that is not authorized in another way. One of the most striking examples appears in Michael Skakun’s family memoir. In its opening pages he mentions that he heard stories from his father all the time while growing up; these stories were repeated so often that the son/memoirist claims they became a part of him: “[Father] conveyed [his story of terror that defied all logic] with such emotional conviction that it became the substance of my life, until it achieved an immediacy as palpable as my own skin.”24 Having laid out from whom he has received this information and how thoroughly he knows it, Skakun-the-son begins to narrate Skakun-the-father’s past and never again mentions how he acquired detailed knowledge of his father’s survival. Richard von Schirach similarly authorizes most of his text “globally,” though readers do not necessarily understand that until almost the end of the long memoir, when he reveals how closely he studied the Nuremberg trial transcripts and that he also served as secretary and amanuensis for his father Baldur’s memoir, composed after his release from prison.25 As for “local” authenticating moves, these come in three main forms: first, by including an official or family document by means of a quotation or visual reproduction in the main text; second, by providing a footnote or an endnote indicating the source of the information; or third, by attributing a statement to an eyewitness, such as “my father said” or “my mother told me,” followed by a direct quotation. This last is so ubiquitous in my corpus, as in many other types of life writing, that we might not even register it as an authenticating gesture. However, to my mind, it is crucial to note that within the contract of autobiographical writing—I am the expert on myself—such a statement authorizes a certain amount of text about a person who is not the author. That is, “he said” and “she said” validate the information that appears within the subsequent quotation marks. Including documents within the texts is one obvious form of authentication. Striking within my corpus is Niklas Frank’s book Bruder Norman, in which documents essentially structure the text. That is, Niklas narrates his own reading aloud of documents and letters to his brother, trying to push him toward renunciating his love for their father. Niemann includes excerpts from many official documents in Mein guter Vater to correct the story she had always been given by her mother and older sisters, that her father was a low-level Nazi bureaucrat falsely accused by the GDR of being a great criminal. The documents Niemann eventually uncovers portray her father as indeed a monster who started persecuting German communists well before the war and the Judeocide began.

McGlothlin.indd 186

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

LAYING CLAIM TO PAINFUL TRUTHS



187

Perhaps because of the false portrait consistently painted by her mother and sisters, Niemann is one of the few memoirists in my corpus who resorts to my second category of local authentication strategies—the one most familiar to academics: actual end- or footnotes. Of my Holocaust memoirists, Karpf is the only one to use endnotes extensively, if not consistently.26 Several others give lists of or, as already mentioned above, report having read, historical sources. Some writers mention the source only once in a section to authorize what presumably applies to all the information related there. The actual reference to the source might occur at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of such a section. Neither limited to one fact nor extended to everything in the text, this strategy might best be labeled “regional.” For example, Epstein often shares anecdotes about her mother that seem too personal for the daughter to have unearthed in any archive. After narrating such stories, she might add a final point prefaced by: “My mother would later write/say . . .” Only in the backmatter does Epstein mention that she has drawn on some memoir-like writing her mother has left behind. Similarly, only after narrating the story of a particularly critical dinner that the von Schirachs had with Hitler does Richard explain that he heard the story frequently from his mother, an eyewitness to the event.27 The problem, of course, with multiple strategies of authentication, particularly given that some of them authorize indeterminate amounts of discourse and discourse to which they are not directly adjacent, is that the reader cannot always know the source of information for a particular event, dialogue, or thought. A reader’s uncertainty can be exacerbated by the (global) pronouncements by some authors that they have “taken a small degree of license with such details as weather, occasional dialogue, and other minor particulars that do not detract from the veracity of this story,”28 or when they point (regionally) to “how fantasy works when facts are scarce.”29 The door is left open to charges of fabricating something that does affect the veracity of the story, because none of these authors alert their readers (locally) to every instance in which they are engaging their imaginations to fill in missing information, just as none authorize (locally) every fact for which they have indeed consulted a database or about which they have been informed by an eyewitness. The importance of not fabricating even minor details is stated emphatically in Beate Niemann’s family memoir, where she not only includes much documentation verbatim but also explains that her text includes only facts that she was able to verify herself from often multiple external sources.30 In concluding this overview, I would like to mention two additional strategies that in my estimation reveal the affective challenges of doing the kind of witnessing my family memoirists undertake: the referencing of parents, and the shifting of pieces of the parents’ story into the author’s own account. The fact that the former is more marked in

McGlothlin.indd 187

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

188



IRENE KACANDES

perpetrator-family memoirs and the latter in survivor-family memoirs can be connected with the differences in affective challenges faced by the two groups of memoirists. Writers of perpetrator-family memoirs alternate between identifying the perpetrator as such and as the parent. The most striking examples derive from but are not limited to the memoirs of von Schirach and Niemann. Richard alternates between referring to his father as “Nummer eins” (number one) and “mein Vater” (my father), and Beate between her father’s full name: “Bruno Sattler,” and “mein Vater” (my father). Clearly, we could think of such alternations as the result of every writer’s need to vary commonly used phrases. Still, even a cursory look at my Holocaust family memoirs reveals a largely consistent use of familial phrases: my father, my mother, my parents. Of course these memoirists, too, sometimes refer to their parents in other ways. For instance, when recounting what happened to her parents during the war, Appignanesi often refers to her parents by their real first names or by the names under which they were hiding. In contrast to those instances, certainly von Schirach’s use of “Nummer eins” depersonalizes his father, just as his Allied wardens—and all jailors—mean to do when they call their prisoners by numbers instead of by name. (The Nazi perpetration of the Judeocide offers a massive illustration of that principle.) So there is a historical accuracy to what the memoirist is doing. Still, the question remains: why does von Schirach the son resort to this method? I would suggest that other parts of the memoir reveal at least two answers. First, von Schirach feels deeply betrayed by this father—to whom he has written so many letters, and whom he has defended against the reproaches of his mother and others—when he discovers after the father’s release that he is completely uninterested in his son, his son’s interests, his son’s welfare, and so on.31 Second, Richard is profoundly disillusioned by his father’s complete disinclination to admit any personal or collective guilt for his wartime actions (e.g. 99, 364). By referring to Baldur as “Nummer eins,” that is, by not even using the “von Schirach” name, Richard can efface, at least textually, the relationship between them. This, I suggest, is one way Richard implicitly offers his views on the question of postwar German guilt, that is to say, whether the guilt of the older generation carries over to the next generations. Richard’s naming strategies could be viewed along with his rhetorical question—“Konnte er nicht ertragen, das ich schuldlos war?” (352; Was he unable to bear the fact that I was guiltless?)—as his way of asserting: no, I am not guilty of what “number one” “number two” or any of the others, have done. The case of Beate Niemann plays out differently, both textually and in relation to the guilt issue for children of perpetrators. By often using her father’s full name, Bruno Sattler, Niemann also reflects historical accuracy, since that is the name she finds over and over again in the

McGlothlin.indd 188

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

LAYING CLAIM TO PAINFUL TRUTHS



189

archival documents she reads. However, if we examine when she uses the phrase “mein Vater” (my father), we can discern that her objective does not seem to involve so much a distancing from the perpetrator as a “setting straight” of precisely the previous relationship she once had with this figure. When she goes to Belgrade for the first time and reads documents there asserting Sattler’s participation in mass shootings and gassings, for instance, the very next reference to Sattler is “mein Vater.”32 This corresponds to the task she has set herself to learn the truth and, by so doing, to expiate what she, in contrast to von Schirach, feels is her own guilt— a guilt not so much by generational association, as the result of having earlier defended her father as innocent of the crimes for which the East Germans were unjustly holding him. Niemann feels guilty even though her defense of her father was instigated by a complicated and consistent set of lies she was fed by her mother and older sisters. Niemann does not miraculously jump from being a young girl and woman who believes her father was unjustly arrested by the East Germans and unjustly left there by the West Germans to someone who is certain of her father’s monstrous crimes. A scene that is recounted relatively early in the book shows an important step along the way, particularly evoking the pain of discovery that is at the heart of so many of the books in my corpuses. Niemann has just been reading some East German files on her father, when two photos fall out of the pile. As she looks at them she comments: “Aus der Person der Zeitgeschichte wird plötzlich mein Vater. Ich verliere die Fassung” (30; The historical personage suddenly becomes my father. I lose my composure). Niemann could read about “Bruno Sattler” and on some level recognize Bruno Sattler as a criminal. Seeing the photo effects the association of the criminal whose actions she has been learning about with the actual person she has known as a father. That this is a painful discovery is beautifully communicated, I suggest, by her loss of self-control: Ich verliere die Fassung. The final curious observation I have space to share concerns a strategy I have found so far only in my Holocaust family memoirs. I call it “autobiography once removed.” Briefly defined, this tactic involves the memoirist vouching for an event in another’s life by framing it in terms of one’s own life. Let me try to flesh that out just a bit by sharing an example from Fremont’s After Long Silence. When the memoirist states that her father’s misshapen left arm “is a souvenir from the camps, a token of his time there, a little gift from the Gulag,”33 she is not declaring her feelings, actions, or something she could have witnessed herself. Readers may rightly wonder: how does she know? Or to return to Cohn’s terminology: through what database has she come to know about her father’s arm, and how does her text acknowledge her use of that database? Eyewitness testimony is the most likely source for this kind of information, because unlike a birth, arrest, deportation, or death, an accident

McGlothlin.indd 189

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

190



IRENE KACANDES

or personal attack was not an occurrence likely to have created a paper trail during the Nazi assault on European Jewry or in the Soviet prison camp system where this particular event transpired. That is not just a guess, of course. Having read the book, I know that when Fremont was a child, she discovered a (postwar) newspaper article that reported that her father’s arm had been broken in a Soviet camp by prisoners trying to steal his clothes; Fremont had then immediately queried her mother, who confirmed that this was true; years later her father himself told her about being jumped by other prisoners. In other words, Fremont the narrator reveals that she learned of this particular episode in multiple ways: through a written account and two oral communications, one from an eyewitness, the protagonist of this episode (her father), and one from an intimate of the eyewitness (her mother). I think the most remarkable feature of this passage in terms of authenticating strategies is that the author refers to events in her father’s past by putting them into first-person statements. To quote directly now instead of paraphrasing: “I found an article . . .”; “I went to my mother with the article . . .”; “When I was in college in 1975, my father told me more about his arm.”34 Notice how even the oral interaction with the eyewitness is subsumed into a sentence about the self: “When I was in college . . . my father told me . . .” I suggest that we should conceive of statements such as those in Fremont’s account of her father’s arm as “autobiography once removed,” rather than as strictly biography or history, because by narrating the author’s experience of encountering the source, the veracity of the content of these I-statements falls under the autobiographical pact. To put it otherwise, once attributed to the self, the knowledge need not be authorized in an additional way, and in fact in numerous instances authors of my Holocaust family memoirs do not authorize historical events in any other way. Of course, there are potential problems with such a strategy: in trying to “shore up” the otherwise unprovable by putting it under the sign of one’s own person, the second generation’s actions could be, indeed have been, interpreted as narcissistic.35 I would like to suggest that these critiques are based on misreadings of such passages, however. In the context of the general importance of authentication, autobiography once removed represents a poignant, even if for some authors unconscious, strategy for solving a textual and an affective challenge. When Fremont originally reads the newspaper report, she is incredulous and needs to ask her mother for verification: “It didn’t occur to me that they wanted his clothes for themselves, for warmth. This was beyond my imagination as I sat in my parents’ warm home, well-clothed. I could not picture anyone (much less my father) that cold.”36 Such moments of encountering the incredible and making it one’s own can model for readers how to bridge a chasm that will only loom larger once the generation

McGlothlin.indd 190

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

LAYING CLAIM TO PAINFUL TRUTHS



191

that experienced firsthand the catastrophes of mid-twentieth-century Europe has completely died out. Examined in the context of perpetratorfamily memoirs, autobiography once removed can be interpreted not only as a conceptual solution but also as an act of generational solidarity, a solidarity that is lacking in the counterpart texts in which an author’s father can be referred to as “Nummer eins” or “Bruno Sattler.” And indeed, we can understand why one would not want to express—even rhetorically— solidarity with Nazi criminals. These examples can return us to the main points of this essay. Survivor- and perpetrator-family memoirs have numerous goals, with a primary common goal of establishing the facts of lives lived during the period of the Nazi Judeocide. These goals are met by writing sometimes as autobiographer, sometimes as biographer, sometimes as amateur historian, sometimes as autobiographer once removed. Authors and their editors mobilize numerous paratextual and discursive strategies to establish a relationship between their narratives and verifiable history and to negotiate (new) relationships between offspring memoirists and the wartime generation. Similarities and differences between Holocaust family memoirs and perpetrator-family memoirs can be traced to the availability of evidence, levels of willingness or unwillingness to tell the truth on the part of the parental generations, and affective challenges for the memoirists themselves. Putting these affective challenges on display by narrating incredulity that one could be attacked for one’s clothes, as Fremont does, or by narrating horror, shame, and guilt upon discovering one’s father was an executioner, as Niemann does, can in turn help readers register what is at stake in laying claim to painful family truths.

Notes 1

Peter Sichrovsky, Wir wissen nicht was morgen wird, wir wissen wohl was gestern war: Junge Juden in Deutschland und Österreich (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1985); in English, Strangers in Their Own Land: Young Jews in Germany and Austria Today, trans. Jean Steinberg (New York: Basic Books, 1986); and Peter Sichrovsky, Schuldig geboren: Kinder aus Nazifamilien (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1987); in English, Born Guilty: Children of Nazi Families, trans. Jean Steinberg (New York: Basic Books, 1988). For an overview of the English and German-language literature of generational memory in families of survivors and perpetrators, see pp. 27–36 of Erin McGlothlin, “Generations and GermanJewish Writing: Maxim Biller’s Representation of German-Jewish Love from ‘Harlem Holocaust’ to Liebe heute,” in Generational Shifts in Contemporary German Culture, ed. Laurel Cohen-Pfister and Susanne Vees-Gulani (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2010), 27–55. 2

Irene Kacandes, “‘When Facts are Scarce’: Authenticating Strategies in Writing by Children of Survivors,” in After Testimony: The Ethics and Aesthetics of

McGlothlin.indd 191

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

192



IRENE KACANDES

Holocaust Narrative for the Future, ed. Jakob Lothe, Susan Rubin Suleiman, and James Phelan (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2012), 179–97. 3

Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, vols. 1 and 2 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1991); Anne Karpf, The War After: Living with the Holocaust (London: Minerva/Random House, 1996, 1997); Helen Fremont, After Long Silence: A Memoir (New York: Dell Publishing/Random House, 1999); Lisa Appignanesi, Losing the Dead: A Family Memoir (London: Chatto & Windus/Random House, 1999); Martin Lemelman, Mendel’s Daughter: A Memoir (New York: Free Press, 2006). 4

I prefer the term “perpetrator-family memoirs” to “second-generation perpetrator texts” because the latter implies that members of the second generation are perpetrators. 5

Uwe Timm, Am Beispiel meines Bruders (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2003); Beate Niemann, Mein guter Vater: Mein Leben mit seiner Vergangenheit; Eine Täter-Biographie (Teetz: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2005); Richard von Schirach, Der Schatten meines Vaters (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2005); Niklas Frank, Bruder Norman! “Mein Vater war ein Naziverbrecher, aber ich liebe ihn” (Bonn: Dietz, 2013). 6

Philippe Lejeune, On Autobiography, ed. Paul John Eakin, trans. Katherine Leary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 5.

7

Dorrit Cohn, The Distinction of Fiction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), esp. 112. See also Philippe Carrard, “Biography and the Representation of Consciousness,” Narrative 5 (1997): 287–305.

8

Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

9

I note here how much of the book is about his parents in the Nazi period.

10

Helen Epstein, Where She Came From: A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother’s History (New York: Plume, 1997). 11 Michael Skakun, On Burning Ground: A Son’s Memoir (New York: St. Martin’s, 1999). 12 For example, “Uwe Timm erzählt die Geschichte seines älteren Bruders, der sich freiwillig zur SS-Totenkopfdivision meldete und in der Ukraine fiel” (Uwe Timm narrates the story of his older brother, who volunteered for the SS-Totenkopf division and died in Ukraine). Timm, Am Beispiel meines Bruders, back cover. 13

Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999); Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (London, New York: Verso, 2000).

14 Spiegelman, Maus, 1:158–59; Niemann, Mein guter Vater, 14; also 21, 33, 111. 15

Timm, Am Beispiel meines Bruders, 36, 103, 105 respectively.

16

Niemann, Mein guter Vater, 69, 67 respectively.

17

Epstein, Where She Came From, 314; Appignanesi, Losing the Dead, 82–83.

18

Spiegelman, Maus, 1:92.

McGlothlin.indd 192

10/16/2016 2:05:49 PM

LAYING CLAIM TO PAINFUL TRUTHS



193

19

Appignanesi, Losing the Dead, 18–22.

20

For example, Karpf, The War After, 146–61.

21

For example, Sichrovsky, Schuldig geboren, “Anna,” 27–39 (Eng. trans. 16–28).

22

I will take this up again below.

23

For example, Lemelman explains this only in “Acknowledgments” at the end of his family memoir: “At first she was reluctant to talk. . .But she warmed to the idea and her experiences poured forth” (unnumbered). 24

Michael Skakun, On Burning Ground, 5.

25

Von Schirach, Der Schatten meines Vaters, 353. Even later in his memoir, von Schirach mentions that his brother located and bequeathed to him Soviet prosecutor Rudenko’s original notes on Baldur von Schirach, prepared for the trial (378). 26

In The War After, Karpf documents copiously chapters 5, 6, and 7, which deal with anti-Semitism in Britain and with the concept of the second generation. Three of the total twelve chapters also contain some notes, but far fewer. 27

Von Schirach, Der Schatten meines Vaters, 336.

28

Skakun, On Burning Ground, copyright page; see also Fremont, After Long Silence, front matter, unnumbered.

29

Appignanesi, Losing the Dead, 224; emphasis mine.

30

Niemann, Mein guter Vater, 9.

31

Symptomatic is Baldur’s frequent statement, “Ich kann an Euch nicht denken” (I can’t think about you; for example, von Schirach, Der Schatten meines Vaters, 319). All translations in this essay are my own, unless otherwise noted. 32

Niemann, Mein guter Vater, 63.

33

Fremont, After Long Silence, 225.

34

Ibid., 225, 226, 228.

35

Ruth Franklin, for instance, accuses the second generation of believing that its “‘experiences’ of the Holocaust are just as valid as those of the survivors.” Ruth Franklin, “Identity Theft: True Memory, False Memory, and the Holocaust,” New Republic, May 31, 2004, 31. Similarly, Gary Weissman contends that the children of survivors “have memories of living these experiences.” Gary Weissman, Fantasies of Witnessing: Postwar Efforts to Experience the Holocaust (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004), 17. 36

McGlothlin.indd 193

Fremont, After Long Silence, 226; emphasis mine.

10/16/2016 2:05:50 PM

10: Pinpointing Evil: Nazi Family Photographs, Remediated Brad Prager

N

THE BEGINNING OF Ron Rosenbaum’s investigative study Explaining Hitler (1998), the author reflects on a photograph of Hitler as an infant, taken in 1889 or 1890, when Hitler was “less than two years old.” Rosenbaum describes the image as a picture of “a round-faced, ruddy-cheeked child, a mildly pensive cherub.”1 Drawing on Michael André Bernstein’s concept of “backshadowing,” or allowing our knowledge of an event’s outcome to inform our interpretation of texts and images that preceded those events, Rosenbaum writes that we can, if we so wish, backshadow onto baby Hitler’s “dark, questioning eyes” and “project upon that impressionable baby face the stirrings of some deep emotional disturbance.”2 He then, however, allows for an alternative and troubling possibility: “We could just as easily see there not incipient demonism but a kind of gentleness and sensitivity. We could just as easily predict this child would turn out to be Albert Schweitzer.”3 Many viewers of the photograph would find it impossible to connect this innocent human face with the inhuman acts for which Hitler was later responsible, but Rosenbaum’s assertion is even more troubling, because it is a reminder that one cannot fix the meaning of a photograph; frozen in time, the static image provides no clear-cut information about its subject’s past or future. Rosenbaum’s statements refer to readers of images who import knowledge about the intervening decades into their interpretations of photographs. His approach differs slightly from that of Bernstein, who cautions against fantasizing about the inner lives of subjects of historical photographs. Bernstein admonishes readers of Holocaust images that they should not use their knowledge of the Jews’ later fate to judge or condemn victims, wondering how they could possibly have failed to foresee what now appear to be the inevitable consequences of Nazi aggression.4 Bernstein is correct. Yet to write, as Rosenbaum does, about the presuppositions that contemporary viewers bring to bear, or what is in our minds as we scrutinize historical images, is another matter. No one can speak with certainty about Hitler’s frame of mind, especially in his

McGlothlin.indd 194

EAR

10/16/2016 2:05:50 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



195

infancy, but one can surely speak about the interpretive complexities that enter the equation in the present day, many years after the fact. One can hardly pinpoint the evil in snapshots of Nazis, even in images of the most criminal perpetrators. Such images are never evil in themselves: their meanings are generally established by acts of remediation—how they are subsequently enframed by texts, captions, and other images. This is particularly true of familial photographs entangled with the history of the Second World War and the Holocaust, whether they are portraits of Hitler as a baby, of children of high-ranking Nazis, or of seemingly benign cousins and uncles preparing to fight a cruel and unjust campaign. Even Heinrich Himmler, arguably the worst criminal perpetrator of the Third Reich, second-in-command to Hitler and originator of the German concentration camp, was someone’s Uncle Heinrich. These family photos thus pose a distinct problem for the members of successive generations, who, like everyone else, participate in socially structured memory rituals: it is particularly hard to articulate what is horrific about family photos, because of the uses and expectations associated with snapshots. Even portraits of Nazi soldiers often show little indication of their ideologies. As Ernst van Alphen notes, it is easier to render harsh judgments when “a terrible person has a terrible face.”5 Those of us who assess these sorts of images today—who study, for example, how ordinary Germans and their families were swept up into murderous complicity—can learn from how the children and grandchildren of Nazis approach ordinary, familial images. Their second- and third-generation perspectives offer allegories of reading that have implications for contemporary readers who, outside the familial fold, set about reframing these snapshots against the grain of meanings given them by the intimate settings in which they were once embedded. On the first page of Peter Schneider’s Vati (1987) the book’s narrator explains that he came to know his father primarily through photographs.6 Schneider’s provocative text, based on a series of articles that appeared in the magazine Bunte Illustrierte, is told from the perspective of Rolf Mengele, the notorious Nazi’s son.7 The book’s narrator is unnamed, but the detailed information Schneider provides about him makes him readily identifiable. He travels to South America to meet his father, who has been hiding in Brazil, and the two of them attempt to determine whether they can reconcile in light of the former Nazi’s heinous past. They have met before, but this meeting is different, because the narrator for the first time recognizes his father as his father and, at the same time, as a wanted war criminal. Until then he had been misled about his father’s identity, believing that the man next to whom he appeared in a childhood photograph was a benevolent uncle, rather than a nefarious torturer. Until that point the man was an ordinary relative, neither his father nor a monster. Now the protagonist has to learn to revise his understanding of his heritage.

McGlothlin.indd 195

10/16/2016 2:05:50 PM

196



BRAD PRAGER

Upon learning the truth, he makes the decision to burn a photo of himself and his father. He watches it curl up in the flames and thinks to himself: “Als ich noch einmal hinschaute, konnte ich nicht mehr entscheiden, ob es sein Gesicht war oder meines, das ich verbrennen sah” (As I looked at it one more time, I could no longer determine whether it was his face or mine that I saw burning).8 The narrator’s process of revising his selfunderstanding begins with that family photo. The protagonist’s experience as Nazi offspring is thus presented as a form of reinterpretation. His heritage, particularly his family name, is described as a code that he cannot understand, and he depicts his experience as though he were the bearer of a indecipherable mark, noting: “Später dann, im Gymnasium, merkte ich, dass ich das Geheimnis mit mir herumtrug wie eine Schrift auf der Stirn, die jeder außer mir selber entziffern konnte” (9; later, in high school, I noticed that I carried the secret around with me like a sign on my forehead that everyone but me could decipher). Erin McGlothlin reads this description in terms of the overall illegibility of Nazi crimes at the time of the narrator’s childhood. The significance of his name and the status of his heritage had indeterminate meanings for Germans, and McGlothlin writes that even when the narrator discovers, as a student, the existence of the stigma, this does not “provide illumination, for he is unable to decipher its significance.”9 She explains: “From his teachers’ obvious reluctance to say his name, the narrator becomes aware that it must be a signifier for some horrific transgression about which the teachers would prefer to remain silent. As the narrator suggests, the teachers’ disinclination is not so much a problem of the articulation of the name itself; rather its unpronouncability is an indicator for the greater unspeakability of its unknown significance” (158). This perpetrator’s son believes that everyone else can see the sign but him, yet this paranoid perception also misleads: as a sign without fixed meaning, it is indecipherable to others as well. Then as now, there was no clear answer to the question of what it meant to be the descendant of a mass murderer. Although this was especially true for Germans during the 1950s, when the narrator would have been a schoolchild, and when such questions would have been met with resounding silence, it was also true in the 1980s, when Schneider penned his book. Vati is, in this way, not only about one perpetrator’s child—one who felt that he was, to use the Austrian journalist Peter Sichrovsky’s term, “born guilty”—but rather about West Germany.10 His reckoning is personal, but it is also an allegory for a national confrontation with the past. Decades later, photographs play a parallel role when they are incorporated into Hitler’s Children (2012), Chanoch Ze’evi’s Israeli-German documentary film. That film’s documentary subjects all feel that they, too, bear a mark. The film elicits the stories of perpetrators’ offspring, following on the type of work undertaken twenty-five years earlier by

McGlothlin.indd 196

10/16/2016 2:05:50 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



197

Sichrovsky in Born Guilty as well as by Gerald Posner in a book that also bears the title Hitler’s Children.11 Ze’evi’s film features interviews with subjects who have tarnished last names, including Bettina Goering, Katrin Himmler, Monika Goeth, Rainer Höß, and Niklas Frank, all of whom are the progeny of Nazi party luminaries. Although the film is about these descendants’ individual struggles, it is also about Germany’s legacy of silence. Each of the film’s German interviewees grew up in the shadow of a perpetrator’s past, and each of them encountered German silence as familial silence. Their own families’ reluctance to work through the past was an exaggerated yet typical version of what went on in many German households, and their struggles were emblematic of those of their generation. For his part, Rainer Höß uses a photograph as a springboard to revise and rethink his past. Rainer is the grandson of Rudolf Höß, the Nazi lieutenant colonel who served as Commandant of Auschwitz. Höß was tried in Poland, where he admitted playing a part in the murders of no less than 2.5 million people and was hanged in 1947 on the site of Auschwitz I. For much of his life Rainer knew little about him, and when he was young, the only person who spoke to him about his grandfather was his “Grandpa Leo,” Rudolf Höß’s former driver Leo Heger, a man Rainer describes as an adoptive grandfather (a Wahlopa) and as “ein Nazi bis ins Grab” (a Nazi till the day he died).12 Apart from his grandfather’s autobiography and the adoring stories Heger told him, Rudolf knew his grandfather only from photos (78). In the company of Israeli journalist Eldad Beck, Rainer sorts through snapshots, including images taken during the time of his father’s happy childhood on the grounds of the Auschwitz camp. One of these photographs stands out: a picture of his father, Hans-Jürgen, when he was approximately seven years old, posing before an open gate at the Höß villa at Auschwitz (fig. 10.1). The wrought-iron entrance might be a reminder of one of the Auschwitz’s camp’s most haunting images, the gate over which “Arbeit macht frei” is inscribed, yet what makes the photograph truly significant is everything that is not in the frame, everything that it fails to show. Taken on its own, the image is banal. The open gate at the photo’s center leads into the camp from the large yard in which the Höß children used to play. Akin to the other images from Höß’s collection shown in Hitler’s Children, it betrays none of the violence of its surroundings. Looking at photos of Rainer’s father playing with large toys, in particular a wooden plane, he explains that slave laborers at Auschwitz had most likely manufactured them.13 There is, in other words, a hidden world of violence and exploitation beneath the visible surface of these family photographs; they conceal not only the truth about the labor behind them but also about the torture and murder that took place just over the garden wall. Nothing in the banal family photographs reveals this overtly; they

McGlothlin.indd 197

10/16/2016 2:05:50 PM

198



BRAD PRAGER

Fig. 10.1. Photographs of Hans-Jürgen Höß at the family villa at Auschwitz as they are depicted in Hitler’s Children (2012). Produced by Maya Productions and Saxonia Entertainment. Directed by Chanoch Ze’evi. Screen shot.

are only happy portraits of children. There are no visible consequences of murder, no piles of bodies, and no signs of atrocity, and the child in the picture, Höß’s father, wears a playful smile. Yet Rainer refers to this gate as “the gate to hell.” In Ze’evi’s film, he explains that the image is burned into his unconscious, more than the other images. But it cannot be what is in the image that is burned into his unconscious: it is rather all that he cannot see—everything outside the frame.

McGlothlin.indd 198

10/16/2016 2:05:51 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



199

In order to add another dimension to the static image, Rainer Höß decides to visit the site, to approach that ostensibly normal garden gate. The documentary follows him to Auschwitz, where he stands in the spot where Hans-Jürgen once stood, with the intention of seeing what his father saw. The photo haunts him because of what he imagines is going on in the unseen terrain beyond the gate. It makes sense, then, that when he arrives at this place he has Beck hold the picture up in front of that same gate while he takes a picture of the picture, as if this picture of an absence of violence in front of an absence of violence would suddenly become meaningful (fig. 10.2). The ritual of picture taking, within the context of Ze’evi’s documentary, is perhaps meant to reverse or undo the original familial ritual, now implicated in masking grotesque violence. Photographing the image is a reenactment: Höß puts himself in the place of the photographer (who may have been the commandant himself), and reframes the original image, transforming it from an act of concealment into a mise en abîme. This action, for which he enlists the assistance of his Jewish traveling companion, is both a reenactment and a reframing. Any photograph of an arbitrarily chosen corner of this villa’s garden would have concealed the same duplicity, yet this particular photo of a photo is aimed at undoing the earlier act of suppression. The best-known example of critical engagement with wartime photohistory is perhaps Gerhard Richter’s Uncle Rudi (1965). The work itself is no banal family photograph but is rather a painting based on a photograph. It raises questions as to what is and is not in the frame and forces us to consider how the painted portrait diverges from an innocuous family photo. The painting is based on a photo of the artist’s uncle Rudolf Schönfelder, his mother’s older brother, who was also Richter’s godfather (Patenonkel) and a salesman. One can say that the painting is inspired by or derived from that earlier picture; the fact that it is called “Uncle Rudi”—that Richter did not alter the name—suggests that it is on some level a representation of his uncle and godfather. It has a real image and real memories as its basis, and because it is a departure from the photographic medium, it both is and is not a mimetic depiction of that historical figure. There is little in the painting that suggests that this man is a villain, and the image contains nothing, especially in light of the popular postwar West German legend of the “un-implicated” or “clean” Wehrmacht, that in any way impugns its subject. Schönfelder was a soldier, and as far as the artist’s family history is concerned, he died honorably. Lydia Strauß asserts that there is not much we can say about the subject’s physical appearance, apart from that his round cheeks have been freshly shaven and that his short haircut is hidden beneath his cap.14 One can also read into the symbolic character of the wall before which he stands, which on the one hand vaguely resembles the wall of a Jewish ghetto,

McGlothlin.indd 199

10/16/2016 2:05:51 PM

200



BRAD PRAGER

Fig. 10.2. Rudolf Höß takes a photograph of a photograph in Hitler’s Children (2012). Screen shot.

while, on the other hand, it calls to mind a diminutive depiction of the Berlin Wall, and therefore perhaps suggests the division of Germany that followed the war. No wall appears in the background of the photograph on which the painting is based, which suggests that Richter made a conscious decision to include it. The original photo is, to use Marianne Hirsch’s term, a “family frame.” Private, intimate images of this sort are not merely photographs but are enframed by other contexts. As material traces of a family’s past, they “derive their power and their important cultural role from their embeddedness in the fundamental rites of family life.”15 They are more

McGlothlin.indd 200

10/16/2016 2:05:51 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



201

than snapshots; always already embedded in family rituals, they receive meaning from how they function as bearers of domestic significance. To family members looking at this image, Schönfelder was no monster. Far from it. Robert Storr narrates the image’s history, based on a conversation with Richter, reporting that Schönfelder “was handsome, charming, tough, elegant, a playboy [and] he was so proud of his uniform.” Storr writes that Richter, “as a boy, seems to have been impressed by this paragon of manly virtues.” But Richter went on to say: “He was young and very stupid, and then he went to war and was killed during the first days.” According to Storr, “Uncle Rudi represents a generation that willingly participated in its own destruction and the destruction of the millions it tried to dominate.”16 These images, both the original photograph and the painted face that looks back from Richter’s painting, are in one sense sociable, even mundane. The image, the original photo, and the smiling face in the painting, are, to its familial beholders, as well as to the many German families very much like them, altogether ordinary. This soldier’s physiognomy hardly suggests that he is diabolical; he is only a handsome uncle of the painter. Schönfelder was not a nefarious perpetrator; he was just a soldier, yet it is unclear what this meant to Richter himself. The smeared black and gray paint suggests that his memories are shrouded in indeterminacy; the smears make it look as though the moment is short-lived, as if the images want to flee of their own accord, or that the painting’s subject is being viewed from the window of a departing train, yet it also recalls an aged, damaged cinematic image. The line that begins like a tear just above Rudi’s head and descends down along the left side of the painting resembles a gash in a torn photo or a frame of celluloid film—a memory mediated by a history of other representations, one that has become more fragmentary and imperfect with the passage of time. Describing a similar painting by Richter entitled Horst and His Dog (1965), Paul Jaskot theorizes the ambiguities associated with the painting, a painting of a perpetrator and a family member: “Such an image invites the question of how this man, or any person so nonthreatening, could be criminal, or live through such a criminal period seemingly without being affected.” Specifically, about that painting’s subject, Jaskot writes, “To a viewer who does not know his exact identity, he could easily have been a former Auschwitz guard, a duped bystander, or an oblivious nonparticipant.”17 For this reason, the painted image is smeared, drawing attention to its ambiguity. Its subject is both ordinary and extraordinary, a killer and a good man. As Robert Storr writes, “Uncle Rudi is, for Germans, an immediately recognizable but, after the war, seldom discussed type: ‘The Nazi in the family.’” Storr adds: “He is not a monster but the average, ordinarily enthusiastic soldier.”18

McGlothlin.indd 201

10/16/2016 2:05:51 PM

202



BRAD PRAGER

Uncle Heinrich Despite the fact that Katrin Himmler was born in 1967, much later than Schneider and shortly after Richter painted Uncle Rudi, her biographical story shares commonalities with the ones told by those two second-generation figures. Like Richter, and like Schneider’s narrator, Katrin Himmler’s familial past was shrouded by fog, a thick smear of charcoal—that is, a lack of clarity and even outright obfuscation regarding her family history. Heinrich Himmler was her great uncle, and because she is a trained scholar (a political scientist), she decided to work through the details of her heritage. Her memories of dealing with the burden of the Himmler name are uncannily similar to the details recounted in Schneider’s story, and it almost seems as though her description of her student days was based on Schneider’s. At the beginning of her book The Himmler Brothers: A German Family History she writes, “When I was fifteen, one of my classmates suddenly asked during a history lesson whether I was related to ‘the Himmler.’ I managed to stammer a ‘Yes.’ There was a deathly hush in the classroom. Everyone was tense and on the alert. But the teacher lost her nerve and went on as if nothing had happened.”19 In Ze’evi’s Hitler’s Children, in which she is interviewed, she explains that because her greatuncle Heinrich was so widely recognized as having been a monster, her family never discussed other family members’ possible implication in Nazi crimes. None of the Himmlers explored their family history, and no one asked questions. Certain moments of clarity stand out, such as her father’s account of having seen Night and Fog (1955) in the 1950s, and, at that moment realizing for the first time what his uncle had done.20 She writes of reevaluating her own past: “It was as if I were making my way through a thick fog consisting of vague facts half understood, glossed over, reinterpreted or even falsified. This fog had its attractions; in the end it made everyone to a greater or lesser extent complicit in maintaining the family myths” (306). There is no shortage of images of Himmler, who seems to have been frequently photographed as a youth, either at the Wilhelmsgymnasium or in his Cadet Corps uniform. To those in the Himmler family, he had been, like Schönfelder, a good man and an adored husband. Vanessa Lapa takes this perception of decency as the starting point for her film Der Anständige (2014; English title, The Decent One), a documentary about Himmler and his immediate family. It is no coincidence that the film overlaps thematically with Katrin Himmler’s investigations into her personal past; she worked with Lapa as a co-researcher for the film. The documentary’s text is mainly derived from recently published correspondence, particularly his affectionate letter exchanges with his wife and child, some of which were published in 2014 by Katrin Himmler and Michael Wildt under the title Himmler privat: Briefe eines Massenmörders (appearing in

McGlothlin.indd 202

10/16/2016 2:05:51 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



203

English translation in 2016 under the title The Private Heinrich Himmler: Letters of a Mass Murderer). The cache of letters was recovered by American soldiers at the end of the war in the Himmlers’ private house in Gmund am Tegernsee, just south of Munich. Lapa’s film studies the ostensibly normal texts of Himmler’s correspondence, together with family photos and other archival images, as seen from the perspective of their familial enframement. The Decent One begins with footage of Margarete (aka Marga) Himmler together with her fifteen-year-old daughter Gudrun, around the time they were interrogated by the Allies, just after the German surrender. The film manages to place the relationship between Himmler, his wife, and his daughter at center stage. He is a family man, and many of the documentary images, especially the domestic ones, are “family frames” insofar as they were always intended to serve the purpose of creating and reinforcing familial cohesion. Although the film also contains images of Nazi party rallies as well as violent footage of pogroms and deportations, the majority of the film’s images, in Hirsch’s terms, not only chronicle family rituals but also serve as the reason that families came together; most families gather with the intention of producing photographic memories. She writes, “Because the photograph gives the illusion of being simply a transcription of the real, a trace touched directly by the event it records, it has the effect of naturalizing cultural practices and of disguising their stereotyped and coded characteristics.”21 The Himmler family photographs not only naturalize the family’s relationships but also underscore the extent to which the persons involved believed these relations were always normal; there are no identifiable “monsters” in these family photographs. Lapa’s film is filled with ordinary, banal images, including, for example, footage of student organizations and fencing societies, some of which are mixed with photographs from the Himmlers’ private archives. The ambitious man at the center of the film was no monster, certainly not to his family. Actors read from the letters, and the director neither provides direct commentary nor makes sweeping historical claims. She wants us to see this family in its ordinariness. Throughout The Decent One, with its many unspectacular, domestic images, Himmler and Marga discuss working, providing delicious chocolate for the family, and other everyday matters. Of course, one cannot isolate the evil acts of the man depicted in these pictures. But for those who took the photos and those who were meant to view them, they were intended to build attachments and were a constitutive part of rituals of togetherness. In this regard Himmler’s “decency” has a sharp double-edge. The film acquires its title from one of Himmler’s preferred words, one that he uses with his daughter Gudrun, advising her in her memory book (her Poesiealbum) in 1941: “Man muss im Leben immer anständig und tapfer sein—und gütig” (You must always be decent and courageous in

McGlothlin.indd 203

10/16/2016 2:05:51 PM

204



BRAD PRAGER

life—and kind.).22 The word anständig, used here in his advice to his daughter, also makes its way into his advice to German officers in the course of his famous Posen Speech, one of the two watershed speeches he made late in the war, on October 4 and 6, 1943, in the town hall of Posen. Everything about those speeches, which were meant to inspire members of the SS to continue eradicating European Jewry no matter the cost, is horrific, but particularly horrific are his famous remarks in the first of the two speeches, where he says that the extermination of the Jews is something that at first seems to be a small matter, but by now, most of those listening, “know what it means when 100 corpses lie next to each other, when there are 500 or when there are 1,000.” He adds: “To have endured this, and at the same time to have remained a decent (anständig) person—apart from exceptions due to human weaknesses—has made us tough, and is a glorious chapter that has not and will not be spoken of.”23 Was his daughter meant to be “decent” in the same way as his army of SS executioners? The film is focalized through Himmler, his wife, and his daughter. They give us perspective, and insofar as they do so, everything from his government service to his childrearing was conceived as being in the spirit of decency—the spirit that led the country to a “glorious chapter” of killing. In other representations, such as Guido Knopp’s television series Hitler’s Generals (Hitlers Helfer, 1996), Himmler, known in Knopp’s program as “the executor” (der Vollstrecker), is utterly diabolical.24 Yet in order to present matters that way, Knopp adopts key elements of the Nazi narrative, offering what Hannes Heer describes as “die mythische Erzählung von der Passion des deutschen Volkes und dessen Erlösung durch Hitler” (the mythical narrative of the passion of the German people and their redemption through Hitler).25 The Nazis idealized Himmler and Hitler, rendering them larger than life, and Knopp’s film does not hesitate to reproduce that affective impression. Knopp makes Himmler out to be anything but ordinary, and that worldview becomes, for the viewer, historical reality. The challenge would be to see matters not in the grandiose and world historical terms in which the perpetrators saw them, as a history of world conquerors leading Germany to a fateful destiny, but rather as Lapa sees Himmler, or even as Arendt saw Eichmann, in terms of the narrow and pedestrian perspectives on which they relied, the trivialness of their professional ambitions, and of their “fearsome word-andthought-defying banality.”26 While there is some overlap between Lapa’s and Knopp’s films, including the reading of passages from diaries, the biggest difference is the authoritative voice-over that the documentary theorist Bill Nichols calls the “voice-of-god” commentary.27 The history of Nazi generals is subordinated to Knopp’s voice-over narrative. His thesis that the Nazis were a crazed, power-hungry cult is the opposite of Lapa’s, whose film uses actors to convey the text of the letters, reading

McGlothlin.indd 204

10/16/2016 2:05:52 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



205

aloud the Himmlers’ intimate exchanges with one another. Lapa’s viewer is not the addressee, but is rather positioned as a voyeur, peering into a domestic interaction. Providing a counter-narrative to standpoints such as Knopp’s, Lapa strikes a familiar tone. Her project suggests that we, still today, do not know what these ordinary, intimate images mean. The two films’ respective uses of color highlight this distinction. Knopp relies on color when he depicts the Berghof, Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg in Bavaria, which, like Himmler’s private home at Gmund am Tegernsee, is located south of Munich. In depicting the Berghof in color, using Eva Braun’s private and intimate-seeming amateur footage—which, apart from some contemporary testimonies, is among the only color images in Knopp’s film—he accords a special status to Hitler and his private life. The decision underscores that we are receiving a glimpse into the inner sanctum. Hannes Heer notes that the color footage privileges these scenes, making the Berghof, despite all historical evidence to the contrary, the central decision-making site of the Third Reich.28 We are accustomed to seeing black-and-white images, but here we see Hitler in color, and it is hard not to be fascinated by the man-as-monster, especially when the color footage is contrasted with well-worn black-and-white newsreel footage. Lapa, by contrast, uses color only to depict the murdered dead, images that come at the very end of the film, where she finally offers a view of atrocities. She integrates images of piles of bodies shown in horrific liberation footage, recorded shortly before Himmler’s suicide on 23 May 1945. On the soundtrack we hear the famous words from Himmler’s Posen speech, especially his claim that the Germans, once they have put themselves through the ordeal of exterminating the Jews, will remain “decent.” Up to that point we had seen little that we could identify as evil, but here, as we finally hear the Posen Speech, we see a mountain of corpses. The colors cut through the rhetoric and propaganda. As the film switches over, the startling, unexpected, and rarely seen flesh tones undercut Himmler’s own words, particularly his overwhelming conviction that his behavior and those of his fellow soldiers was decent. As an interpreter of her familial past, Katrin Himmler was compelled to revisit what had been normal and familial, now seeing it as murderous and monstrous. Her own research into her family history moves along the same lines as Lapa’s film, cutting into the past with truths, opening wounds where they had been papered over. She had been given to understand that the rest of her family, all but Heinrich Himmler, had been inclined to act virtuously but instead found themselves swept up by history, eventually acting as unwilling participants in their own downfall. Her research, however, led to a change of heart, owing in particular to a story of her grandfather’s culpability, something the family never previously acknowledged. She had been told that other members of the family

McGlothlin.indd 205

10/16/2016 2:05:53 PM

206



BRAD PRAGER

came to the party after the Nazis’ rise to power, and that they had to be persuaded to join, yet family records indicated that her great-grandparents had already been enthusiastic supporters of Hitler in 1933 and that Heinrich’s older brother, Gebhard, had participated in the 1923 putsch. The most difficult story for her to accept was that her own grandfather, Heinrich’s brother Ernst, had expressed to Heinrich a negative opinion of the deputy director of a factory, which likely resulted in that man’s death sentence. None of the family members had discussed any of this after the war, and none had inquired into Ernst’s complicity. Any reconstruction of that family history has to read as a scratch across the surface of the family frame, as an effort to read beyond it. Katrin Himmler unearthed, for example, the aforementioned letter from her grandfather Ernst to his brother Heinrich, written in 1944. She recalls, “At the time all I could make of it was that Ernst must have been involved in performing some dubious service for Heinrich. I did not understand what it was about. When I read the letter again with greater distance and more background knowledge, I still found Ernst Himmler’s language disturbing, what Victor Klemperer had called the lingua tertii imperii, the characteristic language of the Nazis that veiled some things and revealed others.”29 Her grandfather Ernst said that a certain Major Schmidt was “unfit to remain Deputy Manager of the firm of C. A. Lorenz AG,” surmising that up to this point Major Schmidt had clearly enjoyed the protection of someone very high up, namely the Reichsführer SS and Minister of the Interior himself, even though he was Jewish—a so-called half-Jew. . . . Schmidt’s performance, [Ernst] said, was unsatisfactory. “It goes without saying,” he concluded in his appraisal, “that (irrespective of the way such cases will be dealt with later on) every high-caliber specialist, even non-Aryan ones, ought to be ruthlessly deployed in order to ensure our victory, even if that means the sacrifice of a part of our ideological credit among the people.” Albert Schmidt, he went on, was “not the technical man” he was made out to be, did not meet the requirements noted above; “consequently, the sacrifice of ideological credit in the eyes of a large number of our best intellectuals and of the broad mass of qualified workers cannot in my opinion be justified.” (215)

The letter itself was an act of violence, one that, like the photos, demands to be reread and reinterpreted. Katrin looks past the fog of bureaucratic language to see the cruel intentions behind it. Akin to the photograph that does not show anything but a banal scene—a meeting of a fencing club, a man in uniform, a child in front of a garden gate— this letter is, if one knows enough to read properly, an act of violence. Katrin writes:

McGlothlin.indd 206

10/16/2016 2:05:54 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



207

The man who told the Reichsführer this must have known that it probably represented a death sentence for Schmidt, at the very least deportation to a concentration camp. That Ernst was not only aware of the personal consequences for the man, but that he also approved of them, can be seen in his cryptic remark, “irrespective of the way such cases will be dealt with later on.” Neither my grandfather’s callous decision nor his language, steeped in Nazi ideology—even making allowances for the fact that it was an official letter—were those of some non-political hanger-on. He had made a decision determining a man’s fate that he did not have to make. (214–15)

She concludes: “It took me six years to finally face up to this letter and the uneasy feelings it aroused in me” (216). When seen in light of her reassessment, even an innocuous picture of a dinner table conceals violence. In Himmler privat, the edited collection of personal letters, Katrin Himmler and Michael Wildt incorporate a number of photographs, including a portrait of the dining room at House Lindenfycht, the Himmlers’ private villa.30 In 1934 the Himmlers purchased the residence in Gmund am Tegernsee from the opera singer Alois Burgstaller with financial support provided by the party (190–91). The family house was beautiful; it had livestock, a fishpond, and a field. Yet there was a troubling side to the story: prisoners built part of the estate. A separate building housed the SS Command Center for Gmund, in which three or four members of the SS lived, and in 1938 Himmler had a twostory guesthouse constructed, for which he used prisoners from a satellite camp of Dachau as labor (191). The house was, in this sense, hardly idyllic. Along similar lines, Himmler, fearing a targeted attack by the Allies, ordered that an air-raid shelter be built on the property. His young daughter Gudrun experienced its construction as an inconvenience. She wrote in her diary on 15 July 1944: Jetzt wird auf dem Spielplatz ein Bunker gebaut, das finde ich furchtbar der ewige Radau und immer Häftlinge und dann darf man da nicht und dort nicht hingehen, Pappi wollte es aber so gerne haben und Mutti auch. [A bunker is now being built in the play area. It is just awful, the eternal racket and all these prisoners, and one isn’t allowed to go here or there, but daddy wanted to have it so much, and mommy too.]

Finally, starting in September 1944 another prisoners’ unit was called in to build a shelter connecting the estate with General Walter Warlimont’s nearby villa (331). Lindenfycht was a familial getaway, and yet all the while there was slave labor outside. As to why Katrin Himmler and Michael Wildt reproduce such an apparently innocuous picture, such

McGlothlin.indd 207

10/16/2016 2:05:54 PM

208



BRAD PRAGER

as that of the dining room with a teapot on the table and an enormous panoramic window—it is because of the unseen violence beyond its bourgeois trappings, a violence that should have been visible to all. Essentially, the photograph is a portrait of a conventional dining area, a recreational space that bears similarities to the Höß family garden. It is a family frame, one that is seemingly free of atrocity, yet it is, at the same time, when presented among the letters in Himmler and Wildt’s book, newly enframed by the looming shadow of violence.

A Garden at Dachau Katrin Himmler’s desire to look past the images, to read beyond their surfaces and locate the violence they conceal, was not shared by Heinrich Himmler’s devoted daughter Gudrun, and it is little wonder that Katrin Himmler’s research created rifts in her family. The journalist Stephan Lebert writes that one of his colleagues had been researching the organization Stille Hilfe, which helped Nazis who were on the run or living abroad. This was the group that protected, for example, Hermine RyanBraunsteiner, who had been known as “Kobyla the Mare” because of how she would trample women and children “with her hobnailed riding boots, sometimes to death.” Lebert’s colleague finds out that a substantial role in the organization was played “by a woman named Gudrun Burwitz.” He adds: “Still caring so lovingly for the old perpetrators, she was the daughter of Heinrich Himmler.”31 According to a more recent portrait of Gudrun, published on the anniversary of her father’s death, “[Gudrun] was 14 when [her father] died and, far from disowning her father as the children of Hitler’s top officers have done, she remained as fiercely devoted to him as he was to Hitler, keeping a scrapbook of every newspaper picture she could find of him.”32 If Gudrun ever looked to reframe pictures of her father, it was not to question the familial contexts in which they were embedded. Holding fast to her beloved memories, she likely had little desire to read such images against the grain. She instead devotes herself to questioning Allied footage of her father’s death, maintaining that Heinrich Himmler was murdered and that the post-suicide photo of her dead father is “one of the biggest ‘lies.’” According to the Daily Mail, Gudrun “clings to the belief her father was murdered by the Allies, who had captured Himmler after he went on the run,” and says, “to me, the photo of him dead is a retouched photo of when he was alive.”33 Here she is seeking to undercut the British Pathé footage of Himmler’s corpse, shown lying on the floor in the house in which he was held in Lüneburg, half covered by a blanket, shortly after having ingested potassium cyanide (fig. 10.3). Gudrun Himmler has a point: the footage proves nothing apart from the fact that Himmler died. The evidence, the vial in which he had secreted the poison, is displayed

McGlothlin.indd 208

10/16/2016 2:05:55 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



209

Fig. 10.3. Stills from British Pathé footage of Heinrich Himmler, subsequent to his suicide in 1945. Source YouTube. Screen shot.

for the camera, but there is, on the face of it, no reason to say that the footage provides dispositive proof of what occurred before or after. If Gudrun comes across as irrational, it should not be because she questions the image—it is only a sequence of images, it contains neither the past nor the future, and it is thus only one part of a story’s construction—but it should rather have to do with her desire to imagine an (ongoing) Allied conspiracy against an obviously guilty mass murderer. Even if there had been foul play, that foul play would hardly have mitigated the enormous atrocity connected with Himmler’s war crimes. When it comes to looking beyond the family frames, Gudrun Himmler prefers not to see. As Lawrence Rickels might punningly observe, she is more than a Nazi, she is a “not-see.”34 If this is the case, her denial started when she was a child, during the war itself. Not only had Gudrun been exposed to forced laborers building air-raid shelters in her garden, but she had also been to the Dachau camp during the war, and she later claimed to know nothing of what transpired there. When Marga and Gudrun were detained by Allied troops, they spent eighteen months interned in various camps, first in Italy and France and then in Germany. Katrin Himmler writes that the two of them “can be seen in an old film from their time in the camps: Marga very much aged, Gudrun much too childish for her age, incredibly thin, pale and disturbed.”35 Vanessa Lapa begins The Decent One with this footage, and at the onset of that film, the voice of a soldier can be heard interrogating the two of them. He asks: What did they know? The questions are in caricatured, hyper-articulated English—the booming authoritarian tones of an officer—and the responses come rapidly in German. The audio has been re-performed for the purposes of the film, edited for effect. In My Father’s Keeper, Norbert Lebert describes this same interrogation: “Have you ever been to a concentration camp?” [the soldier] asked

McGlothlin.indd 209

10/16/2016 2:05:55 PM

210



BRAD PRAGER

“Once, to Dachau,” [Gudrun] answered. . . . “And what did you see there?” “My father showed me a herb garden and explained the different herbs to me.”36

Because there are unlikely gaps in her memory—she recalls a herb garden, for example, and nothing else—Gudrun appears to be a less repentant version of Traudl Junge, who is interviewed at length in the Germanlanguage documentary Im toten Winkel—Hitlers Sekretärin (Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary, 2002). Viewers can only conclude that a person in such a position must surely have seen much more than he or she claims to know. If there is ignorance, it had to have been willful; it had to come from a desire to see a family member or close personal friend as harmless, to reinsert them, even today, into a safe and secure family frame. Gudrun’s memory of her trip to Dachau corresponds to a photograph reproduced by Himmler and Wildt, one of her and her mother at Dachau. Katrin Himmler includes that photo in Himmler privat, and like the photograph of Hans-Jürgen Höß in a garden at Auschwitz, it offers evidence of a failure to see (more). It looks harmless enough: together with friends, they are a group of tourists inspecting a herb garden. But wouldn’t there have been prisoners in the vicinity?37 The snapshot is idyllic; there is no violence in it, and not a single prisoner is in the frame. The picture merely depicts family friends on an outing. But Dachau was only eighty kilometers away from Gmund. Would not a visitor, even a young one, have had an inkling of what was happening nearby? Instead, Gudrun simply reports that they had a terrific day there, writing in her diary: “Schön ist’s gewesen. Ein sehr großer Betrieb” (242; Was a lovely day. A really big operation). The family house in Gmund was a private estate, a place where the family learned to be a family, and the story Katrin Himmler tells in The Brothers Himmler, Himmler privat, and Hitler’s Children is more the story of a high-ranking official with a highly supportive wife than that of a murderer. In letters, Himmler complains that he works too much, and he and his wife frequently discuss whether his hard work has been appropriately recognized. To foreground all of that is not to rationalize Himmler’s evil or his wife and daughter’s willful ignorance—it does not make them average or ordinary. It instead provides a framework for looking at what is otherwise banal and familiar, that which does not necessarily have party ideology as its basis, but rather family ideology, especially affection, adoration, and attachment, all of which condition the reception of these various domestic images. For these reasons one has to look in a different way, in order to articulate the unacknowledged hell beyond what one finds in the frame. Hell is, of course, never anywhere inside these family frames, these frozen moments in time, but is instead revealed in the processes of

McGlothlin.indd 210

10/16/2016 2:05:55 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



211

remediation and recontextualition. Gerhard Richter serves as an example in that he took pains to thematize the acts of foreclosure involved in readings of family frames. He may have smeared the paint in the image of his Uncle Rudi in order to show that one cannot remember such things clearly, but that smearing can also be understood as an attempt to scratch through, to go beyond a photograph’s surface, as an artist’s effort to add movement and dimensionality where an image refuses to yield up its horror. Precisely where the images are most ordinary—where they depict a garden gate, a panoramic window, and a toy airplane—is where one has to look the hardest, even today, expending additional effort to not not-see.

Notes 1

Ron Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil (New York: Random House, 1998), xvii.

2

Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler, xvii. Michael André Bernstein writes, “Backshadowing is a kind of retroactive foreshadowing in which the shared knowledge of the outcome of a series of events by narrator and listener is used to judge the participants in those events as though they too should have known what was to come.” See Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions: Against Apocalyptic History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 16; emphasis in original. 3

Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler, xvii.

4

See Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions, esp. 22.

5

See Ernst van Alphen, “Nazism in the Family Album: Christian Boltanski’s Sans Souci,” in The Familial Gaze, ed. Marianne Hirsch (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1999), 47. 6

Peter Schneider, Vati: Erzählung (Darmstadt: Luchterhand, 1987), 5.

7

Schneider drew heavily on Inge Byhan’s series of articles about Mengele’s son in Bunte Illustrierte, published in June and July 1985. For details about Byhan and Schneider’s relationship to the true story, see Elizabeth Snyder Hook, Family Secrets and the Contemporary German Novel: Literary Explorations in the Aftermath of the Third Reich (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2001), 92–96, and Erin Heather McGlothlin, Second-Generation Holocaust Literature: Legacies of Survival and Perpetration (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2006), 149–52. Gerda-Marie Schönfeld (“So eine Nachbarschaft,” Der Spiegel, March 9, 1987, 216–19) goes so far as to make the accusation that Schneider’s appropriation of the magazine story can be described as plagiarism. 8

Schneider, Vati, 14. All translations in this essay are my own, except where otherwise noted. 9

McGlothlin, Second-Generation Holocaust Literature, 157.

10

See Peter Sichrovsky’s interviews with the children of perpetrators in Born Guilty: Children of Nazi Families, trans. Jean Steinberg (New York: Basic Books, 1988). Sichrovsky’s area of study is fascinating, but his book is of limited historical use, because he allows his subjects to remain anonymous. Where Schneider’s

McGlothlin.indd 211

10/16/2016 2:05:55 PM

212



BRAD PRAGER

narrator reflects on his culpability for his father’s crimes, he uses Sichrovsky’s title phrase, asking whether he was “schuldig geboren.” Schneider, Vati, 10. 11

The historian Gerald L. Posner, author of Hitler’s Children: Sons and Daughters of Leaders of the Third Reich Talk about Their Fathers and Themselves (New York: Random House, 1991), had worked on the identification of Josef Mengele’s remains in 1985, and he met Rolf Mengele in that year. He describes the encounter in his book (3–5). Not long after, in 1987, around the same time as Vati, Sichrovsky’s book was published in Germany. Examples of more recent explorations of this topic include Wolfgang Schmidbauer, “Ich wusste nie, was mit Vater ist”: Das Trauma des Krieges (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1998) as well as Harald Welzer, Sabine Moller, and Karoline Tschuggnall, “Opa war kein Nazi”: Nationalsozialismus und Holocaust im Familiengedächtnis (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 2002). 12

See Rainer Höß, Das Erbe des Kommandanten: Rudolf Höss war der Henker von Auschwitz; Er war mein Grossvater; Geschichten einer schrecklichen Familie (Munich: Belleville, 2013), 78–79. 13

The photo of Hans-Jürgen Höß in front of the gate is reproduced in Höß, Das Erbe des Kommandanten (64). The photo of Hans-Jürgen seated in his toy plane appears on page 63.

14

Lydia Strauß, “Onkel Rudi macht Geschichte: Untersuchungen zu einem Porträt Gerhard Richters,” in NachBilder des Holocaust, ed. Inge Stephan and Alexandra Tacke (Cologne: Böhlau, 2007), 257. In the pages of her essay, Strauß also reproduces the original photograph of Schönfelder on which Richter’s work was based (259). 15 Marianne Hirsch, Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 5. 16

Robert Storr, “Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting,”in Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, ed. Robert Storr (New York: Museum of Modern Art: Thames & Hudson, 2002), 40.

17

Paul B. Jaskot, The Nazi Perpetrator: Postwar German Art and the Politics of the Right (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 76. 18

Storr, “Gerhard Richter,” 40.

19

Katrin Himmler, The Himmler Brothers: A German Family History, trans. Mike Mitchell (London: Macmillan, 2007), 1. 20

Ibid., 287.

21

Hirsch, Family Frames, 7.

22

Himmler and Wildt, Himmler privat: Briefe eines Massenmörders (Munich: Piper, 2014), 233. 23

Although the Posen speech was meant to be a secret address, an audio recording was made and preserved. The German of this passage reads: “Von Euch werden die meisten wissen, was es heisst, wenn 100 Leichen beisammen liegen, wenn 500 daliegen oder wenn 1000 daliegen. Und dies durchgehalten zu haben, und dabei—abgesehen von menschlichen Ausnahmeschwächen—anständig geblieben zu sein, hat uns hart gemacht und ist ein niemals genanntes und niemals

McGlothlin.indd 212

10/16/2016 2:05:55 PM

PINPOINTING EVIL



213

zu nennendes Ruhmesblatt,” accessed May 13, 2016, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/HimmlerPosen.html. 24

The episode devoted to Himmler is called “Heinrich Himmler—Der Vollstrecker.” Although an English translation of Vollstrecker is “executor,” it is also commonly a translation of “executioner,” as in Hitlers willige Vollstrecker, the translation of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996), which appeared in German in 1996, the same year as Knopp’s television series. 25

Hannes Heer, “Hitler war’s”: Die Befreiung der Deutschen von ihrer Vergangenheit (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 2005), 173. 26 Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. (London: Penguin, 2006), 252. First published in 1963. 27

Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary. 2nd ed. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 74. On the use of “voice-of-god” in Knopp’s series, see also Michael D. Richardson, “Reenacting Evil: Giving Voice to the Perpetrator in Das Himmler-Projekt and Das Goebbels-Experiment,” Colloquia Germanica 43, no. 3 (2010): 29–47. 28

On this point, see Heer, “Hitler war’s,” 181.

29

Himmler, The Himmler Brothers, 214.

30

For the photo, see Himmler and Wildt, Himmler privat, 196.

31

Stephan and Norbert Lebert, My Father’s Keeper: Children of Nazi Leaders; An Intimate History of Damage and Denial (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 2001), 12. The Leberts’ book, an effort by the son, Stephan, to complete his father’s research, first appeared in German. See Norbert and Stephan Lebert, Denn Du trägst meinen Namen: Das schwere Erbe der prominenten Nazi-Kinder (Munich: Blessing, 2000). Their book is invaluable because, unlike Sichrovsky’s book, it refers to its interview subjects by name. 32

See Allan Hall, “The Daughter Who STILL Hero Worships Heinrich Himmler: How SS chief’s Adoring Child Remains a Committed Nazi Who Supports War Criminals on the 70th Anniversary of His Suicide,” Daily Mail.co.uk, May 23, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3093947/The-daughter-heroworships-Heinrich-Himmler-SS-chief-s-adoring-child-remains-committed-Nazisupports-war-criminals-70th-anniversary-suicide.html#ixzz3iRFutuZM. 33

Ibid., n.p.

34

Laurence A. Rickels, Nazi Psychoanalysis: Psy Fi, vol. 3 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), xv and 116.

35

Himmler, The Himmler Brothers, 275.

36

Lebert, My Father’s Keeper, 161. This section is attributable to Norbert Lebert, who may be correct when he says that the interrogator was a British officer. In Lapa’s film, the accent is clearly supposed to be an American’s. 37

McGlothlin.indd 213

The photograph appears in Himmler and Wildt, Himmler privat, 241.

10/16/2016 2:05:56 PM

11: Felix Moeller’s Harlan: Im Schatten von Jud Süss as Family Drama David Bathrick

I

N THE LAST TWO DECADES contemporary cinema globally has been marked by a strong autobiographical trend, a movement expressed through various strategies involving the use of audiovisual media and the blurring of former categorical boundaries. In his book The Subject of Documentary, Michael Renov locates as one of the more important subgenres within the autobiographical discourse a category of documentary films and videos he labels “domestic ethnography.” “The notion of domestic ethnography,” he writes, “has become an increasingly useful classificatory term for a documentary film type that has proliferated. In an era of great genealogical curiosity such as our own, shared DNA becomes a powerful incitation to documentary practice.”1 My present task entails a reading of Felix Moeller’s documentary Harlan: Im Schatten von Jud Süss (2009) as a non-autobiographical Holocaust family film driven nevertheless by many of the generic compulsions that we find in such recent autobiographical documentaries as Jens Schanze’s Winterkinder: Die schweigende Generation (Winter Children: The Silent Generation, 2005) or Malte Ludin’s 2 oder 3 Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß (2 or 3 Things I Know About Him, 2004)—to name two such family films dealing with the Nazi past within the realm of perpetrator postmemory. Jens Schanze’s Winterkinder, his film thesis for the School for Television and Film in Munich, explores his mother’s memories of her father, a high-ranking functionary of the Nazi party. Neither Schanze nor his four sisters actually knew their grandfather, who died in an automobile accident in 1954. In the stories and descriptions of him by their mother, he was always referred to simply as “that good man.” Indeed, what we discover already at the outset of Winterkinder is that we are dealing with a three-generational family in which there has been a virtual sixty-year silence regarding Grandpa’s twelve-year affiliation with the NSDAP as a member of the Storm Troopers. As family ethnographer, Jens Schanze’s search for his grandfather consists of persistent efforts to break through that family silence by means

McGlothlin.indd 214

10/16/2016 2:05:57 PM

FELIX MOELLER’S HARLAN



215

of gently probing interviews, made individually and collectively, with his mother and his four sisters; of visits to numerous libraries and archives in search of documents and newspaper clippings mapping the grandfather’s propagandistic speaking career to the coal miners of Silesia on the evils of the Jews and the right of Hitler and Germany to conquer the world; and, finally, of several trips with his parents to key geographical areas deemed significant as domestic as well as political points of remembrance, such as the town of Neurode (then Silesia, now Poland), where Schanze’s mother had lived with her family until 1945. Although the end of the film finds the family able to acknowledge the value of the extended emotional and painful “Auseinandersetzungen” (clashes) among them, the ever dominant mother’s final comment when asked by Schanze how she feels now about the father sums up the limits of this family’s working through the past: “A great many questions still remain unanswered. As for my love for him, nothing has changed at all.”2 In 2 oder 3 Dinge, filmmaker Malte Ludin serves as the ethnographer for his large, four-generational family, comprising six siblings in the second generation, all born during the Third Reich, along with the multiple progeny from the third and fourth generations. Ludin also functions as domestic historian of the family’s tormented past as offspring of a notorious figure in the Nazi hierarchy. The condemnation and execution of his father, Hanns Elard Ludin, on the gallows in Czechoslovakia in 1947 serves as the family trauma that will not abate. Using letters, photo albums, and archival recordings and film clips, Malte Ludin narrates the career of an ambitious, well-educated young man, who chose the military after completing his Gymnasium (secondary school) studies. Already a devoted supporter of Hitler in the 1920s, Hanns Ludin was tried for high treason after attempting to recruit officers to rebel against the military leadership. As a result, Ludin was expelled from the National Army (Reichswehr) and imprisoned. Following his incarceration, he joined the Nazi party and the Storm Troopers (SA) in 1931. In 1941 he was sent as ambassador and minister to Slovakia, where, among other duties, he was put in charge of deporting Jews to the death camps. In 1945 he went into hiding but was soon captured by American troops. The Americans handed him over to the Czech authorities, who, in turn, sentenced him to death. As his son Malte confesses at the outset of 2 oder 3 Dinge, it was not until the death of his mother in 1997 that he—in professional collaboration with his wife-to-be, the Czech-born film director Iva Svarcova—felt strong enough to make his movie. And it is the still-powerful presence of their absent mother that fuels the face-to-face, highly emotional and confrontational interviews between Malte and three of his sisters that form the film’s discursive center. In her discussion of 2 oder 3 Dinge, RégineMihal Friedman draws on Michel Foucault’s notion of counter-memory

McGlothlin.indd 215

10/16/2016 2:05:57 PM

216



DAVID BATHRICK

to underscore the film’s successful depiction of the residual narrative strands that withstand official versions of historical continuity, but that also lay bare the polymorphous nature of memory as historically situated and therefore operating under the pressure of open questions, challenges, and alternatives: “Nowhere before has the discrepancy between irrefutable historical facts and the steadfast construction of another memory— a counter-memory—been exposed on the screen so openly. Nowhere before have the members of an extended German family confronted on the screen their own contending versions in their effort to reconstruct a viable acceptable past, the dividing line appearing to cross between second and third generations.”3

Communicative vs. Cultural Memory and the Generational Film Turning now to Felix Moeller’s Harlan: In the Shadow of Jud Süss, I seek to explore the ways that the filmmaker has been able to draw on Nazi film director Veit Harlan’s extended family to open up dialogical energies and focus on a set of issues that may, for some, have seemed absolved from any further need for working through. He probes the silences that arise around an issue that do not come from a lack of public debate about a subject, but rather from a surfeit of information and reinterpretation that seemingly closes the case. As the director of Jud Süss, the most scurrilous anti-Semitic feature film to be produced in Nazi Germany, both Veit Harlan and his film have indeed cast long and lasting shadows. Whereas Felix Moeller provides us with a coherent summary of the known and even some unknown historical facts concerning the making of the film and the course of Harlan’s career, it is from the very outset his depiction of the profound, sometimes even shattering impact of the film’s legacy on Harlan’s extended family over the years before and after his death in 1964 (at the age of 65) that provides the anchor for this film. My reference to Harlan’s “extended family” denotes in this case twelve members chosen from the sizable progeny resulting from Harlan’s marriages to the actresses Hilde Körber (1929 to 1938) and Kristina Söderbaum (1939 to 1964). Here the film’s focus on the musings and recollections of Harlan’s three sons, a daughter, six grandchildren, and a niece and nephew centrally highlights their struggle to deal with the legacy of a filmmaker whose name now carries the powerful taint of Nazi propaganda. Six minutes into Harlan, the physiotherapist Alice Harlan, daughter of Veit Harlan’s oldest son Thomas, speaks to us in French as she sketches a genealogical grid of the entire Harlan clan on a blackboard. The moment serves not only to provide clarity but also to enhance the

McGlothlin.indd 216

10/16/2016 2:05:57 PM

FELIX MOELLER’S HARLAN



217

notion of generational as well as cultural and national diversity involved. Although she grew up in France and has never met her “grand-père” Veit, her connection to him has nevertheless caused her considerable grief. On one occasion, a teacher in her secondary school asked if she were related to the Veit Harlan, a fact that she at first vehemently denied, only then to jump up and flee the classroom in tears. Alice has remained nevertheless determined to learn as much as possible about her family past, she assures us at the end of the film, “so that when my children inquire, I will be able to tell them.” Also appearing on that genealogical grid is another interviewee, Alice’s half-brother Chester, who lives on the island of Capri, where Harlan died and is buried (and who is first seen visiting his grandfather’s grave). In one exchange, Chester informs us in Italian that the link to his grandfather has never come up among his Italian friends and family; yes, he has faced the problem, but intellectually not emotionally. “Guilt? This has nothing to do with me,” he calmly replies. Chester will return on occasion, but it soon becomes clear that he will be the only family interviewee who seemingly has not had to struggle with the Harlan legacy. In working to assess epistemologically the relation of “intergenerational family memory” to the more public memorial systems functioning at a national or global level, it seems important at this point to briefly sketch what some others have said about coexisting memory feeds. When Maurice Halbwachs first defined the term collective memory, it was used to designate groups sharing and experiencing the same spatial and temporal arena, such as families, believers of a religion, social classes or, at the farthest reach, members of a single nation.4 In their work on memory cultures, Jan and Aleida Assmann go beyond the exclusivity of a social or collective memory that is bound only to temporal or shared remembrance by drawing a distinction between what they refer to as communicative memory, which emerges in an environment of “räumliche Nähe, regelmäßiger Interaktion, gemeinsamer Lebensformen und geteilter Erfahrungen” (spatial proximity, regular interaction, common ways of living and shared experiences) and, on the other hand, what they have defined as “das kulturelle Gedächtnis” (cultural memory).5 Communicative memory has often been compared to “short-term memory,” in the sense that it is bound to the everyday experience of individuals and therefore has a duration of about eighty years, that is, three to four generations, with, in Jan Assmann’s words, “keine Fixpunkte, die es an eine sich mit fortschreitender Gegenwart immer weiter ausdehnende Vergangenheit binden würden” (no fixed points that would bind it to a progressively advancing present in an ever-expanding past).6 Cultural memory, on the other hand, translates the experienced memory of witnesses into a temporally long-term and spatially distant memory that expands its geopolitical and generational borders with the help of educational institutions,

McGlothlin.indd 217

10/16/2016 2:05:59 PM

218



DAVID BATHRICK

databanks, archives, the Internet, and various global media systems, such as newspapers, film, and television. As such it serves as a “Sammelbegriff für alles Wissen, das im spezifischen Interaktionsrahmen einer Gesellschaft Handeln und Erleben steuert” (collective term for all knowledge that manages the dealings and interactions of individuals within a larger societal framework).7 The relevance of the preceding theoretical model for my present project is the following: In all three films mentioned, we are confronted with three- and even four-generational German perpetrator families who in very differing ways and circumstances are struggling to come to terms with memories, or the seeming displacement thereof, regarding the Third Reich and the Holocaust. Returning to Winterkinder, what we find is a small three-generational family consisting of five grandchildren (filmmaker Schanze and his four sisters) and their father and mother (the mother’s two brothers have refused to participate). Given that prior to the film there has been a virtual sixty-year silence within the family regarding Grandpa’s twelve-year affiliation with the National Socialist Party, what clearly emerges is a paradigmatic example of communicative memory, a category described by one source as evolving paradoxically out of “die gelungene Aufklärung über die Verbrechen der Vergangenheit, die bei den Kindern und Enkeln das Bedürfnis erzeugt, die Eltern und Großeltern im nationalsozialistischen Universum des Grauens so zu platzieren, dass von diesem Grauen kein Schatten auf sie fällt.” (The successful enlightenment regarding the crimes of the past, which produce in the children and grandchildren the need to situate the parents and grandparents in the National Socialist universe of horror in such a way that from this horror no shadow will fall upon them).8 While Malte Ludin’s 2 or 3 Things certainly contains some of the generic armature associated with communicative memory—most of all, perhaps, in the internecine, often circular verbal exchanges among and between the director and his two sisters—it is Malte’s extended vision as family ethnographer, creative cinematographer, and political and cultural historian that raises and widens the scope of reference beyond the borders of a domestic pas de deux. One example of this is the editing sequence in which Ludin crosscuts footage of his oldest living sister, Barbel, who ecstatically recalls family life with “Vati” (daddy) during the early 1940s in the German embassy in Bratislava, with footage of his interview of a Jewish doctor named Juraj Stern, who recounts gruesome tales about his life during the same period in the same city. As a young boy hiding in Bratislava, Stern developed what turned into an eighteen-year speech impediment emanating from his fear of being overheard and then murdered by the Nazis. Here Ludin widens the historical scope of his film by highlighting the inevitably narrower frame of exclusively interfamilial memory demonstrated by his sister.9

McGlothlin.indd 218

10/16/2016 2:05:59 PM

FELIX MOELLER’S HARLAN



219

From the very outset of Harlan, Felix Moeller invokes a broader historical context for his family drama, which has much to do with his own prior work as a film historian and filmmaker. He is the author of Der Filmminister (1998; published in English in 2000 as The Film Minister), a definitive study of Joseph Goebbels’s career as overseer of the German film industry during the Nazi era. Prior to that Moeller had served as a researcher for Ray Müller’s renowned documentary on Leni Riefenstahl entitled Die Macht der Bilder (1993; English title, The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl,). Particularly relevant for my present focus, Moeller also directed Die Verhoevens (2003; English title, The Verhoevens), a documentary of a contemporary three-generation family, many of whose members have worked in the theater, television, and film industries. Grandfather Paul Verhoeven directed musicals and comedies in the Third Reich. His son, Michael Verhoeven, directed such major films as Die weiße Rose (1982, English title, The White Rose), Das schreckliche Mädchen (1990; English title, The Nasty Girl) and My Mother’s Courage (1995), all focusing critically on The Third Reich and the Shoah. Moeller’s research endeavors for his film Harlan garnered a surfeit of evidence in the form of private correspondence, stills, press reviews, newspaper clippings, home movies, television documentaries, Nazi newsreels, and, above all, clips from Harlan’s own films, those made during the Third Reich as well as the ten films he made from the 1950s up until his death in 1964. In a very powerful further conveyance of the intertwining of communicative and cultural memories, one scene has us join all six grandchildren, plus unidentified acquaintances, in their visit to an exhibition entitled “Jud Süss: Propagandafilm im NS-Staat” (Jew Süss: Propaganda Film in the National Socialist State) that was sponsored by the Haus der Geschichte in Baden-Württemburg from December 14, 2007, to September 7, 2008. Moeller returns to this mise-en-scène to highlight yet another clip of the museum guide explicating, also with clips, the history and implications of the Jud Süss film and its director as we watch the differing familial responses to those clips—shame, resentment, fascination, distance, disagreement, and also uncontrolled giggling, coming above all from Veit Harlan’s grandchildren. Indeed, it is the radical variation of response and opinion within this highly heterogeneous family that has allowed it to serve as a textbook for what it means to negotiate historical family trauma precisely at the intersection of public and private spheres. Certainly one enabling factor arises from the give-and-take of Moeller`s constructed dialogues. I employ the word “constructed” simply because he has been careful to pose the same or similar questions to each family member as he interviews them individually, which because of the resulting kaleidoscope of different or not-sodifferent reactions, challenges the viewer to parse the multitude of often

McGlothlin.indd 219

10/16/2016 2:05:59 PM

220



DAVID BATHRICK

nuanced responses in the process of deriving meaning. What Moeller does not do is challenge assertions or offer rhetorically opinions of his own. One example of his method can be revealed by tracing the central question he poses to individual family members as to what extent Veit Harlan or his film Jud Süss could be considered anti-Semitic. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that none of Harlan’s second-generation children were prepared to describe him as an anti-Semite, citing as evidence Harlan’s first marriage to the Jewish actress and cabaret singer Dora Gershon, his many close Jewish friends, some of whom he sheltered in the face of Nazi purges, the presence of a Jewish family doctor, and so on. For Thomas Harlan—the oldest and also the one who was the most militantly critical of his father among all of the progeny—the question as to whether Veit Harlan was a Jew hater misses the point: “The real thing to keep in mind was that in this case it was the non anti-Semite that turned out to have honed the sharpest axe of all,” that is, it was the non anti-Semite who made the most effective anti-Semitic film. Thomas refers to Jud Süss at various moments in the film as his father’s “Mordinstrument” (murder weapon). Looking now to the third generation, that of the six grandchildren, we do encounter one voice, that of Jessica Jacoby, that takes the film decidedly, one might even say shockingly, in another direction concerning the Jewish question in the Harlan family. In contrast to her second-generation forbears, regarding the issue of Harlan’s anti-Semitism she quite forthrightly asserts: “I think that my grandfather had a massive problem with Jewish culture, with the Jewish religion. . . . His first wife was Jewish and she left him for a Jewish man, all of which dealt him a deep narcissistic wound. This is one reason why in his film Jud Süss he drew so obsessively on negative images of Jews stretching back over the last 100 years. It is there that he reveals his resentments and aversion toward this culture.” Throughout the film, Jessica Jacoby’s reflections will continue to serve as the articulation of an insistent counter-memory within the Harlan fold. Her mother, the actress Susanne Christa Körber-Harlan—the younger daughter of Harlan and his second wife, Hilde Körber—married a Jewish photographer named Klaus Jacoby and converted to his religion. Susanne committed suicide after a long illness in 1989. She was not the only second-generation Harlan to marry a Jew; her older sister, the actress Maria Körber, did so as well, admitting in the film that she acted out of feelings of family guilt rather than love, and that the marriage soon ended in divorce because of that. Finally, there is Harlan’s niece, Christiane Kubrick, married to the Jewish-American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. We learn from Christiane that Kubrick had always wanted to make a film about Harlan, “but never managed to get the script right.”10 Throughout Harlan, Christiane is shown as having absolutely no qualms about aggressively criticizing her uncle and his controversial film. Certainly one of the most poignant moments in the film comes as Jessica Jacoby reflects on what it came to mean for her to grow up as a

McGlothlin.indd 220

10/16/2016 2:05:59 PM

FELIX MOELLER’S HARLAN



221

Jew in the Harlan family in postwar Germany: “I belong to a family that because of the preceding Nazi period was completely split asunder into perpetrators and victims. I was always aware that my one grandfather had a stellar career making films for the Nazis at a time when the Nazis murdered both my grandparents on my father’s side. I already knew this by the time I was five or six.” As further confirmation of her powerful allegiance to an evolving public Jewish counter-memory within and emerging from the Harlan clan is the fact that for the last decade Jacoby has worked as a film critic for the German-Jewish newspaper Jüdische Allgemeine in Berlin. Returning to the issue of Felix Moeller’s interviewing and editing techniques, what I have found most effective about the constructed discursive give-and-take within the family is precisely the refusal on the part of the director to pursue a fixed line of argument. Moeller offers a variety of perspectives, approaches, and tones without seeking to align the film with any one of the participants. It is a chorus with much dissonance and counterpoint. Unlike Veit Harlan, who to the very end of his life staged himself as a helpless victim of the “devil” Goebbels’s Kulturpolitik (cultural policies),11 “virtually none of his progeny claim to be a victim or indulge in self-pity; indeed most of them in varying degrees are seen to articulate an undeniable sense of concern and responsibility.”12

Differing Paths to Coming to Terms with the German Past Certainly one the most intriguing members of the second-generation males throughout the film is Harlan’s oldest son, Thomas. While he was at times torn and ambivalent about his Oedipal attachment to his father, it soon becomes clear from almost everything he says that he has devoted his entire artistic and political career to atoning for the perceived harm meted out by the film Jud Süss. What upset him most, Thomas says, is that following the Second World War in 1945—when Veit Harlan at one very deep level must have realized what his films in reality had led to—he continued to make films in which the haunting cinematic aesthetics of the German 1930s segued seamlessly into that of the 1950s. As for the film Jud Süss—in a book of interviews, entitled Hitler war meine Mitgift (Hitler was my dowry, 2011), he declares: “Ein Mensch, der feststellt, daß er nicht einen Film sondern ein Mordinstrument produziert hat, denke ich, müßte zu dem Schluß kommen, daß er seiner Mittel nicht Herr ist, und darauf verzichten, Filme zu machen.” (A person who comes to realize that he has not produced a film but rather an instrument of murder must surely come to the conclusion that he is not in control of his faculties and simply quit making films).13

McGlothlin.indd 221

10/16/2016 2:05:59 PM

222



DAVID BATHRICK

Thomas’s acts of atonement for his father took multiple forms. “Ich bin der Sohn meiner Eltern. Das ist eine Katastrophe. Die hat mich bestimmt” (20; I am the son of my parents. That is a catastrophe. It has made me what I am). In 1948 Veit Harlan’s nineteen-year-old son fled Germany in order to study in France and then in Italy for a number of years, with thoughts of returning home. But the trauma of German guilt, he tells us, the hypocrisy of a childhood steeped in the denial of National Socialist criminality, would leave him no rest, resulting in an exile that was to last more than fifty years and have him living in more than a dozen countries. On a political level, Thomas worked in Poland from 1960 to 1964 as a “Nazi-Jäger” (Nazi hunter), researching the archives of the extermination camps Chełmno, Sobibór, Bełżec, and Treblinka. Here he gathered thousands of documents that ultimately led to an estimated two thousand judicial proceedings against suspected war criminals in the Federal Republic. His most significant coresearcher and friend (whom Harlan also acknowledges as a father figure [117]) during this period was the renowned Fritz Bauer, who as District Attorney of the State of Hesse in the 1960s was responsible for bringing charges of “Crimes against Humanity” in the so-called Second Auschwitz Trial, held in Frankfurt between December 1963 and August 1965. The trials had a definitive historical impact on West German public debates about genocide and the Holocaust from that time forth (106–17). Returning to Thomas Harlan’s personal life, 1964 was also the year his father died, while vacationing with his wife Kristina Söderbaum on the island of Capri. Although the relationship between father and son since the end of the war had been an increasingly conflicted one, it also becomes clear through Felix Moeller’s questioning of the second generation as a whole that Thomas was the only member of the Harlan clan to whom Veit spoke in depth about the making and the impact of the controversial films he had produced in the Third Reich—despite Thomas’s repeated assertion throughout the film that his father spoke only through him, not to him. This relationship is in turn certified visually by the scene in Im Schatten showing documentary footage of the oldest son’s singular presence (besides Söderbaum) in Capri at the bedside of his dying father, tenderly holding the latter’s hand. Over the years, Thomas’s prolific as well as provocative work as researcher, filmmaker, dramatist, poet, and novelist often drew on documents from the extermination camps and not infrequently led to scandal and even juridical action against him in Poland and Germany. In 1964 Hans Globke, Director of the Federal Chancellory of West Germany and Konrad Adenauer’s right-hand man (later embroiled in controversy when his anti-Semitic actions as a jurist before and during the Nazi regime came under public scrutiny), leveled a formal complaint of treason

McGlothlin.indd 222

10/16/2016 2:05:59 PM

FELIX MOELLER’S HARLAN



223

(Landesverrat) against him with the police. Although not convicted, Harlan was denied a German passport for the next ten years, during which time he was not permitted to reenter the Federal Republic.14 In 2001, he returned to Germany with a severe lung disease and lived the rest of his life in a sanatorium in Berchtesgaden, where he died in October 2010, one year after the opening of Im Schatten in the Federal Republic. If Thomas’s public verbal assaults on his father were often very disturbing, if not also a challenge to his siblings over the years, the family members’ dialogues with Felix Moeller reveal that the oldest son was by no means the only one among the Veit Harlan progeny with a commitment to learn from the difficult memories of their patriarch’s tainted cinematic past. The figure who seems the least open to such reflection, and the one most critical of Thomas, is the architect Kristian Harlan, the oldest son of Veit and his third wife Kristina Söderbaum. “I for the life of me cannot understand how he can speak about his father that way. . . . It is simply shabby” says Kristian at one point. Asked about the film Jud Süss as a work of propaganda, Kristian’s reply registers strong denial about the potential impact of such a film in the context of the 1940s and the beginnings of the Shoah: “Film” he says, “has always been subverted into propaganda. Consider all the war games and films sponsored by the American military.” Kristian’s younger brother Casper, himself a screenwriter, film director, playwright, and environmental activist, is considerably more nuanced, both in his judgments concerning his father and in the political impact of the latter’s tortured legacy upon his own notions of social responsibility. While he can understand that his father might well have felt forced by various threats coming from Joseph Goebbels to make the film, what Casper cannot comprehend is why Veit Harlan then went ahead and made such a powerfully vindictive representation of the central figure in light of the context in which the film would be shown. As is true for all the siblings except for Thomas, Casper acknowledges never having spoken to his father about family guilt or about Jud Süss. However, we also learn from him as a part of the film’s conclusion that since going into retirement he, his wife, and his three daughters have dedicated themselves to the struggle against nuclear energy in present-day Germany. Asked by Felix Moeller if their commitment is linked in any way to his father’s legacy, Casper replies in the affirmative. As a final example of a positive dimension emerging from the generational legacy of the Veit Harlan family, I return briefly to the journalist Jessica Jacoby. In addition to her numerous articles on Jewish film and indeed on Jewish postwar cultural life in general for the Jüdische Allgemeine Zeitung, Jacoby has also coedited a book of collected essays, poems, literary prose, interviews, and autobiographical testimony by more than thirty Jewish women writers and artists from twenty countries. The

McGlothlin.indd 223

10/16/2016 2:05:59 PM

224



DAVID BATHRICK

book is entitled Nach der Shoa geboren: Jüdische Frauen in Deutschland (Born after the Shoah: Jewish Women in Germany) and was published in 1994.15 The editors’ brief preface to this volume poses a number of challenging questions that underlie the epistemological goal of the project as a whole: Ist nach dem Völkermord der Nazis je wieder eine deutsch-jüdische Normalität möglich? Oder stehen sich die einzigen Täter und Opfer, Verfolger und Verfolgten auch noch in der zweiten Generation und für immer unversöhnlich gegenüber, in einer “negativen Symbiose” (Hannah Arendt)? Was prägt das Leben der Jüdinnen und Juden in Deutschland—dieser sehr kleinen, aber brisanten Minderheit? Beschränkt sich jüdische Identität auf die Erfahrung von Antisemitismus und der Verfolgung der Elterngeneration? Oder auf religiöses Engagement oder die Identification mit Israel? (9) [In the light of Nazi extermination, can there ever be a GermanJewish normalcy? Or do these onetime perpetrators and victims still face each other in the second generation irreconcilably, “in a negative symbiosis” (Hannah Arendt)? What shapes the lives of Jewish men and women in Germany today—this small yet explosive minority? Is Jewish identity limited to the experience of anti-Semitism and the persecution of the older generation? Or is it founded on religious engagement or identification with Israel?]

What is clear from her intellectual and professional engagement in projects such as Nach der Shoa geboren is that Jacoby has successfully located herself within a public venue of extreme German-Jewish “symbiosis” in which to continue working through and going beyond her singularly difficult and sometimes isolated role within the Harlan dynasty. Like her uncle Thomas, she has devoted her energies to producing significant acts of genuine redemption within the memorial culture of postwar Germany. At the same time, as an outspoken third-generation Harlan Jew she has clearly paved her own unique path in the struggle for German-Jewish reconciliation. As one critic of Im Schatten put it regarding the message of the film as a whole: “‘Im Schatten von Jud Süß’ erzählt so auch eine Geschichte nicht von Entschuldigung, sondern von konkreter Bewältigung von Vergangenheit” (Moeller’s film is not a story of apology, but rather one of a concrete coping with the past).16

Notes 1 Michael Renov, The Subject of Documentary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 216. 2

McGlothlin.indd 224

All translations in this essay are my own, except where otherwise noted.

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

FELIX MOELLER’S HARLAN



225

3

Régine-Mihal Friedman, “All about My Mother—On Malte Ludin’s Film 2 oder 3 Dinge, die ich von ihm weiss (2004),” in Mütterliche Macht und väterliche Gewalt: Elternbilder im deutschen Diskurs, ed. José Brunner (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2008), 160. 4 Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, ed. and trans. Lewis Coser (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1992). 5

Aleida Assman and Ute Frevert, Geschichtsvergessenheit/Geschichtsversessenheit: Vom Umgang mit deutschen Vergessenheiten nach 1945 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1999), 36.

6

Jan Assmann, “Kollektives Gedächtnis und kulturelle Identität,” in Kultur und Gedächtnis, ed. Jan Assmann and Tonio Hölscher (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1988), 11. 7

Assmann, “Kollektives Gedächtnis,” 9.

8

Harald Welzer, Sabine Moller, and Karoline Tschuggnall, Opa war kein Nazi: Nationalsozialismus und Holocaust im Familiengedächtnis (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 2002), 13.

9

For a more thorough reading of this sequence, see Brad Prager, “Nazi Interrupted: Cutting into the Past in Malte Ludin’s Zwei oder Drei Dinge, die ich von ihm weiss,” Colloquia Germanica 43, no. 3 (2013): 230. 10 Ian Buruma, “Himmler’s Favorite Jew,” New York Review of Books, March 1, 2010,

http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/mar/01/himmlers-favoritejew/. 11

See Veit Harlan’s self-serving autobiography Im Schatten meiner Filme (Gütersloh: Sigbert Mohn Verlag, 1966). 12 Eric Rentschler, “Harlan in the Shadow of Jud Süss,” Cineaste 35, no. 4 (Fall 2010): 44. 13

Thomas Harlan, Hitler war meine Mitgift (Berlin: rororo, 2011), 46–47.

14

Willi Winkler, “Was niemand wissen wollte,” Süddeutsche.de (October 18, 2010), http://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/zum-tod-von-thomas-harlan-wasniemand-wissen-wollte-1.1013032. 15

Jessica Jacoby, Claudia Schoppmann, and Wendy Zena-Henry, eds., Nach der Shoa geboren: Jüdische Frauen in Deutschland (Berlin: Elefanten, 1994). 16

Bert Rebhandi, “Ein zerstörerisches Werk,” Die Tageszeitung, April 24, 2009, http://www.taz.de/!5164257/.

McGlothlin.indd 225

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

McGlothlin.indd 226

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

Part V. Remediated Icons of Memory

McGlothlin.indd 227

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

McGlothlin.indd 228

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

12: Goebbels’s Fear and Legacy: Babelsberg and Its Berlin Street as Cinematic Memory Place Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann

I

N OCTOBER 2013, excavators entered the backlot of the film studios in Babelsberg near Berlin, at the precise location of one of its most famous movie sets. The so-called Berlin Street, first built for Leander Hausmann’s post-GDR comedy Sonnenallee (English title, Sun Alley, Germany, 1999) had since served as the set for approximately 350 feature and television films, video clips, and commercials.1 But this time the construction vehicles were serving neither as props for another film nor to prepare the site for a new international production. On the contrary, this time the excavators and welding torches were there to finally pull down the set that had become so integral to the international success of the Babelsberg studios as a globally accepted production ground, one especially suited to hosting historical films and equipping them with period props. In particular, the Berlin Street set had itself become a visual icon in the cinematic reconstruction of the Nazi past, in large part because of how many internationally successful and influential films were shot there. These include The Pianist (UK, Germany, Poland, France, 2002, dir. Roman Polanski), The Reader (USA, Germany 2008, dir. Steven Daldry), and Inglourious Basterds (USA, Germany, 2009, dir. Quentin Tarantino). It was also home to such popular German television movies as Nacht über Berlin (Night over Berlin, Germany 2013, dir. Friedemann Fromm) and Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (English title, Generation War, Germany 2013, dir. Philipp Kadelbach). In this essay I investigate the correlations of set design, the specific heritage and legacy of film production in Babelsberg, and the ongoing popularity of historical films concerning the Nazi past that were and still are produced in Babelsberg. In doing so I intend to combine the fields of German history, film production studies, and Holocaust memory studies in order to delineate a new perspective on contemporary German historical films as they are relevant for German, Holocaust, and memory studies.

McGlothlin.indd 229

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

230



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

The Changing Faces of Babelsberg Film sets have a peculiar nature. As Bergfelder, Harris, and Street say in their book Film Architecture and the Transnational Imagination, on the one hand they “provide a film with its inimitable look, its geographical, historical, social and cultural context”2 Thus they serve as an intensifying element of the mood and atmosphere as well as for the social and historical background of the story. They “aid in identifying characters, fleshing out and concretizing their psychology” (11). They form and define an image of a particular time and place, of the protagonist and his or her background; and when it comes to the imagination of the past this is particularly crucial, because it stimulates a specific conception of past events. On the other hand, set design has an “indefinable quality and temporary nature” (14). It is fabricated to be invisible precisely because of its purely visual character. The set can only be realized cinematically “in conjunction with the work of the cinematographer, who through framing and lighting devices animates the fragmentary construction and imbues it with an imaginary wholeness” (15). As a concrete place and materialized space it is characterized by temporality and is designed to support the illusionary ability of cinema. Its principle function is to be transformable, to be able to be robbed of its distinctiveness, or else to be torn down. Thus it is “fundamentally hybrid and fluid” (15). Located in between the pre-filmic and the filmic reality, it is a constant shape shifter, “both ‘ephemeral’ and ‘fragmentary’” (14). As early as 1926, the German-Jewish film critic Siegfried Kracauer reflected on the nature of set design when he traveled from Berlin to a certain small town near Potsdam. Here, in “the middle of the Grunewald is a fenced-in area that one can enter only after going through various checkpoints. It is a desert within an oasis. The natural things outside— trees made out of wood, lakes with water, villas that are inhabitable—have no place within its confines. But the world does reappear there—indeed the entire macrocosm seems to be gathered in this new version of Noah’s Ark.”3 This is how Kracauer described the Ufa-City of New-Babelsberg, first created in 1912 to serve the growing German film industry and then expanded during the zenith of Weimar cinema. Facing this city of illusion, the film critic was fascinated and disgusted at the same time: “In order for the world to flicker by on film, it is first cut to pieces” (281). Then, during the shooting, the fragments are reassembled: “On the meadows and hills the inventory organizes itself into patterns. Architectural constructions jut upward as if meant to be inhabited. But they represent only the external aspects of the prototypes, much the way language maintains façades of words whose original meaning has vanished” (282). Later the explorer described how, in the “catacombs” of New-Babelsberg, the “ruins of the universe are stored in warehouses for sets, representative

McGlothlin.indd 230

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



231

samples of all periods, peoples, and styles” (282). Every historic period, every mythic world can be created and destroyed, recreated, expanded, and again transferred to the studio stock. Thus the film city and its factories turn into “immense laboratories,” in which the “pieces are prepared individually and delivered to their locations, where they remain patiently until they are torn down” (286). In the 1930s, following the Nazi rise to power, the studio came under the control of Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, and in 1938, “New-Babelsberg” became simply “Babelsberg.” That phase ended with the conclusion of the Second World War in 1945, when the compound was occupied by Soviet forces and large parts of the stored film stock were confiscated. But in 1946 filming started again. Under the direction of the newly founded production company DEFA, the Babelsberg studios at first hosted sets made of rubble, which was then still visible in the nearby former capital. Later, it became the home of the official GDR film production company. When DEFA was dissolved after German unification, the film city was taken over by a trust, which privatized the property with no regard for its historical filmic value. For a short while it seemed as though that would be the end of the vivid cinematic laboratories Kracauer once observed, and the studio that once had so successfully adapted to changing regimes threatened to finally and literally transform into those “catacombs” that the critic had described in the 1920s. But after a French company purchased the studio and filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff took over its direction, German as well as international filmmakers began to return. With them came renewed interest in the filmic treatment of the Nazi past. Since 1992 the studio has hosted the production of a vast number of films dealing directly with the Nazi period or including Nazi characters—comprising a veritable “New Nazi wave.” Schlöndorff himself restaged the spirit of the Third Reich at the Babelsberg studios for his adaptation of Michel Tournier’s novel Der Unhold (English title, The Ogre, Germany, France, UK, 1996). The mystic atmosphere of the film’s re-creation, its playful adaptation of elements from classical German cinema, and the intensity of the reenactment of Nazi force and rule in Schlöndorff’s film juxtaposed the studio’s past and present and also linked it casually to the West German New Cinema tradition and the director’s influential Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum, FRG, France, Poland, Yugoslavia, 1979). Other films, such as Polanski’s The Pianist, then broke new ground in representing the war and the Holocaust in cinema, focusing on and reconstructing Jewish life and suffering during this period of destruction. One specific location in Babelsberg would become the anchor and iconic symbol of this historical filmmaking wave—a permanent exterior film set built in 1998 and modeled after a typical Berlin street setting (fig. 12.1). By the time it was torn down in late 2013, the exterior set had

McGlothlin.indd 231

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

232



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

Fig. 12.1. View of the movie set Berlin Street in Babelsberg. © Studio Babelsberg AG. Reproduced with permission of Studio Babelsberg AG.

served as background for a range of historical films set during various époques in German and European history. Encompassing a huge area of 1.7 acres and including twenty-six separate street façades that could be moved and changed individually, this backlot could be readily transformed, mutating into different places in time and space. “Façades can be reconstructed and newly painted, windows lit, stairwells and apartments enabled to be entered, street signs swapped upon request.”4 It even provided “the possibility for film teams to use the street for scenes not even set in Berlin” (42). Thanks to a variety of possible camera positions, the street was able to be shot from different perspectives, changing its appearance almost completely (42). Thus it simultaneously represented Berlin in Margarethe von Trotta’s Rosenstraße (Rosenstrasse, Germany, Netherlands, 2003), Warsaw in The Pianist, and Paris in Inglourious Basterds. More recently, Babelsberg served as home for Brian Percival’s The Book Thief (USA, Germany, 2013) as well as George Clooney’s production The Monuments Men (USA, Germany, 2014). The malleability of the set and its interrelated illusionary power made the Berlin Street lot a perfect cinematic tool to promote Babelsberg as the leading studio for the adaptation of historical subjects. The Nazi past and the Holocaust emerged as the

McGlothlin.indd 232

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



233

most popular historical subjects for reenactment against the backdrop of the Berlin Street. In this respect, the set came to represent literally what Kracauer had termed, “the external aspects of the prototypes.”5 As the background for multiple works presenting stories of the “Third Reich,” the Berlin Street set certainly contributed to the creation of specific patterns of visualizing the Nazi past and the Holocaust in contemporary German and international cinema. At the same time, the particular nature of the film set—as a hidden but still present façade that does not so much represent as mimic the past—provides a perfect starting point for reflecting on cinematic history in the making. It constitutes a certain kind of porosity that intertwines time and space, and thus serves as a room-forplay, transforming the set into a virtual cinematic place of memory.

Room-for-Play and Cinematic Memory In his famous observation of the Italian city of Naples, Walter Benjamin, along with Asja Lacis, once noted a particular architectural spirit emanating from the buildings and streets of the city: “As porous as this stone is the architecture. Building and action interpenetrate in the courtyards, arcades, and stairways. In everything they preserve the scope to become a theater of new, unforeseen constellations. The stamp of the definite is avoided. No situation appears indeed forever, no figure asserts its ‘thus and not otherwise.’”6 This description could easily apply also to the Berlin Street exterior set in Babelsberg. The backdrop’s material character and the dramatic action “interpenetrate” one another. The architectural devices such as courtyards and stairways, but also windows and (the illusion of) brick walls, provide the films with a particular (historical) mood, but they also establish a certain kind of fluidity and porosity. Similarly, the Berlin Street set transforms literally into a “theater of new, unforeseen constellations.” The term “theater” already links it to the staging of a film. But the term in the German original text is even more striking. Benjamin describes it as “Spiel-Raum,” which Miriam Hansen translates as “room-for-play.” Hansen refers to an earlier version of Benjamin’s famous Artwork essay, in which he writes about the consequences of the loss of aura: “What is lost in the withering of semblance, or decay of the aura, in works of art is matched by a huge gain in room-for-play [Spiel-Raum]. This space for play is widest in film. In film, the element of semblance has been entirely displaced by the element of play.”7 While the Naples essay is clearly pointing toward the potential of space to create room for imagination, for the play of mental images and thoughts, the Artwork essay highlights a particular cinematic potential. Both concepts try to access something new und unseen, pretend to make visible what is unknown. Both descriptions also distinguish the concept of room-for-play from other representational strategies. In the Artwork

McGlothlin.indd 233

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

234



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

essay, Benjamin contrasts “semblance” and “room-for-play.” In the Naples essay, the opposite of “room-for-play” is constituted through the assertion of the “definite,” an appearance of “foreverness.” These antipodes characterize precisely the ambivalent nature of the Berlin Street backlot. Within a particular concept of cinematic reconstruction of the past, the Berlin Street set, with its inherent warrant of authenticity, is supposed to provide the impression of historical realness. Its aim is to produce visual semblance to satisfy the audience’s longing for the cinematic representation of history “as it really was” (which is of course just hiding the fact that the historical reconstructions are much more closely linked to the present and its perception of the past than to the past itself). This approach creates concrete images of the past that then can transform into visual icons or monuments.8 On the other hand, the fluidity, porosity, and tentativeness of the set can also constitute moments of room-for-play that enable new sights and unforeseen constellations of the past to affect the present. As Michael Wedel has suggested, the Berlin Street set turns in such moments into a transparent cinematic memory place similar to the “lieux de mémoire” described by the French historian Pierre Nora.9 As Nora asserts,“lieux de mémoire are created by a play of memory and history, an interaction of two factors that results in their reciprocal overdetermination.”10 Although artificial, the Berlin Street backlot resembles the concept of “lieux de mémoire” in its “capacity for metamorphosis” (19). Furthermore, it comparably constitutes cyclical memory. The Berlin Street set has absorbed and preserved the appearance of the various places it has performed, at least in the cinematic memories of the audience. Thus it connects different historic places and incidents, linking, for example, the Rosenstraße protest in Berlin to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It even exceeds temporal boundaries and intertwines different eras in German history, such as the Third Reich, the GDR, and pre-unification West Berlin (for example, in Herr Lehmann [Berlin Blues, Germany, 2003]). Like the “lieux de mémoire,” the Berlin Street set became an “object mise en abîme.”11 Thus, though aimed to represent particular historical places distanced in space and time, the Berlin Street set constantly moved toward becoming its own referent. “Contrary to historical objects, however, lieux de mémoire have no referent in reality,” emphasizes Nora, and continues, “or, rather, they are their own referent: pure, exclusively self-referential signs” (23).

Babelsberg Legacies As a virtual cinematic memory place, the backlot serves as a room-for-play for historical imagination and thus makes it possible to revive the German past, including the Third Reich. This creates an uncanny resonance

McGlothlin.indd 234

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



235

with the cinematic legacy of the place that hosts the movie set. Once the capital of Nazi cinema, which according to the will of Goebbels excluded the visible signifiers of the Nazi movement to a large extent from its films, the place now seems to again be inhabited by “the Nazis,” but this time as sets, props, and actors. It almost seems as if the “descendants” of Nazi cinema are today creating the final fantasy of Nazism in a series of movies that exploit this particular chapter of German history again and again. During his visit to the studios in the 1920s, Kracauer ironically commented on the illusion of cinematic omnipotence that was expressed in the plastic worlds created for the movies: “The director is the foreman. It is also his difficult task to organize the visual material—which is as beautifully unorganized as life itself—into the unity that life owes to art. He locks himself and the strips of film into his private screening room and has them projected over and over. They are sifted, spliced, cut up, and labeled until finally from the huge chaos emerges a little whole: a social drama, a historical event, a woman’s fate.”12 Only a few years later, a man entered the film city of Babelsberg whose desire was to become this kind of foreman of German cinema. He realized the potential of the studio’s laboratories to create cinematic worlds that could counteract the real world, replacing it in the political imagination of his people and pioneering a nationalistic fantasy of a resurrected Reich. Even before the Nazi party’s rise to power, this man, Joseph Goebbels, was preoccupied with the ideological and psychological potential of cinema. And he was obsessed with replacing what he perceived as the Jewish-dominated cinemas of Weimar and Hollywood. Thus he continued to nationalize and centralize German film production, locating its main center at the film studios in Babelsberg, which became a central element within the National Socialist conglomerate of politics, propaganda, and entertainment. Up until the moment of defeat, Goebbels continued to dream of producing a glorious color film—a film that was to celebrate the German victory in the “total war,” a victory in which cinema obviously played a key part. But Goebbels’s vision was only “fulfilled” decades later in an ironically reversed fashion, when, at the end of the twentieth century, the Babelsberg studios emerged as a global center for historical film production. Siegfried Kracauer was prevented from returning to the “desert” of New-Babelsberg that was renamed by the Nazis as simply “Babelsberg” in 1938. He was forced into exile in 1933, when Goebbels, following his famous “Kaiserhof” speech of March 1933 to representatives of the German film industry, began reorganizing Ufa and expelling Jews from filmmaking. In his Kaiserhof speech Goebbels had stated categorically that popular taste in Germany differed from what “ein jüdischer Regisseur” (a Jewish film director) would assume. As the Minister of Propaganda explained, one could not build the proper image of the German people

McGlothlin.indd 235

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

236



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

from a “luftleeren Raum” (vacuum; which in Goebbels’s understanding constituted the “Jewish” perspective). In contrast, he declared that only those rooted in German ideology would be able to understand and satisfy the German audience.13 Like Kracauer, nearly all of Germany’s Jewish filmmakers fled Nazi persecution during the following years. After Kracauer escaped from Europe and emigrated to the United States, he conducted a study about Goebbels’s propaganda efforts that was published in 1942 by the Museum of Modern Art Film Library and reprinted in From Caligari to Hitler. In this study Kracauer implicitly responded to Goebbels’s call to expel all German-Jewish filmmakers in the supposed interest of meeting the desires of the German people when he stated: “Goebbels, an expert at combining journalistic rhetoric and smart cynicism, defined modern political propaganda as a creative art, thereby implying that he considered it an autonomous power rather than a subordinate instrument. Could this propaganda possibly meet the wants of the people?”14 Kracauer then answered his rhetorical question the following way: “As a ‘creative art,’ it excelled in instigating or silencing popular wants, and instead of prompting valuable ideas, it opportunistically exploited all ideas in its own interest” (299). Kracauer concludes with some irony that Goebbels’s “definition is sufficiently sincere to intimate that a world shaped by the art of propaganda becomes as modeling clay—amorphous material lacking any initiative of its own” (299). In likening Nazi propaganda to modeling clay, Kracauer indirectly refers back to the modeling techniques of the film city in Babelsberg then under the control of Goebbels’s Ministry of Propaganda. Therefore it seems particularly fitting that in one of the most famous contemporary films about the Nazi past shot there during the last decade, Kracauer’s imaginary return to Babelsberg is depicted as an act of empowerment. In a key scene in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, film critic and lieutenant Archie Hicox enters a room in which both a British military strategist and a close-mouthed Winston Churchill await him. Hicox is introduced as an expert on German cinema who has done extensive research on the German director G. W. Pabst. But more important for the secret military mission is his knowledge of German cinema under the Third Reich. It is obvious that Hicox, played by Michael Fassbender, not only references Kracauer and his research on Weimar and Nazi German cinemas, but also—in an echo of the cinematic and historiographic palimpsest structure of the whole film—director Alfred Hitchcock, who during the Second World War produced two films for the British Ministry of Information that were dropped over France to support the resistance.15 Goebbels’s vision of a successful German cinema that would support the Nazi cause was not one that would simply spread the word about the party and its political actions. On the contrary, neither the

McGlothlin.indd 236

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



237

studios in Babelsberg nor Germany’s film screens were to be peopled with uniformed party members—at least not in feature films. Thus he declared that the SA should march on the streets and not on the stage or screen.16 Referring to a certain type of early Nazi cinema—as embodied by a number of works released directly after the takeover in January 1933, including SA Mann Brand (Storm Trooper Brand) and Hitlerjunge Quex (Hitler Youth Quex)—Goebbels concluded: “Solcher Nationalsozialismus ist nur äußere Tünche. Die neue Bewegung erschöpft sich nicht in Parademarch und Trompetengeschmetter” (This kind of National Socialism is merely exterior decoration. The new movement means more than parades and the blaring of trumpets.)17 Thus, following Goebbels’s direct order, political symbols such as uniforms, flags, and swastikas were all but eliminated from the screen in favor of indirect references to Nazi politics and ideology. National Socialist cinema should, in Goebbels’s vision, remain strongly committed to the artificiality of the studio sphere. As Rentschler notes, “In an attempt to control the articulation of fictional worlds, only a small proportion of films was shot outdoors or on location. . . . Film narratives of the Nazi era generally privileged space over time, composition over editing, design over movement, sets over human shapes.”18 Accordingly, Goebbels favored a different film genre for spreading the political and ideological ideas of the Nazi movement: the historical film drama. In a March 1937 speech to the Reichsfilmkammer he tried to attract filmmakers and producers to historical subjects. Goebbels suggested that such films would depict historical time periods and known personalities from German history without any direct references to the new National Socialist regime. Then the ideas of National Socialism could appear indirectly within these historical narratives. For this reason he encouraged the German filmmakers not to feel tied to historical facts. “Der Künstler,” declared Goebbels in his speech, “ist nicht ausschließlich auf das Quellenmaterial angewiesen. Er hat das Recht . . . intuitiv in geschichtliche Vorgänge einzudringen und sie auf Grund seiner intuitiven Einsicht zu gestalten” (The artist is not solely dependent on sources. He has the right . . . to intuitively delve into historical events and recreate them based on his intuitive understanding).19 This reshaping of the sources made historical films the perfect genre for conveying the favored spirit. Goebbels’s interest was in films that expressed the National Socialist agenda and character and that took a stance on National Socialism without simply presenting National Socialist symbols (48). Thus as late as 1937 he continued to reject the explicit depiction of Nazism on the screen. He also indicated the reasoning behind this rejection. Although supporting the making of historical films, he demanded that filmmakers avoid presenting National Socialism as a historical phenomenon, citing insufficient distance:

McGlothlin.indd 237

10/16/2016 2:06:00 PM

238



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

Der Nationalsozialismus hat noch keine endgültige Form angenommen, er ist noch ein werdender Prozeß. Er ist auch nicht in dem Sinne ein historisches Phänomen, als sein Zustand stabilisiert, . . . sondern in dem Sinne, als er eine Methode fixiert. (47) [National Socialism has not yet taken on its final form; it is a developing process. It is also not a historical phenomenon in the sense that its condition is stabilized . . . but in the sense that it is finalizing its methods.]

This statement also sheds light on Goebbels’s last speech in April 1945, in which he called upon the remaining German filmmakers to remain on course. He stated prophetically: In hundert Jahren wird man in einem schönen Farbfilm die schrecklichen Tage zeigen, die wir durchleben. Möchten Sie nicht in diesem Film eine Rolle spielen? Halten Sie jetzt durch, damit die Zuschauer in hundert Jahren nicht johlen und pfeifen, wenn Sie auf der Leinwand erscheinen.20 [In a hundred years someone will show a nice color film about these terrible days that we are living through. Don’t you want to have a part in this film? Stay on course now so that the audience in a hundred years will not jeer and boo when you appear on the screen.]

Only a few months later the Soviet Red Army entered the Babelsberg studios and the film city’s afterlife began.

Restaging and Imagining the Nazi Past Goebbels’s remarks reveal his anticipation of a postponed representation of the Nazi movement in feature films. His fear of diminishing the Nazi cause through superficial depictions and his idea of anticipating a future (ultimately never realized) cinematic memorial to the party and its achievements paradoxically came to fruition in the postwar era, albeit in a very different way than he had envisioned. Goebbels’s fear—marching columns of uniformed Nazi soldiers with swastika flags—and his legacy—the Third Reich in color—only became reality after the defeat of Nazi Germany and the collapse of its film industry. This is especially the case today, following the resurrection of the Babelsberg studio with its expertise in historical filmmaking. Ironically, only after the end of its cinema could National Socialism be presented as a historical phenomenon. Nazi crimes and crime scenes—once, if at all, often only filmed in secret for records stored in the state film archive—were reenacted on the Babelsberg studio grounds.21 In this way the Babelsberg studios—and in particular, the Berlin Street backlot—played a key role in the cinematic afterlife of Nazism.

McGlothlin.indd 238

10/16/2016 2:06:01 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



239

The “career” of the Berlin Street set as a stand-in for the history of the Holocaust and the Third Reich began early in 2001, when Roman Polanski came to Babelsberg to direct The Pianist.22 There he found the leftovers of a successful German movie that had been produced some years earlier: a huge exterior set that was used to portray the Eastern part of the Berlin street Sonnenallee, and which had served as a playground for Leander Hausmann’s eponymous movie. Although the idea to build a set of this kind originated in the GDR, when DEFA had used the Babelsberg studios, it only became possible to build such a unique set with financial support from international investors.23 The remains of the Sonnenallee set enabled Polanski and his set designer Allan Starski to rebuild the Warsaw Ghetto and restage ghetto life and the ghetto uprising. Thus paradoxically the second and third generations of postwar Germans—craftsmen, painters, set decorators— rebuilt what their ancestors once had proudly destroyed.24 During the war, German SS commander Jürgen Stroop had responded to the ghetto uprising by ordering its immediate destruction; now the ghetto was resurrected in Babelsberg, and Stoop’s trophies, a number of photographs that were taken to prove the success of the SS operation, were used to create an authentic look for the historical film. The backlot in Babelsberg played a crucial role in this recreation of the photographic record. Polanski ordered that the streets be arranged in a T-shape, which would allow him to depict the uprising from the perspective of a protagonist who escapes from the ghetto and hides on the “Aryan” side (fig. 12.2). This perspective was identical with that once enjoyed by invading German troops. In this particular episode, Polanski recreated several photographs from Stroop’s original report, including one showing the commander with his adjutants as they observe the ghetto, and another famous image of a Jewish resistance fighter jumping out of the window of a burning house.25 In this regard, the Berlin Street set was transformed into a theater stage, a room-for-play in which life in the Warsaw Ghetto reappeared— not in the form of black-and-white Nazi propaganda photographs but as the reconstruction of a historical fantasy that relies on various sources. Like Steven Spielberg’s approach in Schindler’s List (USA, 1993), Polanski reframed historical photographs and films in the ghetto scenes of his film. But in contrast to Spielberg, Polanski was interested in more than creating a sense of authenticity or producing a dramatic effect. He used the setting of the Berlin Street to recreate archival material at two significant turning points of the story—both the establishment of the ghetto and its uprising. Both moments affect the specific witnessing position of the protagonist, the Polish-Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman, and that witnessing position is supported by two different camera locations within the Berlin Street exterior set: “Although Szpilman is supposed to be looking onto the streets of Warsaw from two different apartments, both places

McGlothlin.indd 239

10/16/2016 2:06:01 PM

240



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

Fig. 12.2. For shooting The Pianist Roman Polanski ordered that the set should be arranged in a T-shape to show the uprising from the perspective of a protagonist from the “Aryan” side. © Studio Babelsberg AG. Reproduced with permission of Studio Babelsberg AG.

were staged in the Berlin Street—shot from the south side, and once from the north,” as Michael Wedel discovered.26 An early sequence that shows Szpilman’s family looking out of the window of their apartment introduces the topography of the ghetto and the setting of the film. Iconic places are recalled from historical images, such as the ghetto wall or the pedestrian bridge that connected the two parts of the ghetto, which are based foremost on film fragments shot by German cameramen for a planned propaganda film. This obviously bears the risk of reproducing and preserving the propagandistic gaze of the original footage. But Polanski reuses the images of the ghetto—which had already circulated in various documentary films, and were recently explored by Yael Hersonski in A Film Unfinished—in a different manner. The iconic depictions of the walkway, the barriers and crowded street scenes serve as topographical cues for the narrative development of Szpilman’s story. Thus the visual icons become part of Szpilman’s subjective gaze, adding an individualizing personal meaning to the historical propaganda images.27 In this fashion Polanski tries to counter the ambiguity of these images by reversing their origin and imparting a more emphatic gaze that senses suffering and humiliation. This leads the audience to forget who once stood behind the propaganda camera. But while the film thereby hides the perpetrator’s gaze in its recreation of the historic footage, it also on at

McGlothlin.indd 240

10/16/2016 2:06:01 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



241

least one occasion portrays the perpetrators in the act of filming, thereby hinting at the fact that the ghetto was a place in which the Germans fabricated a reality to suit their anti-Semitic ideology. This film-within-a-film strategy indirectly points toward the meta-staging character of The Pianist itself. Like the façades of the Berlin Street exterior set, the appearance of the ghetto in the archival footage was also a staged reality. With The Pianist Polanski created a multilayered palimpsest that preserved the traces of his different sources and transformed them into a cinematic vision of a destroyed world. By inserting these elements from the historical record, drawn not only from the perpetrators’ footage but also partly from his own personal memories of the Krakow ghetto, into a narrative that is structured by the visibility of witnessing, Polanski is able to invert and adopt a range of diverse sources.28 The Berlin Street set plays an integral part in this process. It is the “screen” onto which the different memories and ambivalent remnants are projected. Turning our attention to the set decoration as a cinematic memory place that invokes a multitude of sources—including testimony, historical photographs, and personal memories—enhances our understanding both of the film itself and of the historical events it depicts. Thus the act of commemoration itself becomes visible and comprehensible through the iconic appearance of these visual re-creations and reenacted images.

The Berlin Street Set as Cinematic Place of Memory Polanski demonstrated how to transform the Berlin Street set into a cinematic palimpsest of memory. Subsequent films that were staged there repeatedly turned the exterior set into a playground for historic imagination and restaged memories. In 2003 Margarethe von Trotta transformed it into “Rosenstraße,” where in February 1943 more than 2,000 of the remaining Jews in Berlin were assembled in the administration building of the Jewish community in order to replace those who already had been deported. The title of the film immediately highlights the importance of Rosenstraße itself (and the street set) for the eponymous film. Today, however, nothing remains of the original building or the street near Alexanderplatz; only a memorial commemorates the events that took place there.29 The Babelsberg backlot succeeded in its task of portraying the vanished historical place, and in Rosenstraße the Berlin Street—as was the case with Sonnenallee—literally becomes the leading character of the film. The film’s frame story, which concentrates on Hannah Weinstein’s search for her mother’s past, indicates that the main part of the film is a visualized memory. In the course of that frame story, Hannah will discover her mother’s involvement in the historic incidents of 1943, when non-Jewish women went face-to-face with the SS and the Gestapo to save their Jewish husbands and other family members from deportation. But the backlot

McGlothlin.indd 241

10/16/2016 2:06:01 PM

242



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

plays an ambivalent role as a room-for-play for reviving the past: on the one hand, the set serves as a place where otherwise not illustratable memories can unfold; on the other hand, these wartime memories transform into flashbacks that claim authenticity (which is to a certain extend bolstered by the set itself). Director Margarethe von Trotta highlighted that her intention was not to reconstruct the historical events but rather to reanimate the past by going back “into history” and basing fiction upon factual sources.30 Both approaches are similarly problematic. The film fixes the mostly personal memories that are the basis of its plot, making them definite and ultimate. In the process, von Trotta transforms the cinematic place into a monument, that is, a site that can serve as a substitute for the missing original site. But the temporality and ambiguity of the cinematic “lieux de mémoire” thus turns into a monument of the past that is characterized by Benjamin’s notion of the “thus and not otherwise.” By contrast, in Inglourious Basterds the Berlin Street became a playground for historical imagination. Tarantino and his film embraced and confronted at the same time the filmic historical layers of the place, including its role before and during the infamous Nazi years. When the director first came to Babelsberg, he asked to see Goebbels’s old office— an “interesting curiosity,” as Tarantino put it later, noting that he did not detect any ghost haunting the site.31 Babelsberg provided better access to German actors and extras compared to other production places, and Tarantino emphasized how excited he was to direct this particular film, in which the Third Reich is overthrown by 35-mm nitro film footage, in Babelsberg, the place of the former Ufa studios.32 Inglourious Basterds is a fantasy not so much about the Third Reich as about the potential of cinema. In a specific way, Tarantino took Goebbels at his word, “intuitively delving into the past” and freely remodeling it according to the specific approach of his project, which is in this case less anti-Nazi than cinephile. Thus the film reverses the historical truth in order to empower the cinema and to defend film history, Weimar cinema, and such film critics as Siegfried Kracauer, against becoming, in Kracauer’s words, “as modeling clay—amorphous material lacking any initiative of its own.”33 And so the film’s climax, the destruction of the Nazi crowd and the Führer in a cinema, reads as though Tarantino wanted to endorse the current exploitation of Nazis on the screen just to exorcise the ghost of Nazi cinema. As flags burn and a giant swastika falls from the ceiling, Inglourious Basterds celebrates the potential of cinema, adopting the patterns of contemporary Nazi films while alluding to classical Nazi cinema, and in the end contravening both in the final spectacle of overthrowing the Third Reich through film. This climactic sequence marks a significant turn in the transformation of the Babelsberg Berlin Street set into a cinematic memory place. By employing the backlot to stage the Parisian cinema—the place where

McGlothlin.indd 242

10/16/2016 2:06:01 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



243

the last Nazi propaganda film premiers and where the (fantasy of the) successful attempt to kill Hitler is fulfilled—the film gestures toward both cinema’s illusionary power and its propaganda function. After Inglourious Basterds the Berlin Street set irrevocably became a visible and recognizable cinematic tool, one that in its very appearance on-screen explicitly referenced cinema and cinema history, and was often also narratively linked to vaudeville shows and other theatrical or cinematic places.34 Through Inglourious Basterds, the Berlin Street set became a “lieu de mémoire” that not only extended space and time but also absorbed the different cinematic and artistic layers of working through the Nazi past. This is illustrated perfectly by the Parisian cinema that was built and later destroyed at the site of the Berlin Street set (fig. 12.3). The relationship of Babelsberg to the Nazi era thereby entered a new stage, one that brought to attention the strange ongoing fascination with Nazis on the screen as well as the standardization and reiteration of the past in recent historical films. In conclusion, I want to briefly discuss two contemporary German films that do not address the Nazi past as a historical event but rather present it as a fashionable cinematic style.

A Last Visit In the wake of Tarantino’s CineNazi fantasy, recent films such as Rubbeldiekatz (English title, Woman in Love, Germany, 2011) and Oh Boy (English title, A Coffee in Berlin, Germany, 2012) have referred directly to Babelsberg’s affinity with films about the Nazi past. The backlot of the Berlin Street set was of significant importance for this particular turn toward the explicit addressing of this omnipresence. It signified the potential not only to reconstruct the past by recreating historic photographs or a particular style of pastness but also to perform the past according to the coordinates of cinema in the sense of Benjamin’s room-for-play. In contrast to authentic historical places, the backlot is shown as a space that simply performs the past and can be arbitrary modified, adjusted, and replaced. Following Kracauer’s depiction of the Babelsberg studios in the 1920s, this also implies the danger of reversing and negating the realm of the real. But Tarantino’s film proved that realism can, in fact, emerge from imagination, and that only the disruption of the assumed linear course of history opens up room for thought, by casting light on the narrative and even artificial character of historiography. Although Detlev Buck’s Rubbeldiekatz is a superficial comedy about an unemployed young Berlin actor who gets a female role in a film about the Nazi past, it is of particular interest for the developing history of the Berlin Street set. In Buck’s film, the set itself appeared for the first time in a mainstream feature film as the backdrop for a film-within-afilm about National Socialism. The story of an unsuccessful actor who

McGlothlin.indd 243

10/16/2016 2:06:01 PM

244



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

Fig. 12.3. In Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarantino places a cinema in the Berlin Street movie set, which represents Paris in the film. © Studio Babelsberg AG. Reproduced with permission of Studio Babelsberg AG.

switches gender roles in order to get work, and thereby enters a doubled performative trap in which he performs as an actress who is performing a female Nazi leader, is placed within a diegetic film set that is represented by the Berlin Street set, a real exterior set that itself here serves as a visible cinematic place. Thus the film, at least implicitly, also presents a selfreflexive approach toward performed and performing history. Through this performance the Berlin Street set in fact finally turned into a perfect object of mise en abîme. By contrast, more laconically but also more polemically, Oh Boy addresses the fashionable proliferation of films about the Nazi past. An episodic film, Oh Boy follows the perspective of Nico, a young man in Berlin who lacks both focus and specific life ambitions. He drifts aimlessly through the city, which is packed with creative and innovative people who nevertheless appear uniform in their bustling activities. In one of the episodes, the protagonist accompanies a friend to the Babelsberg studios, where they are supposed to meet a fellow actor playing the lead role in a new film set during the Nazi period. In this episode, the film refers critically to the superficial treatment in many films of the Nazi era and the Holocaust. The actor they meet lacks critical distance toward his role, presenting his costume—a Nazi uniform—as if it were just a new suit, which elicits Nico’s companion’s ironic comment: “You look like my grandfather.” The actor has no historical

McGlothlin.indd 244

10/16/2016 2:06:01 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



245

or emotional connection to the film’s melodramatic plot, about a Jewish woman in hiding who reunites with her former lover, a German soldier, in the last days of the Second World War. Only when the actor begins to perform the story for his visitors does he exhibit any particular emotion, and even that is mostly predictable. The whole plot of the film sounds like a combination of stereotypes and patterns well known from similar films, which is exposed by Nico’s critical query: “Who invented this story?” The actor asserts the film’s authenticity simply on the basis of the fact that it is set against the backdrop of the Second World War, while Nico’s insistence on concrete historic references is simply ignored. This short sequence in Oh Boy illustrates what happens in a cinematic laboratory in which the historic world is “cut to pieces.” Nico, the protagonist of the film and aimless wanderer, appears like another revenant of Siegfried Kracauer. Nearly ninety years after the film critic visited the “desert within an oasis,” Nico returns to the very same place and witnesses “external aspects of the prototypes” and “words whose original meaning has vanished.” The past has vanished into “catacombs” in which the haunting ghosts of Nazi cinema are still alive. But Tarantino’s excessive exorcism and Oh Boy’s laconic reference toward the omnipresence of Nazis lingering on the screen, as well as the frequent recurrence of references to the Holocaust and the Nazi past in changing contexts,35 proves that Babelsberg today can be seen as a cinematic “lieu de mémoire,” a virtual place of memory. As a cinematic memory place, it not only provides a room-for-play that reenacts and performs the memory of past events, intertwining different historic places and temporal layers of the past; it also cross-fades different historic periods. Babelsberg and the Berlin Street set—especially since its material remnants vanished with its demolition at the end of 2013—emanate primarily cinematic memories, because the place from its inception constituted a meta-history of cinema’s fascination with the past (fig. 12.4). Even in the digital age, the ongoing global film production in Babelsberg will continue to need a versatile set like Berlin Street. The studio’s management has already announced plans to rebuild a similar backlot. The cobblestones of the old Berlin Street set will serve as its basis and thus function as a material remnant of the demolished set.36 Then the Berlin Street set will have its own afterlife, both through the films that were shot there and through its ongoing role as an entirely virtual cinematic memory place that offered a room-for-play, not only for representing the past but also for a meta-history of cinema’s preoccupation with the Holocaust and the Third Reich.

Notes 1

Lina Timm, “Runter mit der Patina: Abriss im Studio Babelsberg,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 29, 2013, http://www.faz.net/aktuell/ gesellschaft/abriss-im-studio-babelsberg-runter-mit-der-patina-12687103.html.

McGlothlin.indd 245

10/16/2016 2:06:02 PM

246



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

Fig. 12.4. At the end of 2013 the Berlin Street movie set was finally demolished. © Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann. Reproduced with permission of the photographer. 2

Tim Bergfelder, Sue Harris, and Sarah Street, Film Architecture and the Transnational Imagination: Set Design in 1930s European Cinema (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2007), 11. 3

Siegfried Kracauer, “Calico-World: The UFA City in Neubabelsberg,” in Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, trans. and ed. Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 281. 4

Michael Wedel, “Studio Babelsberg Today (1993–2012),” in 100 Years Studio Babelsberg: The Art of Filmmaking, ed. Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen “Konrad Wolf,” Filmmuseum Potsdam, Studio Babelsberg, trans. Evan Torner (Kempen: teNeues Verl., 2012), 42. 5

Kracauer, “Calico-World,” 282.

6

Walter Benjamin, “Naples,” in Walter Benjamin, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York: Harcourt, 1978), 165–66. 7

Quoted in Miriam Bratu Hansen, “Room-for-Play: Benjamin’s Gamble with Cinema, October 109 (2004): 16. 8

Tobias Ebbrecht, Geschichtsbilder im medialen Gedächtnis: Filmische Narrationen des Holocaust (Bielefeld: transcript, 2011), 167. 9

Jana Haase, “Eine Kulisse mit Eigenleben: 100 Jahre Studio Babelsberg,” Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, February 11, 2012.

McGlothlin.indd 246

10/16/2016 2:06:02 PM

GOEBBELS’S FEAR AND LEGACY



247

10

Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les lieux de mémoire, Representations 26 (1989): 19. 11

Nora, “Between Memory and History,” 20. Italics in original.

12

Kracauer, “Calico-World,” 288.

13

Joseph Goebbels, “Rede im Kaiserhof am 28.3.1933,” in Der Film im 3. Reich, ed. Gerd Albrecht (Karlsruhe: DOKU-Verlag, 1979), 29.

14

Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1947), 299. 15 Furthermore, by placing in the scene, as an eye-catching stage prop, a globe similar to that in the famous Hynkel-dance sequence, the intertextual pattern of the film also refers to Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (USA, 1940). 16 Felix Moeller, Der Filmminister: Goebbels und der Film im Dritten Reich (Berlin: Henschel, 1998), 152–53. 17

Goebbels, “Rede im Kaiserhof,” 27. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. For a more specific analysis of the ambivalent character of Hitlerjunge Quex and how far it still met the minister’s demand that film “must transcend the everyday and ‘intensify life,’” see Eric Rentschler, The Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 55–57. 18

Rentschler, The Ministry of Illusion, 216.

19

Joseph Goebbels, “Rede des Reichsministers Dr. Joseph Goebbels auf der ersten Jahrestagung der Reichsfilmkammer am 5. März 1937 in der Krolloper, Berlin,” in Albrecht, Der Film im 3. Reich, 38. 20

Wilfried Mommert, “Drehen bis zum Untergang,” Stern.de, March 30, 2005, http://www.stern.de/politik/geschichte/ns-film-drehen-bis-zum-untergang-538367.html. 21

One film that portrayed Nazi crimes but was kept as secret archival record is the footage shot in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 and used by the Israeli director Yael Hersonski in A Film Unfinished (Israel, Germany 2010). Tobias EbbrechtHartmann, “Echoes from the Archive: Retrieving and Re-viewing Cinematic Remnants of the Nazi Past,” in Edinburgh German Yearbook 9: Archive and Memory in German Literature and Visual Culture, ed. Dora Osborne (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2015), 123–39. 22

Wedel, “Studio Babelsberg Today,” 40.

23

Jana Hasse, “Straße der Besten,” Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, August 20, 2013. 24

Hans-Georg Rodek, “Bloß keine Kinotränen: Ein Denkmal, keine Unterhaltung; Roman Polanskis Warschauer Ghetto-Film Der Pianist,” Die Welt, October 23, 2002, http://www.welt.de/print-welt/article417653/Bloss-keine-Kinotraenen.html. 25

Ebbrecht, Geschichtsbilder im medialen Gedächtnis, 177.

26

Wedel, “Studio Babelsberg Today,” 42.

McGlothlin.indd 247

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

248



TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN

27

Lars Koch, “Zwischen Distanznahme und Subjektivierung: Roman Polanskis Holocaust-Film Der Pianist (2002),” in Der Holocaust im Film: Mediale Inszenierung und kulturelles Gedächtnis, ed. Waltraud “Wara” Wende (Heidelberg: Synchron, 2007), 298. 28 Ebbrecht, Geschichtsbilder im medialen Gedächtnis, 180–83. Some scenes of The Pianist are not an adaptation of Szpilman’s testimony but are based on Polanski’s childhood memories from the Krakow ghetto, such as the staging of Szpilman’s escape from the deportation, which Polanski describes almost exactly in his memoir. Roman Polanski, Roman Polanski von Roman Polanski (Munich: Scherz, 1984), 19. 29

Of course, numerous publications and testimonies have also been published. See, for example, Wolf Gruner, Widerstand in der Rosenstraße: Die Fabrik-Aktion und die Verfolgung der “Mischehen,” 1943 (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2005). 30

Martin Wiebel, Film-Heft Rosenstraße, ed. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Berlin: bpb, 2003), 9, accessed September 25, 2014, www.bpb.de/system/files/pdf/M224D3.pdf.

31

In the German original publication: “Eine interessante Kuriosität,” interview by Robert Weixlbaumer. “Interview mit Quentin Tarantino zum Start von ‘Inglourious Basterds,’” tip Berlin, August 19, 2009, http://www.tip-berlin.de/kino-und-film/ interview-mit-quentin-tarantino-zum-start-von-inglourious-basterds. 32

Weixlbaumer. “Interview mit Quentin Tarantino.”

33

Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler, 299.

34

This is even the case in German television movies such as Nacht über Berlin or Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter. In Nacht über Berlin the vaudeville show that offers a “third space” where Nazis and leftists, straight and gay people meet is clearly located on the Berlin Street set. In Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter the Berlin Street set hosts the bar in which the four disparate friends meet before and after the war—again, a nearly utopian “third space” that seems to be separated from the course of history. 35 Besides the sequence mentioned above, the last episode of Oh Boy also refers implicitly to the Nazi past. It depicts a conversation between Nico and an old man in a Berlin bar who relays his childhood memories of the anti-Jewish pogrom on November 9, 1938, commonly known as “Kristallnacht.” Oh Boy is no exception in this regard. Several contemporary German films refer implicitly, and sometimes unexpectedly, to the Nazi past, such as Frauke Finsterwalder’s Finsterworld (Dark World, Germany, 2013), in which a class visit to a concentration-camp memorial turns into a situation of abuse through a dirty trick of some students, or Benjamin Heisenberg’s comedy Über-Ich und Du (English title, Superegos, Germany, 2014), which makes constant references to questions of guilt and suppressed memories. 36 Marcus Weingärtner, “Alle trampeln auf ihr herum! Abriss ‘Berliner Straße,’” Berliner Zeitung, November 22, 2013.

McGlothlin.indd 248

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

13: Hitler in the Age of Irony: Timur Vermes’s Er ist wieder da Michael D. Richardson

T

HE TENDENCY TO see Hitler everywhere lies at the heart of Erik Eger’s and Magnus Oliv’s 2010 mockumentary, One Hundred Years of Evil. Presenting itself as the efforts of a Swedish professor to uncover the truth about Hitler, the film imagines a world in which Hitler not only survived the end of the Second World War but also was secretly brought to the United States, where he lived—and thrived—for decades. A mixture of one-on-one interviews and photographs and movies doctored and aged to look archival, the film depicts Hitler, Zelig-like, moving through history and shaping modern American politics and culture, responsible for everything from fast food and soap operas to the McCarthy Red Scare and the Cuban missile crisis. Hitler, under the assumed name of Adolf Munchenhauser, is an invisible presence, a secret mastermind whose continued survival was enabled by a conspiracy of political and governmental figures. Initially thwarted in their attempts to uncover the truth, the filmmakers eventually find their way to a cryonics facility (fittingly called Cryoputsch), where they destroy Munchenhauser’s life support system before being arrested and imprisoned. While the film itself is long on concept and short on execution, it embodies two persistent tendencies in aesthetic and cultural conceptualizations of Hitler since the end of the Second World War, tendencies that reflect the central role that Hitler has played in shaping historical consciousness. First, it is yet another example of allohistorical representations that imagine a world in which Hitler has survived and even prospered. Alternate history fiction is dominated by works that imagine how the trajectory of world history would have been affected by Hitler’s death (would there have been a Holocaust without Hitler?) or by a Nazi military victory (if Hitler had won, could the rest of the world have survived?).1 More to the point, its central conceit—that Hitler is responsible for everything that has gone wrong since the end of the war—underscores the ways in which Hitler—the abstract figure, rather than the historical one—is deployed as both explanation and justification for contemporary

McGlothlin.indd 249

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

250



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

political actions. Dead for nearly seventy years, he continues to shape the trajectory of world events—both literally, in the sense of the long-lasting geopolitical impact of the Second World War and the Holocaust, and figuratively, by himself functioning as a touchstone for evil, and because the Holocaust, which he orchestrated, has become a baseline against which subsequent instances of mass murder and atrocity are measured. His imagined influence is even greater—one need only click on a news story or analysis of politics to find a reference to a contemporary leader as Hitler-like in his (or her) actions, or a law or proposed law that is said to be the first step toward a new Holocaust. He is both dead and not dead: he lives on in countless cultural products and in popular discourse. He is die Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will (the past that will not die). He has survived countless deaths—though not because of a supernatural power or the longevity of his ideology, but simply, because we need him to survive. He has long played an important role in the consciousness of the West, particularly in the United States, where he functions as the negative image of the peaceful, democracy-loving American, a specter of unambiguous evil, trotted out whenever moral ambiguity threatens to undermine American identity.2 While images of Hitler have not been entirely absent from German culture—the numerous representations from the United States have often found their way to Germany—images of him of German origin were long carefully circumscribed and scrutinized for motive and meaning. As recently as a decade ago, with the 2004 premiere of Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Der Untergang (Downfall), there was still some discussion about how and even whether he should be portrayed, at least in a dramatic context; since then, however, Hitler has been a steady presence in German cinema and television, in feature films, countless Guido Knopp documentaries, and a range of less memorable or at least less praiseworthy movies. Cinematic portrayals, with their aesthetic aspirations and assays at divining meaning in the figure of Hitler and shaping historical consciousness, are one thing—however, today Hitler has become as ubiquitous in German popular culture as he has been in American popular culture for the last several decades. He continues to make regular appearances on the covers of both the humor magazine Titanic and the news magazine Der Spiegel and is now also a regular fixture on German television. Harald Schmidt made a parody of Hitler (or rather of Bruno Ganz’s performance of Hitler in Untergang) a go-to gag on his late-night talk show; more recently, Hitler was a recurring figure in Obersalzberg, which is a running parody of the German comedy Stromberg (itself an adaptation of the British show The Office) and a regular skit on the German comedy show Switch Reloaded. As Daniel Erk, journalist and founder of the now defunct Hitlerblog website notes in the title of his book, “So viel Hitler war selten” (Rarely has this much Hitler abounded).3

McGlothlin.indd 250

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



251

Particularly in an age of moral relativism, we can understand Hitler’s endurance as a symbol of absolute evil and the comfort that this ostensibly universal judgment provides. So, too, given the enormity and incomprehensibility of the Holocaust, can we understand the countless documentaries that seem to run non-stop on cable television, films filled with conjectures and half-baked theories about what motivated Hitler’s anti-Semitism, his ostensible supernatural obsessions, drug addictions, or sexual predilections, for these seek to fill the void of meaning behind the Nazi era and endeavor in vain to “explain” Hitler once and for all. What is interesting, however, are those representations that do not seek to provide meaning or understanding, even on the most superficial or prurient level, but aim only to mock, belittle, and diminish Hitler. Certainly these had long been a key part of efforts to combat Nazi propaganda’s idolization of Hitler. Even before his rise to power, he was ridiculed in leftwing political journals and, most famously, in the photomontages of John Heartfield. One of the most memorable and iconic portrayals of Hitler is Charlie Chaplin’s character Adenoid Hynkel in The Great Dictator, a sputtering, incompetent clown, alternately prone to fits of impotent rage and slapstick buffoonery. During the war, virtually every aspect of the American culture industry was engaged in the project of lampooning Hitler and the Nazis: mainstream films, B-movies, Three Stooges shorts, Disney and Warner Brothers’ cartoons. Even Theodor Geisel, more popularly known as Dr. Seuss, mocked, belittled, and impersonated Hitler in his cartoons for the “popular front” tabloid PM. After the defeat of Hitler and the Nazis and the revelation of the extent of the Holocaust, humorous representations of Hitler lost their appeal, but he continued to loom large, albeit in different manifestations. Certainly the popular culture of the postwar period produced numerous films portraying the triumph of the Allied powers over the Nazis, though Hitler himself was notably invisible—perhaps an indication of lingering desires to keep him, as a singular historical figure, diminished.4 But though visually absent, he was no longer “dead” in the popular imaginary: a perpetual threat to democracy, he was constantly resurrected to menace the West, either as the leader of a neo-Nazi organization or, more commonly, as a surrogate for the new enemy, namely communism. Increasingly, Hitler and the Nazis became stand-ins for all sorts of moral turpitude. While antifascist propaganda had long associated Nazism (and Hitler in particular) with sexual behavior it deemed deviant (including homosexuality, cross-dressing, sadism and masochism, coprophagia, urolagnia, rape, incest, and pedophilia), during the 1960s and 1970s, this association was ubiquitous in both high and low cultural representations. Sexploitation films (or rather Nazisploitation films) featured doctors conducting bizarre sexual experiments, officers indulging perverted fantasies in Nazi brothels, and seductive Aryan women whose domination of Allied

McGlothlin.indd 251

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

252



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

prisoners inevitably ended with their own rape, humiliation, and death at the hands of their own monstrous creations.5 But humor remained the primary mode of engaging with Nazis during these years, and as historical distance from the Holocaust increased, any reservations about mocking Hitler gradually disappeared. Though the premiere of Hogan’s Heroes in 1965 still raised concerns about the show’s potential trivialization of the Holocaust (ironic, given that many of the main actors were victims of Nazi persecution), by the end of the twentieth century it became nearly impossible to avoid representations of Hitler being played for laughs. Today, Hitler is nowhere more ubiquitous—and more lampooned— than on the Internet. One need not be overly familiar with memes or viral videos to have come across portrayals of Hitler: pictures with silly captions, the frequently offensive Hitler advice meme, or one of the hundreds of Downfall parody videos, in which the pivotal scene depicting Hitler learning that the war is lost is overlaid with subtitles concerning trivial matters such as getting banned from Xbox Live, ranting about Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic nomination, and even complaining about the fact that he has been reduced to a meme. While many of these are probably American in origin, their online format allows them to circulate well beyond the US context, and similar German-language videos are becoming increasingly popular. Not only are German television shows routinely excerpted and circulated online (as with the Switch Reloaded Hitler parodies), but original videos, such as “Ich hock in meinem Bonker” (I’m hunkering in my bunker), based on the Walter Moers cartoon Adolf, die Nazisau (Adolf, the Nazi Pig) routinely appear and receive millions of views. While historical distance and the generational differences in relating to the past have obviously played a key role in this wider proliferation of humorous images of Hitler, we cannot overlook the impact that the Internet has played here, in particular because of the ease with which it enables the distribution of texts, images, and videos. The ability of the Internet, and mass media in general, to disseminate texts, images, and videos so easily and quickly has not only accelerated this process but has also shaped the specific character of contemporary representations of Hitler.6 There are several motifs common to the most popular Hitler-related viral content. The first, certainly, is humor. As with many of the earlier cultural representations of Hitler, this humor is characterized primarily by incongruity—the juxtaposition of Hitler with banal situations, comments, or people. Certainly, this is a key element to the proliferation of Downfall videos: imagining Hitler’s histrionic rantings as precipitated by something as mundane as Twitter going down or the decline in popularity of Second Life undercuts the severity of his diatribe and is at odds with the seriousness of the original scene. This functions with other artifacts as well, particularly those images that rely on visual associations with Hitler

McGlothlin.indd 252

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



253

(many of which, incidentally, have been collected on the website “Things That Look like Hitler”). Imagining that animals as harmless as pet fish or puppies might somehow embody the spirit of Hitler functions both as a moment of incongruity as well as an opportunity to mock and diminish; when he is deprived of a human form, Hitler the monster is rendered harmless. One of the more popular websites to highlight visual similarities with Hitler is “Cats That Look like Hitler.” Given the popularity of cat images and videos online, this is perhaps not entirely surprising. To date, the site has nearly nine thousand user-submitted images of what they call “Kitlers.” Here again, the effect is twofold. On the one hand, it derives humor from the association of cute, furry animals with a figure understood to be a raving madman. On the other, it taps into what many people, cat owners in particular, often suspect—that their cat’s actions (waking them up in the middle of the night, accidentally being underfoot, sleeping on their heads)—are indicative of an evil nature. These examples thus also point to a second common theme—the use of Hitler and Nazism as a means by which other figures, phenomena, or cultural institutions are critiqued.7 Again, this was true, too, of earlier popular culture appearances of Hitler, particularly in cinema. Billy Wilder’s 1957 classic Stalag 17 did not feature Hitler himself, but he plays a significant visual role in the narrative. Set in a German POW camp, Wilder’s film is as interested in exploring the dynamics of prejudice and scapegoating of the Jews that led to the Nazi era as it is in investigating the paranoia of the McCarthy period. From the outset, the film’s unlikeable antihero, Sefton, is viewed with suspicion by the other prisoners because of his willingness to barter with the camp guards, his various business ventures—running a distillery, holding mouse races— and his attempts to dissuade others from trying to escape. With every attempt at escape or resistance foiled by the camp commandant, the soldiers become increasingly demoralized and realize that they have a spy in their midst, with Sefton as the prime suspect. Despite a lack of evidence, their antipathy toward him and his refusal to conform to norms of behavior makes the soldiers increasingly receptive to another soldier’s call to punish him and confiscate his belongings. In what otherwise marks one of the film’s lighter scenes—the entire barracks don Hitler moustaches while one of them reads comically from Mein Kampf—the group’s violent turn against an ostensible outsider is foreshadowed, a moment that functions both as an illustration of how a defeated post– First World War era Germany turned to Hitler and as an allegory for the witch hunts of the McCarthy era.8 Third, and most importantly, mass media, and the Internet in particular, take as their dominant stance an attitude of irony toward Hitler, particularly in their representations of and discourses around Hitler and the Holocaust. On one level, this is inseparable from the general tenor

McGlothlin.indd 253

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

254



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

of the Internet—while earnestness (and righteous outrage) make up a great deal of its content, online discourse is pervaded by skepticism and distrust. Anonymity and pseudonymity, seen as core values, even rights that engender the free exchange of ideas online, lead to a bifurcation of real and virtual identities, the latter of which is both more authentic, in that users are free to express themselves in a nearly consequence-free way, and less authentic, since on the Internet people can pretend to be whoever they want. Misrepresentations and misstatements of fact abound, and if people cannot be trusted to represent themselves truthfully, so too can online assertions of historical facts be seen as suspect. While no small number of websites attempt to leverage this suspicion to promote Holocaust denial, vigorous and sustained pushback against such sites— and the proliferation of Internet resources that provide researchers and non-professionals alike with access to a trove of historical materials—have mostly negated the impact of this cultural shift toward suspicion as a normative stance on perceptions of the historical facticity of the Holocaust. Nonetheless, it does not immunize the Holocaust from a general attitude of detachment and irony, particularly when coupled with the freedom of anonymous expression. The website that perhaps best captures the current mania for using Hitler in this detached, ironic way and that evinces the overall contemporary attitude toward Hitler is the one that brings Hitler together with another hated figure, namely the hipster. The result is “Hipster Hitler.” In this Web comic, Hitler is recast as a modern-day hipster, complete with nerd glasses and cardigan sweaters, and interested less in world domination than in riding his fixed-gear bike and eating organic produce. Hipster Hitler is both a critique of ironic detachment and an avowal of it—the various t-shirts depicted in the comic are available for purchase on the website, so that people can perform their own Hitler parody, safe under the umbrella of irony. When I speak of irony here, it is not the literary self-consciousness and puncturing of the illusion of fiction of the irony of the German Romantics, or Kierkegaard’s irony of infinite absolute negativity. This contemporary iteration of irony is a far less nuanced one, one that sees itself as the opposite of sincerity. Like Hitler, irony has been declared dead several times over, yet it continues to assert itself as a dominant attitude, one that, at least with respect to the Internet and new media, has become a transnational phenomenon. Every generation gets the irony that it deserves, and today’s iteration is nearly inseparable from disaffection and cynicism and seems impervious to outrage; its defense against accusations of tastelessness or lack of historical understanding is detachment, a disavowal of both seriousness and the desire to be taken seriously. Such ironic reappropriations and their popularity reflect a very real shift in how contemporary culture, which increasingly experiences the

McGlothlin.indd 254

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



255

world both virtually and asynchronously, understands history in ways that do not always comport with how we have previously approached questions of memory. The tension between irony and sincerity, fiction and historical reality, that makes such images and videos successful, reflects a historical understanding marked by an unresolvable contradiction, in the sense that while this stance affects an air of detachment that discounts sincerity, and presents itself as freed of the constraints of morality, this disavowal of sincerity is in fact dependent upon its affirmation. It is precisely this ironic attitude that is the focus of Timur Vermes’s 2012 bestseller, Er ist wieder da, a satirical account—narrated by Hitler himself—of his reemergence and rise to fame in a contemporary German society dominated by indifference and superficiality, YouTube, and viral videos. Waking up one morning in 2011 an empty lot in Berlin, oblivious to events of the last sixty-six years and with his uniform still reeking of gasoline, this Hitler surveys contemporary Germany and, finding that it falls short of his vision, sets out to rebuild the Nazi Reich. Mistaken for a Hitler look-alike, his rants about problems with contemporary culture go viral and he becomes a highly popular celebrity comedian. The success of this literary Hitler was mirrored by the success of the actual book itself, which quickly became a bestseller in Germany. By March 2014 it had sold 1.3 million copies and maintained a spot in the top ten bestseller list for over a year (five months of which it spent at number one). It has since been licensed in thirty-eight other countries (an English translation appeared in 2014). The movie version of the novel featuring Oliver Masucci as Hitler premiered to great success in 2015 in Germany, where it earned over $22 million and was number one at the box office for several straight weeks. It was released in the United States on Netflix in April 2016. In what follows, I would like to examine the book in terms of the broader appropriation of Hitler in both popular culture in general and German culture in particular. I argue that Vermes’s novel successfully challenges the current popular obsession with Hitler in Germany by highlighting, and, to a certain extent, participating in, his ironic reappropriation. In so doing, the novel not only skewers the current reduction of Hitler to a comedic figure, but, in frequently aligning the reader with Hitler’s perspective on contemporary Germany, forces readers to confront their own troubled relationship with the figure of Hitler. I further argue that the novel functions as a broader critique of modern mass media, a critique that, while appropriate, raises questions about the novel’s own instrumentalization of the dictator. Many of the early critical reviews of Vermes’s novel focused, predictably, on the humorous nature of the book. Using well-worn arguments, reviewers fretted both about whether it was too humorous a portrayal (Can we laugh at Hitler?) and whether it went far enough (Can we treat

McGlothlin.indd 255

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

256



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

Hitler seriously?). One person who insists that the book was not meant as a comedy, however, is its author. In interviews, Vermes repeatedly and perhaps disingenuously insists that he was purposely trying to counter the trend of works that laugh at Hitler. “Das Buch ist keine Parodie, keine Satire auf Hitler, es sind auch keine Witze drin . . .” (The book is not a parody, not a satire on Hitler, and there are no jokes in it).9 His Hitler character, he insists, always plays it straight, even when others interpret him as being comical. For Vermes, the inability of other characters to see Hitler as anything but a comedian—albeit one dedicated to method acting—is a reflection of Germany’s current inability to conceive of Hitler as anything but a caricature: he is either a grotesque monster or a harmless buffoon, but in either case, he is not to be taken seriously. This inability to understand Hitler as something other than a caricature forms the book’s dominant theme. From the very outset of the novel, Hitler is confronted with a world that recognizes him on a visual level, but that fails to recognize him on a verbal one. This split between the visual and the verbal is the source of much of the book’s humor. At times it seems as if Hitler and contemporary Germans are speaking two different languages. At the novel’s outset a disoriented Hitler is taken in by the owner of a newspaper kiosk, who, while impressed with the man’s uncanny physical similarity to the Führer, asks Hitler if he always goes around looking like that. “Haben Sie einen Spiegel?” (Do you have a mirror?), Hitler asks. When the owner obligingly points to a copy of the German news magazine, Der Spiegel (The Mirror), which features a picture of Hitler on the cover, Hitler examines the strange, orange-framed mirror, which curiously has the words “Der Spiegel” written across it and assesses what he sees: “Mein Spiegelbild sah überraschend tadellos aus, sogar mein Rock wirkte gebügelt—vermutlich herrscht im Kiosk ein schmeichelhaftes Licht.” (“I was surprised by how immaculate my reflection appeared; my coat even looked as if it had been ironed—the light in the kiosk must have been flattering”).10 Later, when taking his uniform to the cleaners, Hitler is “recognized” again, but here it is a double misrecognition, as he is first believed to be Christoph Maria Herbst, who was the star of Stromberg and who also parodied Hitler in the movie Der Wixxer (English title, The Trixxer), and then is mistaken for Michael Kessler, who portrayed Hitler on Switch Reloaded: “Das ist der Stromberg” sagte Mehmet bestimmt. “Krass” sagte sein Kamerad. “Stromberg in eurer Wäscherei!” “Nee,” verbesserte sich Mehmet, “das ist der andere Stromberg. Der aus Switsch.” “Hamma,” variierte der Kamerad seine Aussage leicht, “der andere Stromberg! In eurer Wäscherei!” (61)

McGlothlin.indd 256

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



257

[“It’s that actor who plays Stromberg on TV,” Mehmet said confidently. “Epic,” his friend said. “Stromberg in your shop!” “No,” Mehmet corrected himself. “It’s the other Stromberg. The one from the sketch show that does the Stromberg parody.” “No way!” the friend said. “The other Stromberg. In your shop!” (42)]

This continued disconnect between appearance and essence is not only the source of the novel’s humor but also the reason for Hitler’s rise in popularity. After Hitler is “discovered” by a pair of television producers, he is given a guest spot on the show of a Turkish-born comedy star, Ali Wizgür. His initial appearance, in which he, quite seriously, bemoans the presence of so many foreigners, is assumed to be satirical, and he quickly becomes a YouTube sensation. The fundamental conflict here is between Hitler’s utter seriousness and the inability of the TV executives—or the audience for that matter—to perceive that seriousness. Even Frau Bellini, the company’s chief executive, is incapable of recognizing his statements as anything but a performance of seriousness. Why? Because in this Germany, the novel suggests, sincerity itself has become a foreign concept. The extent to which Hitler’s identity in the novel is determined by his mediality is also clear from how other characters refer to him: when spotted on the street, he is perceived, not as merely Hitler, but rather as “der irre You-Tube Hitler” (“the loony YouTube Hitler”), a designation that can be understood in two ways: either these attributes are used as means to distinguish this crazy Hitler from the real, historical Hitler, or they serve as an indication that Hitler, in his very nature, is both crazy and a product of mass media. Certainly, for the German public of Vermes’s novel, Hitler exists only in this ironic, and highly mediated form, and no matter how provocative or outrageous his statements, they are understood as part of a complex satirical act. The inability to take Hitler seriously, to see his persona and opinions as a true reflection of his identity and beliefs and not merely performance, is symptomatic of a larger cultural attitude that privileges carefully cultivated appearances. In a scene late in the novel, Hitler, having been persuaded to make an appearance at Oktoberfest to promote his new television show, finds himself seated in a beer tent along with a number of B-grade actors and actresses—all there, presumably, for reasons similar to Hitler’s. When Hitler orders a mineral water, one calls him “ein Profi” (a pro) but also chides him: “aber du mussen bestellen in ein Maßkrug! Das sieht besser aus für die Fotografen.” (349; “But you gotta get that in a large tankard! Looks better in the photos,” 269). Hitler’s other table companion is a cleavage-baring, Dirndl-wearing reality television star obsessed with being photographed—a woman, according to Hitler,

McGlothlin.indd 257

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

258



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

die . . . ihren Lebensunterhalt in einer jener hingeschluderten Spielserien verdiente. Das heißt, wenn sie nicht gerade in einer anderen Sendung mitwirkte, die, wenn ich recht gehört hätte, darin bestand, dass man mit anderen Figuren gleichartiger Drittklassigkeit in einen Urwald ging und sich dabei beoachten ließ, wie man in Gewürm und Exkrementen watete. (349) [who earned her livelihood in one of those amateurish drama series. That is, when she wasn’t featuring in another transmission that, if I understood it correctly, consisted of equally third-rate personalities being taken to ancient woodland where they allowed themselves to be observed wading through worms and excrement. (269–70)]

Their ensuing interactions include the usual misinterpretations. Recounting her various plastic surgeries, the actress asks him about his own operations, and he obliges by listing them: Seelöwe, Barbarossa, Zitadelle (Sea Lion, Barbarossa, Cerberus). The two are ultimately pressured into having their picture taken together, featuring him autographing her dirndl. But when he adds a swastika to his signature, she is incensed and furiously tries to rub it off, shouting “Ich kann doch nicht mit einem Hakenkreuz auf der Brust über die Wiesn rennen!” (358; “I can’t go wandering around the Oktoberfest with a swastika on my chest!,” 276). She, too, is concerned only with performance, but it is of a much different kind. Being photographed with a Hitler impersonator is one thing; actually wearing a Nazi symbol is apparently quite another. A second major theme in the novel concerns Hitler’s representation in and manipulations of forms of mass media. Indeed, the various stages of Hitler’s new existence, from a figure of pity to a major star, can be mapped onto the stages of his engagement with the media technologies of the present. It is not surprising that a disoriented Hitler first attempts to find his bearings at a newsstand, searching in vain for the latest edition of the Völkischer Beobachter to help explain to him what has happened to Germany. But the newspaper seller has his feet in two worlds, for while he continues to live off of the old media, he also has connections with the television industry. It is he who introduces Hitler to the producers who begin the former dictator’s popular ascent. Gradually Hitler comes to understand and appreciate the technology of the present: he spends hours watching cooking shows and soap operas on television, he acquires a cell phone (selecting Wagner’s Walkürentritt as his ringtone), settles on an online identity (he is forced to use “die neue Reichskanzlei” [“The New Reich Chancellery”], since variations on his name are already taken) and even sets up a website dubbed “Führerhauptquartier” (Führer Headquarters) to host his videos, offer Hitler-themed merchandise, and send longwinded replies to users who submit questions such as: “Welches ist die beste Hunderasse der Welt, welches die schlechteste? Und wer ist der

McGlothlin.indd 258

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



259

Jude unter den Hunden?” (242; “Which is best breed of dogs and which are the worst? And what is the Jew of the dog world?,” 183). Midway through the novel Hitler has a run-in with an institution that is hated nearly as much as he is, namely the Bild-Zeitung, which attacks Hitler in the hopes of getting him to reveal his real name. The Bild attacks on Hitler unfold fairly predictably: they begin with articles condemning Hitler for his tastelessness, then, in the name of a non-existent public interest, shift to attacks on him for “refusing” to reveal his true identity. In an effort to pressure Hitler, a photo of him opening the door for his secretary (doctored, as Hitler notes, to look grainy and distant, so as to suggest a level of surreptitiousness in what is otherwise a banal moment) accompanies an article revealing her online alias and maligning her as his paramour. Not only is Hitler unimpressed by their efforts, but it is worth noting here that his secretary is far less upset about the implied erotic connection between the two of them (“det is die janz normale Bild-Scheiße,” [237; “it’s just the usual Bild crap,” 179], she notes in her Berlinerisch) than she is about having been doxed—that is, having her online name connected with her real identity. Ick krieg Fotos von irjendwelchen Schwänzen, ick krieje lauter üble Post wat se allet mit mir machen wollen, ick hör ja schon nach drei Wörten det Lesen uff. Seit sieben Jahren bit ick jetzt Vulcania17, det kann ick jetze verjessn. Der Name ist verseucht und nu . . . nu isser Jeschichte. (237) [I’m getting like . . . photos of men’s dicks? I’m getting really nasty mail? People saying what they’d like to do to me? I stop reading after the first couple of words. I’ve been Vulcania17 for seven years, but now I can forget it. That name’s contaminated and now … now it’s like . . . history. (179)]

After an interview with a Bild reporter ends abruptly when Hitler’s stubborn insistence on telling the truth about his identity leads her to storm off in frustration, the attacks continue. But Hitler demonstrates that he, too, is familiar with using media to manipulate public opinion. In an effort to exercise a measure of power over the reporter, Hitler had insisted that the newspaper pay for their lunch, a moment captured on a cell phone camera by one of Hitler’s colleagues. The image, along with the slogan “Bild finanziert den Führer” (291; Bild finances the Führer, 224), is unveiled during Hitler’s next television segment, along with the address to Hitler’s website, listing all the various products available for purchase featuring the image and the slogan: t-shirts, coffee mugs, stickers. Three days later, the newspaper runs articles proclaiming him the funniest German since Loriot and describing him as “ein wahrer Volksvertreter” (295; a true representative of the people, 227); two weeks later

McGlothlin.indd 259

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

260



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

it runs a touching story about how his documents had been lost in a fire; one month later, he is in possession of a new German passport—thus satisfying the German obsession with documentation and solving, at least from a legal standpoint, the question of who he really is. The only one of his demands not met by the newspaper is his request that the entire editorial board, including Herr Streichfett (Hitler’s name for editor Kai Diekmann) welcome him into their offices with a Nazi salute, singing the Horst-Wessel-Lied. As Hitler notes though, “Nun gut. Man kann nicht alles haben.” (296; “Ah well. You can’t have it all,” 227). No one in the novel ever seems to truly suspect that this Hitler is genuine (either in identity or in beliefs), but the moments in the novel in which the historical Hitler is taken seriously point to the sort of cognitive dissonance that exists when it comes to Hitler. One such moment, in which the reality of the Holocaust manages to break through the disaffection that characterizes contemporary society, takes place about halfway through the novel. One morning Hitler finds his secretary softly sobbing and typing up a resignation letter. Up to this point, Fräulein Krömeier has willingly supported him. Goth in appearance—clad only in black and wearing white makeup—she has gone along with the joke, dutifully typing up Hitler’s speeches and helping him navigate new technology, all while referring to him as “meen Führa” (“mein Führer”). But when she informs her grandmother what she has been doing at work, her grandmother reveals to her an old photograph, taken at the beach in in 1943. It is a photograph of the grandmother as a little girl, surrounded by her parents and two brothers. Six weeks after the picture was taken, the entire family, save the grandmother, was dead. Here it is Hitler’s turn at miscomprehension—only after a long back and forth, in which Hitler first assumes that Allied bombing was to blame for their deaths, then imagines their deportation to Auschwitz must have been a mistake, is Fräulein Krömeier able to communicate to him the true circumstances: as Jews who attempted to pass for Aryan by not wearing their stars, they were arrested and killed. This moment is compelling for a couple of reasons. First, it is telling that it is a photograph that triggers the moment of crisis. For the grandmother, this carefully preserved reminder of an idyllic moment is an example of how photographs can be used to bring back those who can no longer speak for themselves. For the granddaughter, its evidentiary power is derived as much from its status as historical artifact as it is from its visuality—for a child of her generation, born and raised on images, it carries more weight and legitimacy than written historical accounts. Second, the fact that the image can be interpreted in two such radically different ways points to the double-edged nature of this world of visuality, where meaning is often ambiguous and subject to the perspective of the viewer. The ensuing conversation, in which Hitler manages to convince Fräulein

McGlothlin.indd 260

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



261

Krömeier not only to continue to work for him but also to allow him to personally visit her grandmother to explain himself, is nothing short of perverse. Making no attempt to deny what happened or hide his motivations, Hitler not only defends his actions but in addition forces her into an uncomfortable confrontation with reality: “Es gab entweder ein ganzes Volk von Schweinen. Oder das, was geschehen ist, war keine Schweinetat, sondern der Wille eines Volkes” (318; Either there was a whole Volk full of bastards. Or what happened was not the act of bastards, but the will of the Volk, 245). Unable to match Hitler rhetorically—and perhaps unwilling to accept the notion of collective guilt that Hitler articulates—she allows herself to be convinced to stay. Though we only get Hitler’s indirect account of his conversation with the grandmother, he boasts of having convinced her that her granddaughter should continue her work: Ich sagte im Wesentlichen, wie unentbehrlich Fräulein Krömeier für meine Arbeit sei, und der Glanz in den Augen der alten Fregatte teilte mir mit, dass ich keine neue rechte Hand brauchen würde. Was irgendwelche Bedenken in weltanschaulichen Dingen betraf, hörte die Dame ab diesem Zeitpunkt ohnehin längst nur noch das, was sie hören wollte. [When I explained how indispensable Fräulein Krömeier was for my work, the glint in the old wench’s eye told me I would not need a new right-hand woman. As for any misgivings she might harbor regarding ideological maters, from that point on the lady only heard what she wanted to hear.]

He adds, in a nod toward the power of images, “Aber es half natürlich, dass ich diesen Besuch nicht in Uniform machte” (323; But it helped, of course, that I did not visit her in full uniform, 248). If the line elicits laughter from the reader, it is a laughter that sticks in one’s throat and forces the reader to confront what has just happened. One of the criticisms of the book concerns its narrative mode, since Hitler himself tells his own story. It is through these interior monologues that we as readers are reminded of who Hitler really is. But not entirely: even this version of Hitler is one that is already known, in that Vermes has mimicked the turgid prose and unwieldy metaphors that characterize Mein Kampf. The juxtaposition of these two shades of Hitler—the method-acting humorist and the committed ideologue—work together to challenge the reader. If there is something unsettling about the novel’s use of Hitler as first-person narrator, it is not the fact that this identification generates a sympathetic portrayal of him. What is unsettling here is the way in which his perpetually outraged responses to modern life—television, fashion, people cleaning up after their dogs—are often both funny and resonant. In a review in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Cornelia Fiedler

McGlothlin.indd 261

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

262



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

argues that these moments of laughter not at but with Hitler are problematic, since presenting Hitler as an Andy Rooney-esque curmudgeon makes him seem too harmless.11 But I would argue that this is precisely the point of the novel: by making us laugh with Hitler, it forces us to confront how contemporary popular culture has already rendered him harmless. What is problematic, however, is how the novel itself is also guilty of instrumentalizing Hitler to make broader cultural critiques. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is that it is a book, a relative rarity with respect to Hitler representations. But Vermes’s text never acknowledges that literature, too, can be reductive. The novel ends on a note of ambiguity. No longer a mere sketch character, Hitler now has his own television show and has moved out of a hotel and into his own spacious apartment. But still, he is seen only as a comedian. Even like-minded racist nationalists interpret his speeches as parodies of National Socialist ideology. On his way to a Wagner opera, he is brutally assaulted by two youths who call him a “Judenschwein” (372; “Jewish bastard,” 288) and accuse him of insulting Germany with his charade: “Was musst du für ein krankes Schwein sein! Erst lässt du dir dieses aufrechte Gesicht hinoperieren, dann fällst du damit Deutschland in den Rücken!” (372; “What kind of sick bastard are you? First you get that face operated on, then you use it to stab Germany in the back!,” 288). Their attacks leave him hospitalized, with a punctured liver and a variety of broken bones. By refusing to let Hitler escape entirely unscathed, the novel participates, at least momentarily, in the long tradition of fictional Hitlers being resurrected to face a reckoning that was never accomplished in real life. And perhaps we can also look at the fate of this Hitler as a form of punishment: despite his best efforts, he is doomed never to be taken seriously. But this attack only cements his popularity, and as he lies in the hospital recovering, he is called by a variety of political parties looking to recruit him. Each has a different interpretation of the attack and his symbolic value: for the Green Party, he is an artist standing up to rightwing violence; for the CSU, he is a fighter for violence; for others, he is a symbol of freedom of speech; for another, he is someone fighting to limit speech. For the Family Party, he is even seen as a victim of violence against the elderly. Here we see one last dig at the tendency to use Hitler, particularly in political discourse, as a cipher—an empty signifier onto which any number of positions can be projected. As the novel draws to a close, Hitler has secured a contract to write a book (in a typically metafictional moment, presumably the very book that we have been reading), with the single stipulation: “Es muss die Wahrheit drinstehen” (389; “It must be the truth,” 300). In the final chapter he is visited by Mr. Sawatzki, the colleague who has supported him from the beginning, and his secretary, no longer the disaffected, black-clad Miss Krömeier, but rather the now married—and very pregnant Mrs. Sawatzki.

McGlothlin.indd 262

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



263

They invite him over to Christmas dinner and, on their way out, let drop a hint about the name of their unborn son. Now savvy in the ways of modern technology, Hitler lies in his hospital bed, perusing the images sent to his mobile phone by Sawitzky: posters for his new political party, bearing a simple slogan: “Es war nicht alles schlecht” (396; “It wasn’t all bad,” 305). Throughout this analysis, I have been using Hitler somewhat synechdochically as a stand in for the Holocaust, though clearly neither the Holocaust nor Hitler—or rather, more importantly, our relationship to either—can be entirely subsumed in the other. It is worth noting that, aside from a picture of his bathtub, references to Hitler the person were almost entirely absent from the other papers presented at the symposium where I first presented this work. This use of the figure of Hitler as an—albeit limited—substitute for the Holocaust does facilitate a sort of reckoning with the past that is more difficult when trying to portray the enormity of the Shoah, though by concentrating guilt onto a single individual, long dead, it does so at the obvious risk of foreclosing an understanding of the Holocaust as a part of contemporary German identity. Here I would recall Stephan Braese’s remark from one of the symposium discussions about the state of Holocaust remembrance in Germany, where he made the point that the contemporary generation was in denial not of the Nazi past but rather of its own continuity with it, and I would suggest that this can be seen as both cause and symptom of the reduction of the Holocaust to Hitler. But it is also worth noting that this same sort of problematic cultural appropriation is becoming more frequent with other visceral symbols of the Holocaust. To name one such example: over the last few years, Grindr—the location-based gay, bisexual, and bi-curious dating app for men—has featured numerous profile pictures shot at the Berlin memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. These pictures have been collected and reposted on the website Totem and Taboo. Joel Simkhai, the CEO of Grindr, originally tried to frame these as moments of remembrance, claiming that, “as a Jew and an Israeli, I’m deeply moved by how users are coming together as a community on Grindr to share and inspire others take part in memory of the Holocaust,” but later acknowledged that the images could be seen as disrespectful.12 Second, while there are more aesthetically compelling and intellectually challenging reflections on popular culture and Hitler and the Holocaust, I would assert that it is important for German studies—and Holocaust studies—to more thoroughly interrogate the ways in which Hitler and the Holocaust have become part of popular culture. While they cannot afford us the same sort of insights into the events of the Holocaust that more serious or formally experimental works provide, we cannot ignore the fact that, like the public commemorations and efforts at education described in the other essays in this volume, they are part of

McGlothlin.indd 263

10/16/2016 2:06:03 PM

264



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

the contemporary engagement with the past. While one certainly should not abandon a stance that calls out offensive, insensitive, or racist portrayals, neither should one remain inattentive to developments that seem to signal a lack of concern about the recurrence of German fascism. Upon closer examination, these cultural manifestations can reveal themselves to be very useful in terms of what they tell us about historical consciousness. Whether we like it or not, they reflect a very real shift in how contemporary generations, which increasingly experience the world both virtually and asynchronously, understand history in ways that do not always comport with how we have previously approached questions of memory. Some scholars, such as Gavriel Rosenfeld, see the proliferation of Hitler memes—and the apparent disappearance of taboos governing how Hitler and the Holocaust may be represented—as dangerous. Describing them as motivated primarily by a desire for attention, he argues that their use of Hitler, the symbol of evil par excellence, has diverted attention away from his criminality and dramatically humanized him by transforming the Nazi dictator into a champion of the aggrieved.13 He asserts that “by utilizing him to address contemporary issues, they have placed his significance into the present instead of the past, thereby distracting attention away from his real historical importance . . .. Because many of the issues that Hitler complains about are legitimate, he becomes someone that viewers cheer for.” Moreover, for a historian like Rosenfeld, though he notes that these humorous appropriations predate the Internet, this raises the concern that the Internet has “democratized this trend and opened it up to the masses”—an indication that it is not so much the what, but the who, that is problematic here. But, as Rosenfeld also notes, the self-reflective nature of some of the parodies in fact pushes back against Hitler’s normalization. In the video “Hitler Finds Out Americans are Calling Each Other Nazis,” his outrage is inspired by the revelation that his name is used whenever someone disagrees with someone else’s opinion or seems particularly strident in their views. Referring to the propensity to draw his moustache on opponents, Hitler rants: “You cannot be fucking serious. I have been wearing this ridiculous thing for years so that it might be the very symbol of evil, not some convenient talisman for unthinking Americans.”14 Indeed, when one considers the most widely disseminated Hitler memes and viral videos, it becomes clear that this level of self-referentiality is a key component of their popularity, an indication that there is a high level of awareness of the participation of these artifacts in more complex meditations on history and memory. These also demonstrate the performance of a distrust of absolute norms and a reflection of a suspicion of moral norms—not merely an empty skepticism, a cynicism that offers no alternative. For the ability to manipulate images and videos, to resynchronize films, to provide soundtracks that challenge the images on-screen, allows users to push back against the

McGlothlin.indd 264

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



265

very notion of fixed history and fixed meaning. Certainly, there is a danger here—that the remix will come to replace the original, that falsified history will replace the factual past. Viral transmission and the proliferation of memes online generally takes place without the oversight of official gatekeepers. The notion that history might be determined by popular appeal rather than adherence to fact is indeed worrying, and this democratization—and the desire to flout taboos—means that one also can find a significant number of simply offensive images or memes (such as the Advice Hitler meme). But it is telling that the most widely circulated and enduring manipulations of video and image are those that contain within themselves a self-reflective moment and offer a commentary on the longstanding incorporation of Hitler into popular culture. Rendering something contemporary is not the same as relativizing it; one can understand the “never again” mantra as an exhortation to be cognizant of the broader circumstances that led to the Holocaust, and this focus on the present is a necessary component of promoting this understanding. Moreover, the ability to share digital content with a broader audience online means that those aesthetically compelling and intellectually challenging reflections on popular culture and Hitler and the Holocaust no longer need to be viewed in the museum but can enjoy widespread access.15 Taken individually, these images and videos might seem one-dimensional, but we can’t ignore the fact that they are a significant part of the contemporary engagement with the past. These cultural manifestations reveal not a lack of historical consciousness but a desire to engage with history on one’s own terms. Without knowledge of the past, without the overdetermined nature of the images of Hitler that are manipulated here, these digital manipulations would not have the impact that they have had. Moreover, they employ an ironic stance that is incomplete, in the sense that while they affect an air of detachment, a world-weariness that discounts sincerity, social norms, and morality, their disavowal of sincerity is in fact dependent upon its affirmation. What a work like Er ist wieder da demonstrates is that it is possible to engage with this phenomenon on its own terms, thereby sharpening the tension between irony and sincerity. It is no coincidence then that, as Daniel Erk notes in the conclusion to his book, the proliferation of images of Hitler is also often accompanied by an increase in outrage over their use.16 Understanding how these two tendencies relate to each other would be of significant value for both German and Holocaust studies.

Notes 1

For an exhaustive account of such representations—and their implications—see Gavriel Rosenfeld, The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

McGlothlin.indd 265

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

266



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

2

See Michael Richardson, “‘Heil Myself!’: Impersonation and Identity in Comic Representations of Hitler,” in Visualizing the Holocaust: Documents, Aesthetics, Memory, ed. David Bathrick, Brad Prager, and Michael D. Richardson (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2008), 277–97. 3

Erk also asserts that this Hitler is no longer a historical figure, but “ein Abziehbild und Schatten—ein Hitler-Gespenst, das in Europa und der Welt umgeht. Ein medialer Wiedergänger, dem jede Wiederspruchlichkeit genommen wurde” (a decal and a shadow—a Hitler-ghost haunting Europe and the world. A medial zombie, from whom every inconsistency has been removed). See Daniel Erk, So viel Hitler war selten: Die Banalisierung des Bösen oder Warum der Mann mit dem kleinen Bart nicht totzukriegen ist (Munich: Heyne, 2012), 9. 4

This is not to suggest that fictional representations of Hitler and the Nazis were limited to visual media; they were a popular subject for pulp literature throughout the latter half of the twentieth century as well. For the purposes of this analysis, however, I am limiting my discussion to representations in popular visual culture. 5

There have been a number of excellent works that investigate how this link between deviant sexuality and Nazism has functioned in political and cultural contexts. Sabine Hake discusses the link between Nazism and eroticism in Italian sexploitation films of the 1970s and their displacement of politics into sexualized scenarios of dominance and submission in terms of cultural and social changes taking place after the sexual revolution of the 1960s. See Sabine Hake, Screen Nazis: Cinema, History, and Democracy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). Andrea Slane’s A Not So Foreign Affair (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001) investigates how the association of Nazism with perversion and promiscuity functions within the US political landscape. For a broader look at eroticized representations of Nazism in popular culture, see Nazisploitation! The Nazi Image in Low-Brow Cinema and Culture, ed. Daniel H. Magilow, Elizabeth Bridges, and Kristin T. Vander Lugt (London: Continuum, 2012). 6

In Prosthetic Memory, Alison Landsberg’s seminal work on how modernity makes new forms of cultural memory possible, she argues that mass culture, particularly the cinema, enables individuals to develop a meaningful relationship to particular memorial cultures or traumatic histories that they have not personally experienced and to which they have no biographical tie. As she notes, this has particular implications for the Holocaust, whose resistance to cognitive comprehension makes the “bodily” experience of trauma enabled by prosthetic memory necessary to make it intelligible and visceral. But given the stance of ironic detachment inherent in most Internet representations of Hitler, memory here functions slightly differently: while it promotes a shared archive of visual memories, they are not internalized as personal memories. See Alison Landsberg, Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), esp. 110–40. 7

Indeed, Thomas Nachreiner notes, for example, that these pictures of cats clearly do not participate in any effort to comment on the past, other than to reinforce the iconic image of Hitler: “In a sense, the memory of popular culture does not necessarily negotiate the past through a contextualized actualization, but is rather bound to the observation of individual daily life through the icons and templates of (media) history.” See Thomas Nachreiner, “Digital Memories:

McGlothlin.indd 266

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

HITLER IN THE AGE OF IRONY



267

The Remediation of National Socialism and the Holocaust between Popular Culture and the Web Public,” in Interkulturelle Mnemo-Graphien / Mnemo-Grafias Interculturais / Intercultural Mnemo-Graphies, ed. Alfred Grossegesse and Mário Matos (Portugal: Edicoes Humus, 2012), 255. 8

I draw here on Sander Lee’s analysis of the film in “Scapegoating, the Holocaust, and McCarthyism in Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17,” Senses of Cinema 5 (April 2000). http://sensesofcinema.com/2000/feature-articles/stalag/. 9 “Wir lachen mit Hitler,” Stuttgarter Nachrichten, January 31, 2013. http:// www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.timur-vermes-wir-lachen-mit-hitler. d2f1fcc9–112d-4372-bba1–617f6f222ca2.html. Unless otherwise noted, all translations in this essay are my own. 10

Timur Vermes, Er ist wieder da (Cologne: Eichborn, 2012), 23–24. English translations are taken from Vermes, Look Who’s Back, trans. Jamie Bulloch (New York: MacLehose, 2015), 14. Hereafter both editions will be cited parenthetically within the text. 11 Cornelia Fiedler, “Ha, ha, Hitler,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, January 9, 2013, http://

www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/bestseller-roman-er-ist-wieder-da-ha-ha-hitler1.1568685. 12

Quoted in Daniel D’Addario, “Grindr’s Odd Holocaust Fetish,” Salon, January 30, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/30/grindrs_odd_holocaust_ fetish/. In an interview conducted shortly before the monument was opened, Peter Eisenman noted that the nature of its design meant that it was inevitable that the public would engage with it in a variety of potentially non-reverent ways: “People are going to picnic in the field. Children will play tag in the field. There will be fashion models modeling there and films will be shot there. I can easily imagine some spy shoot ’em ups ending in the field. What can I say? It’s not a sacred place.” See Charles Hawley and Natalie Tenberg, “SPIEGEL Interview with Holocaust Monument Architect Peter Eisenman: “How Long Does One Feel Guilty?,” Spiegel Online International, May 9, 2005, http://www.spiegel. de/international/spiegel-interview-with-holocaust-monument-architect-petereisenman-how-long-does-one-feel-guilty-a-355252.html. 13

See Rosenfeld, Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past Is Being Normalized in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 310. Rosenfeld’s apprehension here is linked to a larger concern, namely, what he sees as the intensification of the process of normalization of the Nazi era since the turn of the century, its impact on and reflection in popular culture, and its implications for questions of history and memory. 14

Ibid., 311.

15

This is true of some the digital works that were featured in the Mirroring Evil exhibit. I point to two here. The first is Alan Schechner’s photomanipulation Self Portrait at Buchenwald: It’s the Real Thing, in which he inserts himself in a famous photo taken by Margaret Bourke-White after the liberation of Buchenwald. The second is Boaz Arad’s “Hebrew Lesson,” a short video in which clips of Hitler are spliced together in such a way as to make it sound as if he is saying, in Hebrew, “Greetings Jerusalem, I am deeply sorry.”

McGlothlin.indd 267

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

268



MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON

16

See Erk, So viel Hitler war selten, 228: “Es ist mit der Zeit zwar zunehmend üblicher geworden, Unterhaltung mit Hitler zu betreiben, gleichzeitig aber ist auch die Empörung darüber gewachsen” (Over time it has become more common to create entertainment out of Hitler, but simultaneously, outrage over this fact has grown).

McGlothlin.indd 268

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

Part VI. Holocaust Memory in Post-Holocaust Traumas

McGlothlin.indd 269

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

McGlothlin.indd 270

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

14: Remembering Genocide in the Digital Age: The Afterlife of the Holocaust in Rwanda Karen Remmler

T

WENTY YEARS AFTER the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the spectacle and specter of the dead continue to haunt the public spheres of mourning within that country. The official depiction of the genocide by the Rwandan state media presents the reconciliation between the perpetrators and the survivors as a model for overcoming cycles of violence and for returning communities to a semblance of normalcy. This essay explores the forms of remembering the dead in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide through digital means, with particular attention to the continuing primacy of digital testimonies, whose form, in part, resemble models of narration and framing prevalent in digital Holocaust testimonies, especially those sponsored by the USC Shoah Foundation. In contrast to Holocaust testimonies, first recorded in an organized fashion in 1981 with the funding of the Yale Fortunoff Foundation by scholars versed in psychoanalytical modes of witnessing, the recording of survivor testimonies in Rwanda began within a decade of the 1994 genocide. With the advent of mobile digital technologies and the influx of aid directed toward documentation of the genocide, the narratives of Rwandan survivors are being recorded in some cases by the survivors themselves, who feel the urgency to tell the stories of their dead loved ones before the rapid economic development in Rwanda and collectivized commemorative practice diminish the presence of their stories. In this essay I argue that the use of digital testimonies in Rwanda complicates the idea that a particular narrative framework and structure can be simply transferred from one genocidal experience to another. Thus, rather than view a universalized framing of genocide survival as globalized through the export of digitized Holocaust testimonies, we may turn the tables and ask how scholars within German studies, for example, might recognize the value of revisiting Holocaust testimonies based on the particular local oral traditions evident in recent recordings of and by Rwandan survivors of the 1994 genocide. I suggest that the representation of

McGlothlin.indd 271

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

272



KAREN REMMLER

the Holocaust across transnational vectors in the digital age is only one point of departure for scholars in German studies. I argue here that the narrative structures of Holocaust testimonies, so often studied within fields as disperse as diaspora studies, memory studies, narrative studies, translation studies, trauma studies, and German-Jewish studies, circulate globally in ways that may suppress local approaches to remembering atrocity. At the same time, modes of narration and protocols for engaging memory derived from the Holocaust do not always work for narrating the Rwandan genocide. The generous support of foundations, such as the Shoah Foundation, does indeed help to create the venues and means for collecting the narratives of genocide survivors in Rwanda. But I question the elision of local forms of storytelling and communal rituals that do not fit neatly into individual narratives of surviving genocide. Just as survivors and their children experience the remembrance of the Holocaust through multiple modes, so too do the experiences of genocide survivors across the globe embody the particular cultural, political, and social contingencies of these atrocities that in turn affect the cultures of remembering. Thus the transfer of digital narratives modeled on commonly circulated Holocaust testimonies to non-Western spaces often reinscribes hegemonic narratives that rely on Westernized versions of genocide. These versions lose sight of the local narratives by Rwandans, for example, that fall outside this framework. At the same time, the government-mandated and collectivized commemorations of the Rwandan genocide in Rwanda may also constrict survivors’ ability to tell their story within frameworks that emerge out of local, rather than national, practices of remembering. In contrast to the belatedness of Holocaust testimonies and their incorporation into the genre of trauma narrative, the testimonies of Rwandan genocide by young survivors were already being made within a decade of the end of the genocide. Testimonies of Rwandan survivors take place within a context of continued traumatization, whether poverty or displacement through urban construction or land collectivization. And perpetrators and survivors, as well as returned exiles, live side by side, a constant reminder of the human agency of the act of killing. In contrast to the top-down retributive justice after the Holocaust, the Gacaca courts—mandated public hearings in villages across Rwanda—created local encounters between perpetrators and survivors, almost unheard of in the aftermath of the Holocaust. These encounters have been filmed and represent an immediacy and emotional power of direct confrontation that provides deepened insight into the workings of reconciliation.1 The composition of Rwandan survivors’ digital testimonies may resemble commonly used narrative frameworks of digital Holocaust testimonies marketed by the Shoah Foundation, among others, but it does not fully conform to them. A growing movement in Rwanda among young survivors represents multiple approaches to recalling the past and

McGlothlin.indd 272

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



273

often deviates from imported forms of narration, thus preserving local knowledge and voices based on indigenous forms of narration that do not comply with Western modes of coherent, chronological, and contained life stories.2 Whereas the scripted plotting of questions developed for interviewers trained by the Shoah Foundation often culminates in shots of Holocaust survivors surrounded by family members, a similar show of resilience is largely absent from genocide narratives of Rwandan survivors. This final act of resilience is missing from most of the testimonies of the Rwandan survivors simply because many families could not be reconstituted after the genocide. Collective trauma does not necessarily follow a trajectory of stages or of retrievals across cultures or events. That is, the advent of trauma theories and treatments in Western cultures often assumes a universality that subsumes the local approaches to dealing with trauma as well as the external factors that exacerbate and continue to deepen the trauma, such as poverty or displacement.3 Thus the notion of overcoming trauma within subsequent generations does not coincide with the still-fresh wounds experienced by many Rwandan survivors, who tell their stories with an immediacy that is not apparent in Holocaust testimonies because of the belatedness of the testimonies. Similarly, the possibility of telling the story in the presence of perpetrators (that is, the neighbor who killed neighbors) in the case of Rwanda differs historically and culturally from the experience of Holocaust survivors. Whereas Holocaust survivors removed themselves from the scene of the crime, so to speak (at least in most cases), the Rwandans live side by side at the very scene of the genocide in their neighborhoods and communities. This is not to imply that the emotional distress experienced by Holocaust survivors in telling their stories is any less powerful. The framing of the survivor narratives of the Rwandan genocide according to scripted notions of a coherent life story assumes a universal response to extreme trauma. This mode creates a hegemonic character of remembrance that neglects the specific circumstances and means available for remembering within a country such as Rwanda, where mourning according to state-mandated scripts is already the norm. My claim here is based in part on my observations during a study visit to Rwanda in January 2014, a few months before the twentieth anniversary of the genocide. While in Rwanda, I joined a group of peace-builders in discussions about reconciliation projects and visited a number of statefunded sites of memory, including the Kigali Genocide Memorial (KGM), which opened in 2004. I explored how the cultural memories of the 1994 genocide are depicted through digital imaging and yet remain grounded in their material attachment to the remains of the dead. The presence of actual remains at designated sites of memory in the form of skulls and human bones, along with decaying clothing and the instruments of killing, is mandated by the state. This practice often contradicts the wishes of survivors

McGlothlin.indd 273

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

274



KAREN REMMLER

and their descendants, who commemorate their dead through proper burial rituals, storytelling, and, more recently, local filmmaking projects. The first part of my essay raises questions about the function and impact of multiple approaches to framing memories in Rwanda. In the second part I examine the actual practices of remembering the genocide in Rwanda, while the third part places these approaches within a larger discussion about the transnational circulation of images of extreme violence in the digital age and their transferability from one culture of testimony to another.

I. The gap between political modes of reconciliation touted by the Rwandan government and the more individual experience of facing the emotional residue of the genocide becomes apparent when examining digital forms of remembrance that are largely imported and paid for by Western foundations, most notably the Shoah Foundation and the Aegis Trust.4 I define emotional residue as the feelings of loss among those affected by extreme violence, feelings that continue to haunt them and their descendants well after society at large has officially ritualized the process of mourning. These feelings are not acknowledged by the politicized and collectivized forms of reconciliation propagated by the state. The political mandate to present an image of successful reconciliation in Rwanda falls short in accommodating the emotional residue that haunts the victims of the genocide and, increasingly, their children. I thus raise questions about the affective remnants of the experience of genocide that are instrumentalized by state-run commemorative practices and left unacknowledged. These remnants go unacknowledged when forms of remembering genocide in Rwanda are based on the forms conjured by the videotaped testimonies of Holocaust survivors. The Holocaust, itself transnational and global, has an afterlife that emerges through the circulation of visual frames, dictating how the memories of genocide survivors outside the global North are to be composed, recorded, and archived.5 The framing of the testimonies by Rwandans according to modes of representation prevalent in Holocaust testimonies recorded by the Shoah Foundation, for example, may serve only to support nationalized, state-sanctioned processes of remembrance, rather than to create spaces for more local modes of remembering in Rwanda.6 Alternative modes of remembering the genocide in Rwanda, such as more differentiated mourning of moderate Hutus or local rituals and marking of memorial sites, are not always visible in the sanctioned, public forms of memorialization of the genocide. Even as the testimonies provide valuable historical data, they may also reveal the unrecounted emotions that

McGlothlin.indd 274

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



275

emerge in contradiction to the nationalized, state-sanctioned representation of genocide. Given the recent controversies over the “reputation laundering” of Rwanda by British PR firms that fashion an image of Rwanda as a model for achieving reconciliation after genocide, despite the continued violations of human rights, it is perhaps not without some irony that we examine the significance of the digital representation of survivor testimonies funded by Western foundations.7 Highly stylized forms of capturing narratives of the Rwandans within frames associated with Holocaust memory become problematic if put to use in ways that support the consolidation of individual narratives, rather than fostering diverse approaches to depicting the testimonies and mourning processes of local cultures. Nowhere is a direct and enforced politics of remembering atrocity more explicit than in Rwanda. President Kagame’s regime often controls the framing of the commemorative acts meant to remember the genocide, even as the growing collection of digital testimonies present multiple voices. At the same time the production and accessibility of the testimonies rely to a great extent on outside funding and training reminiscent of the projects marketed by the USC Shoah Foundation for Visual History and Education. The mandating of reconciliation has become a performative act ostensibly for the internal affairs of the country, yet it is heavily projected outward. Even as outside funding enables non-governmental organizations and groups within Rwanda to acquire the training and means to collect survivor testimonies, this process exists parallel to the state-sanctioned collectivizing of these experiences. In her book Frames of War Judith Butler provides an interpretative structure with which one can explore how cultures of memory in Rwanda both mimic and deviate from the video narratives and images that often frame the remembrance of the Holocaust. In her discussion of the exhibition of the Abu Ghraib photos at the International Center for Photography, Butler channels Susan Sontag and reminds us that the dead’s “rebuff to visual consumerism that comes from the shrouded head, the averted glance, the glazed eyes, this indifference to us performs an auto-critique of the role of the photograph within media consumption.”8 In other words, the dead do not care whether we see them or not. Butler focuses on the grievability of bodies and on the frames that are imposed upon images of suffering to differentiate bodies that are worthy of grief from those that are not. Her context is extreme forms of violence in which a state agency intervenes to frame the violated bodies outside the responsibility of an agent, so that citizens fail to recognize their role in the now visible terror. In other words, we can feel outraged at the sight of another’s suffering and do nothing. Or we can recognize our responsibility to the Other not through identification but through an affective

McGlothlin.indd 275

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

276



KAREN REMMLER

response that is performed outside the regulation of the power structures bent on controlling those emotions. Butler further ponders how “the state works on the field of perception and, more generally, the field of representability, in order to control affect—in anticipation of the way affect is not only structured by interpretation, but structures interpretation as well” (72). The mediation of the twentieth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda operates according to narrative arcs conceived with the help of the Western mode of remembering atrocity through the mandate of a state much in the way that Butler describes. That is, the apparatus of the state regulates images that would otherwise galvanize the viewer into opposition to the state. The state frames the feelings into a controlled dramaturgy of collectivized mourning that, in turn, excludes those whose affective experiences do not conform to the status quo. What happens to the emotional residue of individual experiences when the official mourning process has consolidated subjective forms and subversive forms of remembering into a national narrative? How are emotions regulated by the state through the framing of the commemoration, including the question of the ownership of the corpses? More importantly, what are the ethical consequences of appropriating frames of suffering made possible by Westernized digital media? And what happens when such frames are adopted and amplified in transnational venues of research and teaching? How do we deal with the realization that the documentation of genocide, now much aided by digital technologies, although still costly, supersedes the act of intervention? The American and French governments, as well as the UN, whose intervention could have saved lives, for example, knew about the genocide in Rwanda. The act of protecting grievable bodies, as Butler puts it, was delayed and then, finally, transferred into the act of looking at those bodies and listening to the testimonies of survivors in the aftermath of the killing. We are faced with the fact that intervention came too late, once again, and that the bodies of the dead and the stories of the survivors are the afterlife that we seem more able to bear than the demand for taking responsibility for the Other. Political means of retribution and accountability do not, then, necessarily address the underlying sentiments felt by the affected group.

II. In order to provide a context for the use of visual digital means for commemorating the genocide in Rwanda, I turn now to the forms of remembrance in Rwanda that are part of the cultural production of genocide remembrance. There are five major modes of remembrance in Rwanda: first, celebrating official days of national commemoration staged as mass events with accompanying commemorations; second, visiting the

McGlothlin.indd 276

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



277

state-of-the-art Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre; (KGM); third, visiting former sites of killing that are now designated as memorial sites, most of which house the remains of victims; fourth, initiating ongoing projects to build cooperatives among former perpetrators and victims as part of a state-mandated process of reconciliation and unity; and fifth, creating independent feature and documentary films. It is instructive to note that the twentieth-anniversary commemoration ceremony in 2014 was streamed live from Kigali and funded predominantly by outside sources, most notably the Aegis Trust. Planned much like any major spectacle, the commemorative event took place in the Amahoro stadium, where major killing took place in 1994. The event combined theatrical displays of emotion, rituals of reburial, cathartic reenactments of history, and narratives of unity that mostly excluded members of the perpetrator groups, such as moderate Hutus who resisted the command to kill. In watching the commemoration, one had the impression that Rwanda is akin to a living social lab in which citizens perform the act of speaking about the genocide in performative nationalized rituals. At the same time, groups of people make themselves available to meet with visitors, including tourists who engage in the dark tourism of visiting sites of genocide and then dash off to observe gorillas in the misty mountains that define the physical beauty of Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. Like the museums in the West associated with remembering the Holocaust, the KGM, with its archives and documentation center, is replete with digital archives and resources, funded and implemented by Aegis, among other donors. The exhibition is modeled after US and UK Holocaust museums and includes a section that tells the historical narrative of the Rwandan genocide within comparative paradigms of other genocides throughout history. The Documentation Center houses testimonies accessible through databases curated by American universities, most notably the USC Shoah Foundation for Visual History and Education. The KGM also features an exhibition reminiscent of the permanent exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) with a room of photographs, mostly Polaroids hanging on wires from clips, like clothing out to dry. The photo exhibition at the KGM (itself a site of mass graves, where the dead, their remains contained securely under concrete slabs, are evoked in the photographs hung in the Memorial), reminds the viewers that the genocide wrenched people out of their everyday life poses. They stare out at us, unknowing, yet already imbued with a sense of dread and of death. We know that they are dead, probably slaughtered in some horrible way, not knowing (yet perhaps suspecting, given the long history of killing) what would befall them. Like the Tower of Faces at the USHMM constructed by Yaffa Eliach from photographs of the inhabitants of the shtetl Eishyshok, images of the dead here embody what Barthes and others have noted about photography as

McGlothlin.indd 277

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

278



KAREN REMMLER

premonition of death, a snapshot of the remains of the living.9 However, there is an important difference between the Eishyshok photos and the ones displayed at the KGM. Large mass graves rest on the grounds of the KGM, sealed by large concrete slabs. Inside the documentation center, a special section displays photographs of infants with captions listing their favorite food, toy, activity, and person, as well as the date and cause of their death (machete, strangulation, head trauma, and so on). Even as the actual remains of the dead are present as material objects, we are already distanced from the encounter through digital archives that both hark to and efface the original material means of conveying memory. That is, the original is already dematerialized and absent from sight. At the same time, at the KGM the material presence of the remains of the dead counteracts their erasure by imbuing them with a political instrumentalization that neutralizes the emotional residue contained in them. The photos of victims within the KGM “de-territorialize” the remains from their moorings in specific cultural and historical contingencies by evoking a set of emotions embedded in wider cultural norms of suffering. Yet the deterritorialization does not necessarily hold for the affect/emotion conveyed by the photos when they are understood as cultural frames of reference. Thus the digitization of memory brings with it a deterritorialization of the dead, even as the visual points of reference are squarely located outside Western spaces. Though not visible at the KGM, the exposed bones of the victims are visible and present at other memorials, including two churches in Nyamata and Ntamara, located about 35 miles outside of the Kigali. After seeking refuge, the Tutsis were slaughtered over a course of a few days. Guides, called by Rwandan documentary filmmaker Eric Kabera “custodians or keepers of the dead,” themselves survivors, take visitors through the soiled spaces and describe soberly and without pathos the circumstances of the killing.10 Visitors to the sites are led through the former church buildings, now arrayed with shelves of bones, piles of decaying clothing, dusty machetes, and other objects associated with both the victims and the killers, such as eyeglasses, school supplies, photos, and ID cards with the infamous designation “Tutsi.” The display of bones is meant to be a visceral reminder that the killing cannot be denied. The bones arranged by type (femur, tibia, and so on) recall the pseudoscientific labeling of body types in the construction of racial inferiority by, for example, the Nazi regime. As physical evidence, the remains of the dead in the aftermath of atrocity have long become standard fare in documentaries about dictatorships and about memory.11 Just as footage of corpses taken during the liberation of Nazi concentration camps have been ingrained in Western memory as the epitome of evil and of the brutality of human beings toward one another, so too the images of bones at genocide memorials

McGlothlin.indd 278

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



279

in Rwanda at the locations of massacres, such as the churches in Ntamara and Nytamana, serve as iconic images to “keep memory alive.”12 In light of the prevalence of state-funded sites of memory that preserve the spaces of the actual killing as well as human remains and objects associated with the dead, I argue that the digital depictions of these sites may nevertheless achieve more of the affective work of remembering than the encounter with the actual bones. These remains have become a spectacle, however; images of them are widely disseminated on the Web in contrast to those of the less spectacular sites of memory, which are disappearing as urban modernization and large-scale farming for cash crops take over.13 Ironically, because these sites are state-run, one could argue that the anonymity of the remains serves only to reinscribe the dead with the impersonal strictures of genocide, an act that reduces individuals to non-humans devoid of rights and of names. Yet the rhetoric of the keepers of the dead persuades us that the bones serve the purpose of providing physical evidence and of keeping the memory of the dead alive. The fourth mode of remembering that is mandated by the state in Rwanda includes initiating ongoing reconciliation projects that bring survivors, perpetrators, rescuers, and their children together for cooperative living, a project that emerged in the wake of Gacaca courts. The courts, mandated by the state from 2001 to 2012, required citizens to participate as lay judges and juries to hear the confessions of former killers in villages (thus the name “grass-cut places”). The confessions granted most defendants release from prison with extended periods of community work. This court had the pragmatic function of releasing the former prisoners so they could contribute to economic development and additionally reveal the locations of the corpses in order to bring a semblance of closure to the survivors, who were still searching for the remains of their loved ones. The ongoing contrast between political reconciliation as a means to rebuild a nation and the impossibility of forgiveness on an emotional or spiritual level might be better described, not as one of opposing forces or needs, but as one of facets of a similar set of processes in the aftermath of atrocity. In his essay on forgiveness, Jacques Derrida notes that the majority of Truth and Reconciliations Commissions (TRCs) do not require forgiveness as an element of the interchange between perpetrators and victims.14 Rather, the commissions create a space for the perpetrator to narrate his or her deeds and take responsibility for them. Forgiveness is not necessarily the response of the victims, but they may begin to accept the perpetrator as a fellow citizen or human being. Thus the admission of guilt by the perpetrator does not lead to paying off the debt, but rather to enduring the impossibility of ever living without that debt. Depending on the particular context, a TRC may bridge the tension between the ethical necessity of the “infinite responsibility” of the individual and the pragmatic needs within the larger community to reach reconciliation and

McGlothlin.indd 279

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

280



KAREN REMMLER

thus a tentative conclusion. And yet, as in other cases of transitional justice, once the reparations have been paid and the new borders have been drawn between the perpetrator and victim (two categories that are often historically ambiguous or uneven), the affective work remains to be done. It is this affective work that may be missing from the confrontation with the dead at the memorial sites as well as in the stylized spaces created by the digital renditions of the testimonies of survivors. At the same time, the framing of the memory of genocide in Rwanda appears to be imported, rather than gleaned from local cultures. The collectivization of memory by government mandate represents a hegemonic discourse about suffering that is meant to resist retributive acts of violence, even as the government commits these acts against Hutus both within and outside Rwanda. Thus the collectivized remembrance of genocide in Rwanda rarely allows for individual modes of remembering that deviate from the state-mandated rituals of reconciliation. As the first post-genocide generation comes of age, however, and access to digital recording devices increases, the extremely rarified versions digitized through official channels may give way to more nuanced images indicative of local forms of filmmaking as an act of healing. Virtual spaces, most notably the World Wide Web, YouTube, and various social media offshoots, contain images that recirculate the horror of genocide according to particular modes of narration and of visualization that have the effect of rematerializing the dead. This “mediapolis,” in which multiple forms of media circulate from production to consumption and then back to reproduction, determines to a large extent how the images are received.15 The modes of remembering in Rwanda are indicative of the clash between collectivized versions of commemoration supported by nationalized narratives of the past and the more low-budget production of feature and documentary films made by young Rwandan filmmakers. They film against the grain of the official modes of remembering, often with limited means and under extreme political pressure. Thus, just as the memorials that house the bones of the dead are contested within the Rwandan public sphere, so too a rising cultural production of digital matter counters the state-run process of memorialization. A period of twenty years is not a long time on the timetable of processing trauma, yet the growing availability of the means to film in the hands of nonprofessionals is leading to a growing industry, spurred on by Eric Kabera and the Rwanda Cinema Centre.16 In raising questions about the affect of frames of seeing that are both instrumentalized by state-run commemoration rituals and reminiscent of Holocaust images that may appear to be universal, I return to the pitfalls of the current culture of remembering the dead in Rwanda and its significance for understanding the transnational modes of digitizing narratives of genocide. As Jacques Rancière has argued with regard to the

McGlothlin.indd 280

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



281

unbearability of certain images, “the question is not whether one must or must not show the horrors endured by the victims of violence. It is about the very construction of the victim as part of a certain distribution of the visible.”17 How are photographs then more or less bearable than digital testimonies? The year 2014, which marked the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, saw an explosion of exhibitions and projects based on digital renderings of photographs. Yet we continue to be drawn to the directness of photos from that war, such as the one memorialized by Geoff Dyer in his book The Missing of the Sommes. As Dyer writes, Typically, pictures from the front line show not the dead, but people who have witnessed the dead. . . . What does this face express? It is difficult to say because any word of explanation has to be qualified by its opposite; there is the most intense appeal for compassion—and an utter indifference to our response; there is a reproach without accusation; a longing for justice and an indifference to whether it comes about.18

This longing for justice that may or may not be evoked in the viewer depends on the viewer’s relationship to the circumstances of the violence that the eyes have seen. Similarly, the focus on eyes in W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz and in his posthumously published collection Unrecounted demand that we, too, begin to see the violence that has etched its way into the media of representation and that presupposes as well a witnessing of experience formed by the knowledge of violence, if not the direct experience of it.19 The historical circumstance itself, driven by affect, becomes “unrecounted.”20 That is, the eyes that look at us beg for a contextualization of a life not appropriated by a consolidating narrative of the past. Photographs that focus on eyes and on close-ups foreshadowed the technologies that now enable the viewer to zoom in or zoom out. We might say that Sebald’s insistence on the work of photographs to “save souls” (but not in a religious sense) embodies current debates about the digitization of memory as testimony and the remediation of images through unheardof levels of rapid reproduction, increasingly apparent in Rwanda.21 Near the beginning of Sebald’s Austerlitz, the narrator makes reference to the “darkness that surrounds us,” a darkness that readers of Sebald will recognize as pervasive in all his texts as the specter of violence that haunts his characters and the places they traverse in retrospect and in the present day: “Otherwise, all I remember of the denizens of the Nocturama is that several of them had strikingly large eyes, and the fixed, inquiring gaze found in certain painters and philosophers who seek to penetrate the darkness which surrounds us purely by means of looking and thinking.”22 There is an uncanny connection between the setting of this scene in Austerlitz at the Antwerp railroad station—an architectural

McGlothlin.indd 281

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

282



KAREN REMMLER

wonder built by the wealth wrenched from the colony in the Belgian Congo by a brutal colonial power (notably King Leopold II)—and the geopolitical history of Rwanda. Rwanda did not gain its full independence from Belgium until 1962, after a series of bloody fights between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis, identities that had been forged by colonial practices of constructing ethnic differences.23 The darkness alluded to by Sebald conjures up the clichéd and highly problematic association with an imaginary Africa as the heart of darkness with other “darknesses” embedded in historical exploitation and extermination of others outside European white hegemony. In conjuring the dark space of the Nocturama, Sebald makes reference to the symbolic and problematic designation of Africa as the “dark continent.” This short excursion into Sebald’s particular recording of the consequences of colonial domination gives us a perspective through which we can note the lack of seeing in the voyeurism of dark tourism that has arisen in the wake of the Holocaust (although the practice of visiting battlefields and sites of lynching preexists Holocaust tourism, as we know) and that continues full force in Rwanda. The preservation of the memory of the genocide through digital means and through the display of bones, for example, seems to focus on the visceral experience of contact with the remains of the dead. The framing of images and, particularly, of the act of seeing and being seen, plays a major role in Alfredo Jaar’s “Rwanda Project,” an artistic project that crystallizes the ongoing debate about the function and reach of photos of suffering that emerged during the First World War and continues to this day because of the endless proliferation and manipulation of these images through states of online framing. Jaar visited Rwanda immediately after the genocide in August 1994. In a series of installations based on his trip, the Chilean artist portrays suffering in ways that dissuade those who see it from sensationalizing images of brutality. In “The Eyes of Gutete Emerita,” Jaar captures the eyes of a survivor in an installation that ends with a brief image of the eyes in two light boxes preceded by the following text: Her eyes look lost and incredulous. Her face is the face of someone who has witnessed an unbelievable tragedy and now wears it. She has returned to the place in the woods because she has nowhere else to go. When she speaks about her lost family, she gestures to corpses on the ground, rotting in the African sun. I remember her eyes. The eyes of Gutete Emerita.24

Of this exhibition, Jaar has said: “In that fraction of a second, I want the spectator to see the massacre through the eyes of Gutete Emerita [a survivor of the genocide]. I think that this is the only way to see the massacre now, since we failed to see it in the actual images of the Rwandan genocide.”25

McGlothlin.indd 282

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



283

The image of these eyes that have witnessed utter violence and that look us straight in the eye, yet do not see us, creates a relationship described by Emmanuel Levinas as a face-to-face encounter with the Other, in which the eyes are both the gateway to the inner life (some might say soul) of the Other and the barrier to establishing contact. Rather than identify with the dead or those who have narrowly escaped death, we are to take responsibility for them, not through identification or empathy, but through a distancing that leaves them in their own realm. Thus the remembering of genocide in disparate times and spaces takes on characteristics that are motivated by digital exchange and images that create affective responses toward the dead that both enable and erase difference. As Levinas notes, Responsibility for the Other, for the naked face of the first individual to come along. A responsibility that goes beyond what I may or may not have done to the Other or whatever acts I may or may not have committed, as if I were devoted to the other man before being devoted to myself. . . . A guiltless responsibility, whereby I am none the less open to an accusation of which no alibi, spatial or temporal, could clear me.26

Drawing from Levinas’s concept of the other as the person to whom I bear responsibility but whose experience as a separate being I must not efface, I am curious about what we see when we are faced with the images of suffering that are made more—not less—familiar through the framing and composing of testimonies in Rwanda according to models prevalent in existing testimonies by Holocaust survivors. That is, when I listen to testimonies of the victims of Rwanda’s genocide, what do I “see” that distinguishes them from the testimonies of the victims of the Holocaust? Or are the stories I hear less different because of the way they are framed? How has our ability to hear and see the testimonies of survivors and perpetrators been affected by their renderings through digital technology? I suggest another incorporation of digital media that addresses the emotional residue of the genocide in Rwanda. There is a local Rwandan practice that substantiates living memories in ways that were rarely— if ever—possible in the wake of the Holocaust. Even as the digital mediation of genocide memory through testimony provides a sense of immediacy and contact with the survivor, the affective lives of the survivors (and, in some cases, the perpetrators), appears to be outside the realm of the official process of recording the testimonies. The genocide and its aftermath have also become the subject of a budding independent film industry by Rwandans for Rwandans. Even as non-Rwandan films on the Rwandan genocide abound, the establishment of the film festival Hillywood, for example, has brought filmmaking within Rwanda into a framework formed by the diverse experiences of Rwandans living in

McGlothlin.indd 283

10/16/2016 2:06:04 PM

284



KAREN REMMLER

Rwanda and in other African countries.27 In comparison to the booming industry of Holocaust remembrance in feature and documentary film from the perspective of the second, third, and now fourth generations after the Holocaust, digital representation in Rwanda is marked by an immediacy and access to both victims and perpetrators that was not always possible in Germany, Poland, and other European countries in the postwar period.28 Most recently, Rwandans have begun to make their own films. Studios such as Almond Tree Films and the Rwanda Film Institute have begun to sponsor workshops and competitions for youth and others to bring their ideas to fruition while learning the skills of filmmaking.29 Responding to the memory of genocide has spurred a new cinema, the first cinema in Rwanda, as told in the documentary Finding Hillywood.30 That is, the digital images that emerge in the testimonies of those with direct experience of the genocide or returnees whose families were all but wiped out help Rwandans to work through the emotional residue left untouched by official forms of memorialization. As Eric Kabera states, “The genocide is present in every screenplay I read, in every film idea.”31 Finding Hillywood tells the story of a fledgling film industry dedicated to teaching young people to make films as a form of healing after the genocide. Dismayed by the influx of feature films by non-Rwandans about the genocide, Kabera and other filmmakers, such as Gilbert Ndahayo and the Cameroon-born François Woukouache, have created opportunities for youth to learn the basics of filmmaking and have themselves produced documentary films that address the impact of the genocide on present-day Rwanda.32 Many Rwandan filmmakers seek to resist the influence of Western films that define the experience of the genocide. Their work defies the hegemonic exchange between global North and South in order to capture differentiated lives that are not solely determined by contemporary genocide and violence but also by the damage of preceding colonial and current neocolonial oppression and brutality. Nevertheless, the emotional residue left unrecounted by political forms of memorializing genocide among the descendants of the Holocaust bears some resemblance to the emotional responses apparent through the processes of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and the Gacaca courts in Rwanda. This form of restorative justice would have been unthinkable in the direct aftermath of the Holocaust. The retributive justice model of the Nuremberg trials paved the way for today’s international courts and tribunals. These courts try perpetrators of crimes against humanity based on international law, but do not attend to the emotional needs of the victims of genocide. TRCs, on the other hand, often pay more attention to the well-being of survivors. We see a shift away from a highly mechanized, instrumentalized process of moving post-conflict societies from violence to degrees of less violence to a recognition of the needs of human beings

McGlothlin.indd 284

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



285

to mourn their dead. Whereas the remembering of the Holocaust among Germans who could not claim victim status took shape as a memorializing of the Other (namely the Jew), remembering in most non-Western postgenocide nations, such as Cambodia and Guatemala, takes place in the presence of the Other; that is, perpetrators and survivors face one another and are codependent, as evident in Rwanda. In revisiting the relationship of Holocaust memory to German studies, it makes sense in light of increased work on transcultural and transnational circulation of images and of tropes of trauma to remain vigilant to the expropriation of cultures of testimony embedded in Judeo-Christian Western societies and to explore how histories of colonial and neocolonial appropriation of local knowledge affect the transmission of memory from one generation to another in countries such as Rwanda. However, we are still left with a number of questions. What is the place of digital technology in constructing a global “mediapolis” in which narratives of genocide retain their historical and political contingencies, while at the same time demanding our attention not as media consumers but as ethically bound secondary witnesses?33 In other words, political processes fall short when it comes to accommodating the emotional residue of the experience of genocide, in particular in the treatment of the dead. How might one compare memory cultures in the digital age through differentiated modes of framing of the images, rather than through the so-called universal experience of suffering? Even as the remembrance of the Holocaust continues to dominate visual and narrative mediation of atrocity in Western contexts, its relevance as a touchstone for remembering nonWestern genocides may be suspect. It is this suspicion that needs to be more fully articulated when global mediation both enables and represses alternate frameworks for survivor testimony in the digital age. Even as we recognize the transnational movements of Holocaust memory within “fluid and global arenas of change,” as outlined in the introduction of this volume, we still need to work on recognizing the unintended consequences of exporting narrative frameworks that assume a clean transfer between one set of survivor memories to another.

Notes I am grateful for feedback on earlier drafts of this essay from Bettina Bergman, Robin Blaetz, Anna Botta, and especially Darcy Buerkle. I am also indebted to Erin McGlothlin for her superb editing of this essay. 1 Gilbert Ndahayo’s film Behind the Convent contains footage of the proceedings of a gacaca court, in which he confronts those responsible for the death of his parents. The DVD of this film is a Ndahoyo Production, 2005. 2

In his essay “Mediating Genocide: Producing Digital Survivor Testimony in Rwanda,” Mick Broderick asserts that the institutionalized contexts of genocide

McGlothlin.indd 285

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

286



KAREN REMMLER

narratives in Rwanda need to be understood within more local contexts of the “desire of survivors and victims to self-preserve and self-present their own experience” (217). In Documentary Testimonies: Global Archives of Suffering, ed. Bhaskar Sarkar and Janet Walker (New York: Routledge, 2010), 215–44. 3

See Ethan Walters, Crazy like Us (London: Robinson, 2011).

4

The foundation websites describe the support they provide for the collection of testimonies in Rwanda and often point to the process of reconciliation as a model for recovering from genocidal violence. Their cooperation with the KGM and the major commemorative events is also highlighted on their websites. See Aegis Trust, http://www.aegistrust.org/index.php/What-we-do/what-wedo.html, and USC Shoah Foundation, http://sfi.usc.edu/news/2014/04/ kwibuka20-commemoration-concludes-mission-rwanda. 5

Scholars such as David and Catherine Newbury, William F. S. Miles, Mark Levene, Steven Katz, and René Lemarchand have made claims about the pros and cons of comparing the genocide in Rwanda with the Holocaust, including comparisons of authoritarian methods of controlling the masses through propaganda, of the build-up over time of dehumanization of the Other, of state policies dictating the eradication of the Other in order to preserve a racialized body politic, and, finally, of victims’ justice in Rwanda and Israel. For an overview of these and other analyses see William F. S. Miles, “Round Table: The Nazi Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide,” Journal of Genocide Research. 5, no. 1 (2003): 131–48. 6

Imagine my surprise when I visited the archive of the KGM, and met by chance the KGM’s international director of design, a California theater director and playwright. Hired by the Aegis Trust to create a story arc for the commemorative process, the designer is not the only non-Rwandan engaged in the process. See USC News, accessed August 24, 2014, https://news.usc.edu/65046/ usc-shoah-foundation-marks-20th-anniversary-of-rwandan-genocide/. 7

Indeed, Robert Booth argues in his article “Does This Picture Make You Think of Rwanda” that PR firms based in London have transformed the image of Rwanda from one associated with genocide to one associated with exemplary reconciliation and gorilla parks at the expense of the actual investigation of human rights abuses. Guardian, August 3, 2010. 8

Judith Butler, Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (London: Verso, 2009), 100.

9

See Yaffa Eliach. There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok. (Boston: Back Bay Books, 1999). 10

See Eric Kabera’s film The Keepers of Memory (Beverly Hills, CA: Choices, 2005). 11

The film Granito or How to Nail a Dictator (DVD, Skylight Pictures, USA, 2011, dir. Pamela Yates), for example, depicts attempts to bring a major perpetrator to justice in Guatemala against the backdrop of the work of forensic anthropologists. The story of their work of excavating and identifying violated corpses is intertwined with the process of enacting a proper burial for victims of genocide and other forms of extreme violence. The film includes footage of forensic anthropologists examining the exhumed skeletons in a mass grave, presumed to be the remains of dissidents killed by the paramilitary in Guatemala.

McGlothlin.indd 286

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



287

12

See http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw/index.php/Nyamata (retrieved Aug. 24, 2014). 13

Sara Guyer, a leading authority on this issue, has pointed out that the anonymity of the bones repeats “genocidal impersonalization. So the bones indicate a sense of speechlessness in a society that is itself composed of repressed speech.” See Sara Guyer, “Rwanda’s Bones,” boundary 36, no. 2 (2009): 163. In contrast to a highly “stylized and hyper visible” remembering of the Holocaust, the insistence upon the materiality of the dead seems to serve a purpose for dark tourism, the industry that caters to those who visit sites of genocide, war, and violent death. Despite the claim that they serve as evidence of the killing, the remains really have no function other than to politicize the memory of the genocide (ibid., 166). Once again, Sara Guyer gets it absolutely right: “The memorials can be understood to serve political violence in the present even as they appear to reveal its horrors” (ibid., 170). 14 Jacques Derrida, “On Forgiveness,” in On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, trans. Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes, preface by Simon Critchley and Richard Kearney (London: Routledge, 2001). Increasingly, policy makers in the fields of transitional justice or conflict resolution are recognizing that the political means of retribution, punishment, and accountability for genocide do not necessarily address the underlying sentiments in the affected group that bring about an ability to acknowledge culpability and to accept the inheritance of the taint of criminal acts committed by actual family members or those embedded within national identity. See, for example, Mark A. Drumbl, Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 15

Bridgette Wessels, Bob Anderson, Abigail Durrant, and Julie Ellis, “Mediating Genocide: Cultural Understanding through Digital and Print Media Stories in Global Communication,” International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics 8, no. 2/3 (2012): 193–209. 16

See, for example, Rwanda Film Institute Blog, accessed August 24, 2014, http://rwandafilminstitute.wordpress.com/. 17

Jacques Rancière, “What Makes Images Unacceptable?” Talk held on October 6, 2007, at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, http://culturalgenderstudies. zhdk.ch/veranstaltungen/documents/jacquesranciere/FORM_JRanciere.pdf. 18

Geoff Dyer, The Missing of the Sommes (New York: Vintage Books, 2011), 39.

19

W. G., Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Random House, 2001). See also W. G. Sebald, Unrecounted: 33 Poems by W. G. Sebald, 33 Lithographs by Jan Tripp, Essays by W. G. Sebald and Andrea Köhler and Two Additional Poems by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, trans. Michael Hamburger (New York: New Directions, 2004). 20

Sebald, Unrecounted.

21

See the recording of Sebald speaking at the 92nd Street Y on Oct. 13 2001, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccMCGjWLlhY. Sebald speaks of his writing as “saving souls, but not in a religious sense.” Any discussion about Sebald in the digital age and about 9/11, a watershed in the Western world for digital surveillance and virtual remembering, will need to acknowledge how the dead are now

McGlothlin.indd 287

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

288



KAREN REMMLER

immortalized online and their presence repeatedly replicated. Are virtual remembrances simply an extension of the crafted conjuring of the dead in Sebald’s juxtaposition of text and image? 22

Sebald, Austerlitz, 3. The Nocturama is a section of Antwerp zoo that houses nocturnal animals.

23

This is a generally accepted interpretation among multiple scholars. See Gerard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); and Catherine Newbury, The Cohesion of Oppression: Clientship and Ethnicity in Rwanda, 1860–1960 (New York: Columbia University Press,1988). 24

David Levi Strauss, “A Sea of Grief Is Not a Proscenium. The Rwanda Project of Alfredo Jaar.” In Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (New York: Aperture Foundation, 2003), 96. Italics in original. 25

Quoted by Rubén Gallo, “Representations of Violence: The Limits of Representation,” Trans 3/4 (1997): 61. Strauss describes his encounter with another installation of Jaar’s that included one million slides, all of the same eyes. “Eyeto-eye, we are involved. If the world turned a blind eye to the killings in Rwanda, Gutete Emerita did not. Her eyes saw it clearly. Looking into her eyes, perhaps we too will see it. It is a risky, some will say foolhardy attempt, but it works.” Strauss, “A Sea of Grief Is Not a Proscenium,” 98. 26

Emmanuel Levinas, “Ethics as First Philosophy,” in The Levinas Reader, ed. Sean Hand (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 83.

27

For an excellent analysis of filmic forms of remembering the genocide, see Alexandre Dauge-Roth, Writing and Filming the Genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda: Dismembering and Remembering Traumatic History (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010). 28

In a forthcoming essay I explore the motives of the filmmaker Malte Ludin, the son of a Nazi criminal, whose film 2 oder 3 Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß (2005) creates multiple digital afterlives. This film is transnational and speaks to the globalization of memory and the generational transmission of the Holocaust through family genealogies that cross geographic boundaries of violation. Karen Remmler, “Normalization and Its Discontents in Contemporary Germany,” in Three Way Street: Germans, Jews, and the Transnational, ed. Jay Geller and Leslie Morris (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, forthcoming). 29

See the following for more information: the website of Almond Tree Films, accessed August 24, 2014, http://www.almondtreefilms.com/, and the website of the Rwanda Film Institute, accessed August 24, 2014, http://rwandafilminstitute.wordpress.com/. 30 Eric Kabera created a film center in 2002 for training purposes and transformed a fledging industry into a major film festival that travels throughout the countryside, using an inflatable screen. See Rwanda Cinema Center Blog, accessed August 24, 2014, http://rwandacinemacenter.wordpress.com/about/, and the website of the Rwanda Film Institute, accessed August 24, 2014, http://rwandafilminstitute.wordpress.com/about/.

McGlothlin.indd 288

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

REMEMBERING GENOCIDE IN THE DIGITAL AGE



289

31 Kabera, quoted in Oliver Barlet, “Representing the Itsembabwoko,” Black Camera 4, no. 1 (Winter 2012): 248. 32

For a discussion of the connection between the growing local culture of filmmaking and genocide testimony in Rwanda, see Mick Broderick, “Mediating Genocide,” 215–44. 33

McGlothlin.indd 289

See Wessels, Anderson, Durrant, and Ellis, “Mediating Genocide,” 205.

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

15: The Memory Work of William Kentridge’s Shadow Processions and His Drawings for Projection Andreas Huyssen

I

N SOME OF MY PAST WORK on the visual arts I have addressed ways in which Holocaust memory, together with its images and tropes, has migrated into other geographic, political, and historical contexts—into Argentinean memorial projects and Marcelo Brodsky’s photo work, into installations by Colombian artist Doris Salcedo and Polish artist Miroslav Balka, and into literary and visual work on the Indian Partition in Anita Desai’s fiction and Nalini Malani’s video-shadow plays. Such migrations of discourse fragments into non-related later contexts are not to be seen as equations of the Holocaust with other traumatic events and experiences. They rather testify to the powerful model of Holocaust discourse for attempts to come to terms with histories of genocide and state terror elsewhere in the world. In each case the memory politics are different, requiring linguistic and historical knowledge that does not come easy to Germanists. But the centrality of the Holocaust in current memory, genocide, and human rights debates across the world has made a geographic expansion of German studies unavoidable, while at the same time posing practical challenges and difficulties for deep transnational understanding and analysis. There is cognitive and political gain to be had if German studies moves beyond the Holocaust memory bubble and its national confines. Much comparative and transnational work is currently being done in our field. Just as international artists work increasingly out of the ruins of European modernism these days, the issues raised by Holocaust memory now have a global field of resonance, often conflictual, polemical, and politically loaded. This is where German studies can intervene and establish links to other geographic and disciplinary fields. The increasingly transnational dimension of Holocaust studies must never ignore the specifically German dimension of the Holocaust, which continues to haunt German postwar generations and German politics to this day. But in the context of ongoing genocides, ethnic cleansings, and massacres in our own time, the recourse to theories of uniqueness and

McGlothlin.indd 290

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

THE MEMORY WORK OF WILLIAM KENTRIDGE’S SHADOW PROCESSIONS



291

unrepresentability, so strong still in the 1990s, has become counterproductive to a deep understanding of memory politics in our world. In this essay I want to raise another issue: not the migration of Holocaust memory into the aftermath of South African apartheid—a topic in its own right, as we remember the initial debates that led to the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in lieu of prosecutions along the model of the Nuremberg Trials—but rather the deliberate absence of Holocaust memory in the work of Johannesburg artist William Kentridge. Avoidance of direct references to the Holocaust is a signature of Kentridge’s memory politics, even when he works directly with German and other European materials. It seems to me that as a South African Jew and beneficiary of the apartheid system he would want to avoid conjuring up Jewish victimhood and the Holocaust in his critical treatment of colonialism and South African racism. That way he can treat the German genocide of the Herreros in Namibia in his work as part of the history of European colonialism without immediately equating colonialism with fascism. And yet, the Holocaust and its subliminal relationship to colonialism shadows his work throughout, just as he keeps drawing on German writers, artists, and composers whose work he adapts and subjects to fascinating metamorphoses in the African context. Kentridge’s adaptations of Büchner’s Woyzek, Goethe’s Faust, Mozart’s Magic Flute, and most recently Schubert’s Winterreise are examples of how German materials are made to resonate with the dialectic of European enlightenment, with colonialism, violence, and death in aesthetically compelling and extraordinary ways. From early on, Kentridge’s work has revolved around what he has called the rock of apartheid, always aware that the sheer weight of that rock was inimical to the task of aesthetic representation. But rather than indulge in theories of unrepresentability, once so prominent in aesthetic debates about trauma and Holocaust memory, he does re-present, tell stories, create powerful figures in his drawings for projection, opening up the gaps and fissures of the seen and the unseen as he tries to coax his viewers out of their disavowal of the past and into an active engagement with shadows and mnemonic uncertainty. In its robust engagement with biography and a traumatic South African history placed within the trajectory of European colonialism, Kentridge’s work is political through and through, especially in the ways he goes beyond the victim/perpetrator binary and focuses on the beneficiary. Throughout his work, William Kentridge has deployed the shadow play as part of a centuries-old art of performance, transforming it into a medium of political memory and intervention. Memory of the decades of apartheid and its continuing violent after-effects determine his works in such a way that the very form of the shadow play stages not just the content but the very structures of memory, evasion, and forgetting.

McGlothlin.indd 291

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

292



ANDREAS HUYSSEN

Throughout, Kentridge grants special attention to his own role as a white South African artist and a beneficiary in the history of colonialism in his country. I will first discuss some of his 9 Drawings for Projection, continue with the Shadow Procession from 1999, and conclude with some very preliminary comments on his most recent work, The Refusal of Time, which was first shown at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel in 2012 and is now installed in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The 9 Drawings for Projection In the 9 Drawings for Projection, Kentridge combines the traditional mode of charcoal drawing with an obsolete support technology: stop motion animation film, which he himself calls stone-age animation. A charcoal drawing is photographed, minimally changed, photographed again, and so on. Different base drawings mark the cut from one scene to another, serving as ground for the sequences of the film. Drawing by drawing, scene by scene, a film of moving images emerges from this stop motion animation technique. Remembering and forgetting are constitutive for Kentridge’s practice of charcoal drawing, which anchors all his animations. The shadow structure of the Drawings for Projection is quite different from that of the shadow plays I’ll discuss later. Here the shadow is the preserved trace of an erasure, a stain or a barely visible outline of bodies, buildings, objects that point to the version of the drawing immediately preceding it. The medium of drawing becomes a palimpsest in the drawings themselves and then again in their cinematic motion. Continuous metamorphosis of things, faces, and landscapes is the guiding principle in the progression of drawing. Erasure, effacement, and wiping out become the material manifestations of the very structure of memory. What remains in the movement of time is the trace. In their specific form, the Drawings thus reflect the unstable structure of political memory itself. The metamorphosis of that which is remembered corresponds to the metamorphoses in the creation of the charcoal drawings. Synchronic images emerge that, as palimpsests in motion, carry their own diachronic negation along with them. The commonplace binary of memory vs. forgetting as an either/or is belied by the preservation of traces of the past as shadows, stains, and mnemonic outlines in the drawings, and extends to the traces of charcoal dust visible on paper and in the film. The past remains materially present in shadow-like residues. This becomes especially palpable in the ways in which Kentridge treats the Johannesburg landscape, a landscape that in its industrial deprivation and stony, fallow flatness seems rather a negation of landscape in any emphatic sense, most certainly a negation of traditional landscape painting, which in the South African context was always invested in lush colonial fantasies about Africa.

McGlothlin.indd 292

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

THE MEMORY WORK OF WILLIAM KENTRIDGE’S SHADOW PROCESSIONS



293

Fig. 15.1. William Kentridge, video still from Mine, 1991. (35mm film transferred to video, black and white, sound, 5:50 min.) Image courtesy of the artist.

In Kentridge’s work, landscape becomes a space of visible and invisible social conflicts, a place of exploitation, manslaughter, and murder. Kentridge draws an industrial landscape with telegraph poles, electrical pylons, sinkholes, and gigantic mine heaps. The surface of this landscape is molded by the work in the veins of gold underneath, the exploitation and oppression of black miners. The film Mine shows the depth dimension and exploitative structure of this landscape; Felix in Exile deals with manifestations on the surface.1 The central figure in Mine is Soho Eckstein, who appears as a real-estate mogul and mine owner. He gains visual access to the brutal reality of mine labor only through the surreal metamorphosis of his cafetière into a power drill (fig. 15.1). The cafetière as drill imaginatively translates the relation of leisure to labor, capital to back-breaking physical work in the mine, thus establishing a visual link between the above and the below. From Soho’s table it drills downward, penetrating the surface of the earth all the way down to the subterranean shafts and tunnels of the mine to the workers’ shower-room and sleeping stalls, which resonate with photographs from Dachau and Buchenwald.2 In another image, a schematic overhead view of the layout of the mine’s tunnels and galleries turns into the layout of the sleeping quarters of captured human cargo on a slave ship of the middle passage. In the end,

McGlothlin.indd 293

10/16/2016 2:06:05 PM

294



ANDREAS HUYSSEN

Fig. 15.2. William Kentridge, video still from Felix in Exile, 1994. (35mm film transferred to video, color, sound, 8:43 min.) Image courtesy of the artist.

however, it is only profit from exploited labor that interests Soho Eckstein, and the film ends with the appearance of a toy-sized rhinoceros on Soho’s bed, a domesticated pet, as it were, which confers African identity on the white entrepreneur. Johannesburg would not have become Johannesburg without the gold mines in the East Rand. It is the social and economic history of the Johannesburg landscape that Kentridge compresses into his image animation. In comparison to Mine, the memory politics of Felix in Exile seem more conciliatory (fig. 15.2). It features the other side of white hegemony in South Africa: if Eckstein is the entrepreneur, Felix Teitelbaum is his double, the intellectual. With these key narrative figures Kentridge sidesteps the binary opposition of perpetrators and victims that dominated the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and was equally prevalent in earlier trauma discourse. In Felix, too, landscape as history forms a main theme. A female black land surveyor with her theodolite points to the time after apartheid, when the land is surveyed anew and thus repossessed by its original inhabitants. At the same time, the land is littered with slain bodies, which are then metaphorically and literally “covered” by newspapers, melt into the landscape, and disappear from view (fig. 15.3). Here Kentridge used his memory of

McGlothlin.indd 294

10/16/2016 2:06:06 PM

THE MEMORY WORK OF WILLIAM KENTRIDGE’S SHADOW PROCESSIONS



295

Fig. 15.3. William Kentridge, video still from Felix in Exile, 1994. Image courtesy of the artist.

documentary press photos from the Sharpeville massacre as the basis for his drawings. In a surreal mirror scene, Felix, the artist-intellectual, stands eye to eye with the female land surveyor. In the film, she appears both as a comforting, motherly figure and as a figure of erotic attraction to the exile, a gender stereotype often repeated in Kentridge’s work. But she, too, is shot in the end, with her body metamorphosing into a sinkhole in the landscape. The film ends with a naked Felix, seen from behind, standing in that sinkhole, helpless and at a loss, before the film simply breaks off. Kentridge’s words about the Johannesburg landscape resonate strongly with one of the first scenes in Lanzmann’s Shoah, in which Simon Srebnik, survivor of the mass killings at Chełmno, returns to the killing fields to find a now peaceful space at the edge of the forest. Kentridge says: I’m really interested in the terrain’s hiding of its own history, and the correspondence this has . . . with the way memory works. The difficulty we have in holding on to passions, impressions, ways of seeing things, the way that things that seem so indelibly imprinted on our memories still fade and become elusive, is mirrored in the way in which the terrain itself cannot hold on to the events played out upon it.3

McGlothlin.indd 295

10/16/2016 2:06:07 PM

296



ANDREAS HUYSSEN

Even landscape, a cipher of invariability and constancy, is unable to hold on to the past or to bear witness. Felix remembers the violence done, but he is an intellectual outsider who does not convert his memory into political agency, perhaps a reflection by the artist on his own situation. Kentridge speaks of the difficulty of holding on. In this regard, he eschews the sort of dark melancholy that characterizes a writer such as W. G. Sebald. In Sebald’s last novel, Austerlitz the narrator, haunted by Belgian colonial and Nazi violence, reflects on memory: Selbst jetzt, wo ich mich mühe, mich zu erinnern . . ., löst sich das Dunkel nicht auf, sondern verdichtet sich bei dem Gedanken, wie wenig wir festhalten können, was alles und wieviel ständig in Vergessenheit gerät, mit jedem ausgelöschten Leben, wie die Welt sich sozusagen von selber ausleert, indem die Geschichten, die an den ungezählten Orten und Gegenständen haften, welche selbst keine Fähigkeit zur Erinnerung haben, von niemanden gehört, aufgezeichnet oder weitererzählt werden.4 [Even now, when I try to remember . . ., the darkness does not lift but becomes yet heavier as I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on.]5

Ultimately, Kentridge’s take is not as dark as Sebald’s, as can be shown in a brief comparison of two of his shadow plays, Shadow Procession and The Refusal of Time.

Shadow Procession (1999) The philosophical and aesthetic dimensions of Kentridge’s work with shadows are laid out in his 2001 lecture “In Praise of Shadows.” Kentridge draws on Plato’s cave parable in order to suggest, against Plato, that shadows do have pedagogical and epistemological value. They stimulate the visual imagination to fill in the gaps of that which is not or only barely visible, a process that can lead to insecurity and productive ambiguity, according to Kentridge. In that way they teach us to negotiate the blind spots of vision and knowledge. Shadows promote sensuous, that is aesthetic, reflection on the practices of seeing and the inescapable dialectic of light and darkness. It is no coincidence that Kentridge directed Mozart’s Magic Flute very much against the grain, giving the Queen of the Night her due and problematizing Sarastro, the benevolent enlightener. In his recent Harvard Norton lectures, Kentridge reiterated the value of shadows:

McGlothlin.indd 296

10/16/2016 2:06:09 PM

THE MEMORY WORK OF WILLIAM KENTRIDGE’S SHADOW PROCESSIONS



297

It’s in the very limitation and leanness of shadows that we learn. In the gaps, in the leaps we have to make to complete an image, and in this we perform the generative act of constructing an image . . . Recognizing in this activity our agency in seeing, our agency in apprehending the world.6

The figures of Kentridge’s Shadow Procession hover in just such a realm of indeterminacy. We know neither where they come from nor where they are going. Processions and marches traditionally have a goal: the realm of the sacred or its secular equivalent, such as the progress of society, the protest against injustice, or the migrant’s search for a new home. After a century of murderous utopias and colonialisms, and in this specific transitional moment in South African history, according to Kentridge, it has become impossible to name the goal or telos of the procession. And thus the procession simply peters out and breaks off at the end. It is never made entirely clear whether its purpose is mourning, supplication, flight, or protest. The music underlying the first part is elegiac, hymnical, and repetitive. The falsetto voice and melancholy refrain, played on the accordion by Alfred Makgalemele, a Johannesburg street musician, are mournful and plaintive. But because they are based on the melody of the religious hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” they also contain a moment of hope. Both the music and the images point toward apartheid, the collapse of which has set in motion a migration, a march into an unknown and insecure future. Or could these shadows refer to those who did not survive apartheid—a kind of ghostly death march toward the beyond? A miner hanging from a gallows suggests something like that. Two other figures carry a corpse. Still others move on prostheses. Mutilations abound. The ending of the first segment then shows a group of bent-over figures who carry a whole city on their backs—no doubt the black workers who built Johannesburg for their colonial masters. And then there are the miners who mined the gold that provided the basis for the wealth and rule of Johannesburg’s white colonizers. Different times and spaces are conjured up, but they are left indeterminate for the imagination of the viewer. The second part of Shadow Procession serves as a kind of intermezzo, providing a transition to a very differently structured procession in the third part. We see Alfred Jarry’s grotesque Ubu figure with his typical pointed headgear, dressed in a loose black cape, huge tummy and gigantic, shovel-like hands. In front of a backlit screen, Ubu climbs up to the stage from below. Lumbering to the rhythm of drums, Jarry’s grotesque, scatological dictator cracks a whip to loud effect as a non-audible laughter rocks his heavy body: Ubu as slaveholder and colonizer. Explosions and screams fill the soundtrack at the beginning of this sequence. But seeing and hearing are not in sync. We hear the cracking of the whip, but we

McGlothlin.indd 297

10/16/2016 2:06:09 PM

298



ANDREAS HUYSSEN

don’t see it. We see the laughter, but don’t hear it. The elegiac melancholy effect of the slowly moving, burdened figures of part one is turned into political satire and burlesque. No question here who is the target of the whip’s lashes. The third part returns to the procession. But now it is very different figures who cross the space before the screen that earlier formed the backdrop for Ubu’s pantomime. This procession moves rather chaotically and is accompanied by inflammatory toyi-toyi songs and slogans familiar from the rallies of the anti-apartheid movement of the 1990s. Objects such as scissors, a compass, a stamp, a megaphone are anthropomorphized, taking their place in a procession that now comes across as a revolt of objects—yet another homage to the cinema of attractions. A woman in a headscarf and bearing a wandering staff suddenly turns around and attacks a wealthy female figure, who appears as an Italian expresso pot with a hinged lid. A live cat, stretching itself as if awakening from sleep, covers the whole screen and a gigantic eye gazing in horror is suddenly interspersed in the procession, reminding us of Buñuel’s Chien andalou. Surreal, anarchic violence threatens the orderly progress of the parade. The earlier melancholy shadow procession, which, despite its specific South African connotations also conjured up the misery of refugees and migrants worldwide, has become a surreal and chaotic danse macabre. It shows us other actors, white actors and their objects, which of course also appear as black shadows. But then suddenly it breaks off. Perhaps this third part, with its spasmodically twitching cat performing an aggressive dance on its hind legs (in the Ubu play, a creature always connected with the white elites of South Africa) points already toward the social conflicts of the post-apartheid period. But then the political message suggested would be not even minimally hopeful, but rather pessimistic and disillusioned. Nothing here suggests transition to democracy or equality of white and black. The self-referentiality of Shadow Procession is heightened by the fact that behind the silhouetted figures in the foreground, indistinct shadows appear on a screen in the background, although their movements do not seem to be entirely coordinated with the movement of the procession. The seven-minute film actually begins with these shadows of a second degree. The silhouetted figures of the filmic animation—those firstdegree shadows, as it were—are inspired by the puppet theater, specifically the puppets of Adrian Kohler, with whose Handspring Puppet Company Kentridge created the Ubu production. In Kentridge, of course, rather than puppets, we have two-dimensional flat figures, coarse and schematic collages assembled out of scraps of thick black paper. Rivets and wire join their limbs and make them movable shot by shot. Once projected as film, they feature those abrupt choppy movements resonant with early cinema. These flat monochrome black figures first appear before a gray blurry

McGlothlin.indd 298

10/16/2016 2:06:09 PM

THE MEMORY WORK OF WILLIAM KENTRIDGE’S SHADOW PROCESSIONS



299

background, but then, in the third part, in front of a brightly lit screen, both times accompanied by emotionally loaded music. The materiality of bodies and things as well as their texture is eliminated. We cannot always be certain what we are seeing, but that is precisely what fascinates the spectator, who tries to comprehend this being on the road of people and things. Kentridge wants to engage the spectator in precisely this process of seeing and understanding, a training in insecurity and ambiguity, leading to doubt in the transparency of seeing and the seen. Before turning to the even more complex installation The Refusal of Time, a comment on the politics of visual ambiguity in Kentridge’s work is needed. The instability of vision and the play with shadows in his art do not mean that Kentridge espouses an ambiguous position vis-à-vis apartheid or its afterlife. In his early years he participated in anti-apartheid protests and designed posters for a political theater in Johannesburg. His theater work culminated in the 1990s with a sharp critique of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the production of Ubu and the Truth Commission. The Drawings for Projection, with their key narrative figures of the entrepreneur Soho Eckstein and the intellectual dreamer Felix Teitelbaum, demonstrate clearly enough that he seeks to sidestep the binary opposition of perpetrators and victims that dominated the hearings of the TRC. Instead, Kentridge focuses on fellow travelers, beneficiaries, and personal responsibility for colonialism and apartheid. A process of memory as recognition is set in motion that resists the all-too-common evasions and forgetfulness. By drawing the features of both the capitalist entrepreneur and the intellectual in his, Kentridge’s, own image, he clearly acknowledges his own implication in the apartheid regime. This recognition and self-recognition of responsibility also counteracts the mass media’s marketing of the past, which more often than not results in amnesia.This is the political register in which the insecurity of vision, always bound to the present, meets the insecurity of memory, which is always in danger of lapsing into evasion, repression, and forgetting. In a 1999 interview, curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev asked Kentridge—provocatively or naively—about the implications of his “moral relativism.” Kentridge’s answer could not be any clearer: I don’t think it’s relativism. To say that one needs art, or politics, that incorporate ambiguity and contradiction is not to say that one then stops recognizing and condemning things as evil. However, it might stop one being so utterly convinced of the certainty of one’s own solutions.7

Kentridge’s insistence on multivalent meanings has led critics to other but equally faulty conclusions. To claim that Kentridge’s art is not “about” apartheid is both right and wrong. Right only if “about” is to refer to mimetic forms of representation or documentarism. The animated films

McGlothlin.indd 299

10/16/2016 2:06:09 PM

300



ANDREAS HUYSSEN

that made Kentridge known to the world go back to the last years of apartheid and are very much “about” apartheid (Johannesburg Second Greatest City after Paris, Monument, Mine). Not for nothing did Kentridge come out explicitly in favor of realism.8 Other films of the series, such as Felix in Exile, History of the Main Complaint all the way to Stereoscope and Tide Tables, were made after the first democratic election in South Africa. Not surprisingly, they deal with the memory of apartheid. But here too, the “about” is an “about” with indirection both in form and in content. It is a realism of recognition, not of resemblance. The difference between his work and that of the historical avant-garde does not lie in a programmatic rejection of realism but rather in the absence of any utopia concerning the course of history. Thus no more philosophy of history.

The Refusal of Time (2012) In his recent black-box installation The Refusal of Time, Kentridge once again takes up the shadow procession as part of a much larger installation. It is only a three-minute-long part of a rich visual installation made up of multiple fragmentary narratives screened on the black box’s walls. The procession moves along three walls from left to right. It is a procession consisting of the black shadows of musicians who play a bellowing rhythmic tune on wind instruments as they move forward—tuba, trumpet, trombone, accompanied by drumming and loud shouting through Kentridge’s beloved megaphone. Female dancers perform among the musicians who lead the procession, others follow, straining to pull rickety wagons loaded with people and things as one sees them in parades, and still others march along carrying all kinds of burdensome and heavy objects or, heads bowed down, simply form a queue. Rhythmic exuberance and movement are joined with a sense of oppression, hard labor, and a burdensome life until, in the end, the shadow play goes completely black. Here the shadow procession is loosely embedded in a different narrative context—the homogenization of world time at the Meridian conference in 1884 and the organization of African space at the Berlin conference of colonial powers that same year. The grid of Greenwich time zones is analogous to the grid of arbitrary colonial borders drawn right across African cultures. The refusal of time remains two-sided: mechanical Greenwich time refuses the lived experience of time, temps vécu as Bergson called it, which is never in sync with clock time. The new regimes of time and space were always also perceived as European techniques of domination, thus calling forth resistance and the refusal of Greenwich time. Thus in one of the sequences of the projections that cover three walls of the black box, a primitive bomb cocktail is mixed in a laboratory that features objects known from Kentridge’s earlier films. The anarchist bombing of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich of 1894 is transposed to

McGlothlin.indd 300

10/16/2016 2:06:09 PM

THE MEMORY WORK OF WILLIAM KENTRIDGE’S SHADOW PROCESSIONS



301

1916 in Dakhar, Senegal, when there was a public controversy in Senegal about the Greenwich time regime. But here the homemade bomb blows up the laboratory itself, which simultaneously doubles as the artist’s studio. The revolt against Greenwich time is coded as an anti-colonial refusal of an imposed regime of time and as part of Kentridge’s own aesthetic project. The refusal of linearity and unidirectionality of time has always been a central principle of modern artistic practice, but in Kentridge it is mobilized in direct relation to colonialism. The image sequences of Refusal of Time begin with a ticking metronome that is then multiplied on the three walls of the black box and increasingly loses its beat, either speeding up or slowing down, as if a metronome could experience and articulate temps vécu (fig. 15.4). The spectator wonders whether the multiple metronomes tick at different speeds or whether the film projection is sped up for some and slowed down for others. The effect, at any rate, is loud chaos and metronomes out of control. It is film itself as a medium that reveals how time is out of joint, film that makes the relativity of time visible. More than once, time loses its beat and directionality in Refusal, especially when Kentridge runs film in reverse so that falling objects are seen rising. Fragments of a shattered object fall back in place and cohere again; certain scenes are repeated backward or forward in fast motion. But lived time seems to be preserved in the rhythmic regularity of body movements and sound in the shadow procession. In another sequence Kentridge raises the theme of colonialism explicitly: the film projected onto the wall shows him carrying a black figure on his shoulders. African maps are interspersed with newspaper headlines reporting a revolt in Burundi, a revolt of the Herreros in Namibia, and so on. Kentridge also includes a self-critical gesture that presents the artist himself as the implicated beneficiary of white rule, as when he arranges a sequence of chairs in such a way that an African woman can step comfortably from one to the other. As she moves ahead in her elevated trajectory, he frantically races to bring the last chair on which she stepped forward to the front of her march. As in many other Kentridge works, African female figures play an important (if problematic) role in this installation. Not the white man’s burden, but a form of guilt management? Perhaps. The highpoint in the projections is an exuberant dance of an African woman in flying white gowns, a dance that proceeds in reverse motion as falling black shards are seen rising around the dancer. One of the last sequences then features the shadow procession briefly described above (fig. 15.5). This time, however, it is shadows of live figures in motion rather than paper cutouts being moved in stop motion animation. But as in the film of 1999, they too carry heavy objects of everyday life with them. Several musicians leading the procession play an anarchic rhythmic tune on wind instruments—tuba, trumpet, trombone, accompanied by drumming as they march to the rhythm in the procession. The use of wind instruments

McGlothlin.indd 301

10/16/2016 2:06:09 PM

302



ANDREAS HUYSSEN

Fig. 15.4. William Kentridge. The Refusal of Time (installation view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), 2012. Five-channel video with sound, megaphones, and breathing machine (“elephant”), 30 minutes. A collaboration with Philip Miller, Catherine Meyburgh, and Peter Galison. Jointly owned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Purchase, Roy R. and Marie S. Neuberger Foundation Inc. and Wendy Fisher Gifts and The Raymond and Beverly Sackler 21st Century Art Fund, 2013. © 2012 William Kentridge.

gestures toward the pneumatic experiments of measuring time in late nineteenth-century Paris, represented in the back of the black box by the massive breathing machine, the “elephant,” as Kentridge calls it. Rhythms and sounds come alive here thanks to human breath and bodies in motion that can never be subjected to a strict metrical regime. This shadow procession does not end in surreal anarchy like the shadow procession of 1999, but it culminates in a robust celebration of African life emerging from oppression, colonialism, and postcolonialism.

(In-)Conclusion What broader argument can be drawn from this brief analysis? I might suggest the following: in negotiation with and with a simultaneous distancing from classical modernism, including Holocaust modernism from Adorno to Lanzmann, there emerges in Kentridge’s work an alternative art praxis that may strike us as avant-gardist in its self-conscious coupling

McGlothlin.indd 302

10/16/2016 2:06:09 PM

THE MEMORY WORK OF WILLIAM KENTRIDGE’S SHADOW PROCESSIONS



303

Fig. 15.5. William Kentridge. The Refusal of Time (installation view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) 2012. Five-channel video with sound, megaphones, and breathing machine (“elephant”), 30 minutes. A collaboration with Philip Miller, Catherine Meyburgh, and Peter Galison. Jointly owned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Purchase, Roy R. and Marie S. Neuberger Foundation Inc. and Wendy Fisher Gifts and The Raymond and Beverly Sackler 21st Century Art Fund, 2013. © 2012 William Kentridge.

of aesthetics and politics. But it is an avant-gardism not as a model of progress or utopia dependent on the experience of shock (Benjamin) or on the most advanced, cutting-edge state of the artistic material (Adorno) or, for that matter, on the disavowal of realisms; rather, it is avant-gardism figured as a challenge to think politically through spectacular sensuous installations that create affect on both the local and the global stage. This is avant-gardism not as programmatic destruction of traditional notions of autonomy and the work but as insistence on the Eigensinn, the “differential specificity” (Sam Weber and, in a different context, Rosalind Krauss) of aesthetic work. Kentridge’s work reinscribes and marks a boundary between artistic practice and all that is part of a presentist culture of quick consumption and careless forgetting. In his shadow plays the remembrance of historical trauma and contemporary politics are aesthetically mediated in such a way that deep structures of domination and social conflict in our world are illuminated for the spectator. His use of traditional, even obsolete techniques of representation marks a turn against a

McGlothlin.indd 303

10/16/2016 2:06:09 PM

304



ANDREAS HUYSSEN

technological triumphalism that privileges only the digital. It is no longer a philosophy of history that anchors this kind of avant-gardism, but a sustained doubt in technological progress combined with a political critique of a failing present that has redeemed neither the promises of modernity nor those of postcolonialism. This avant-gardism from the “periphery” offers an intriguing paradox: it implodes the distinction between tradition and the avant-garde, since it transforms the critique of modernity, which was always already part of much European avant-gardism itself, for a postcolonial, globalizing world.

Notes This is an expanded and differently framed version of my earlier work on Kentridge in William Kentridge and Nalini Malani: The Shadowplay as Medium of Memory (Milan: Charta, 2013). 1

For a detailed discussion of Mine see Rosalind Krauss’s essay “‘The Rock’: William Kentridge’s Drawings for Projection,” October 92 (2000): 3–35. My understanding of Kentridge’s work owes a great deal to this pathbreaking essay. 2

In conversation, Kentridge acknowledged that such a reading is possible but insisted that the image draws on extant photographs of Chinese mine laborers from the period around 1900. 3

William Kentridge, “Felix in Exile: Geography of Memory,” in Carolyn ChristovBakargiev, William Kentridge (Brussels: Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux Arts de Bruxelles, 1998), 96. 4

W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz (Munich: Carl Hanser, 2001), 34–35.

5

W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz (New York: Random House, 2001), 24.

6

William Kentridge, “Drawing Lesson 1: In Praise of Shadows,” First Norton Lecture, Harvard University, March 20, 2012, http://mahindrahumanities.fas. harvard.edu/content/william-kentridge-drawing-lesson-one-praise-shadows. 7

William Kentridge, interview with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev in Dan Cameron, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, and J. M. Coetzee, William Kentridge (London: Phaidon, 1999), 34. 8

McGlothlin.indd 304

Kentridge, interview with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, 35.

10/16/2016 2:06:10 PM

Contributors DAVID BATHRICK is Professor Emeritus of German Studies and Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. STEPHAN BRAESE is Professor of European-Jewish Literature and Cultural History at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen in Germany. WILLIAM COLLINS DONAHUE is the John J. Cavanaugh Professor of the Humanities and German at the University of Notre Dame. TOBIAS EBBRECHT-HARTMANN is Lecturer of Film and German Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. KATJA GARLOFF is Professor of German and Humanities at Reed College. ANDREAS HUYSSEN is the Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. IRENE KACANDES is the Dartmouth Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College. JENNIFER M. KAPCZYNSKI is Associate Professor of German and Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. SVEN KRAMER is Professor of Modern and Contemporary German Literature and Literary Cultures at the Leuphana Universität Lüneburg. ERIN MCGLOTHLIN is Associate Professor of German and Jewish Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. LESLIE MORRIS is Associate Professor of German and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Minnesota. BRAD PRAGER is Professor of German and Film Studies at the University of Missouri.

McGlothlin.indd 305

10/16/2016 2:06:10 PM

306



LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

KAREN REMMLER is Professor of German Studies, Gender Studies, and Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College. MICHAEL D. RICHARDSON is Professor of German at Ithaca College. LILIANE WEISSBERG is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor in Arts and Science and Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

McGlothlin.indd 306

10/16/2016 2:06:10 PM

Index N.B. All literary, critical and cinematic texts are listed under the name of the author/director. Adams, Jenni, 34, 35 Adenauer, Konrad, 222 Adler, H. G., 115 Adorno, Theodor W., 22, 110–12, 168–69, 171, 302, 303 Aegis Trust, 274, 277 affect. See Holocaust representation, affect in Akerman, Chantal, 137 Almond Tree Films, 284 American Association of Teachers of German, 81, 84 Améry, Jean, 72 Améry, Jean, works by: Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne, 75 Andersch, Alfred, 76 anti-Semitism, 72, 94, 173, 193, 220, 224, 251 Apartheid, artistic responses to, 6, 12, 291, 294, 297–98, 299–300 Appignanesi, Lisa, 184, 188 Appignanesi, Lisa, works by: Losing the Dead, 178, 181 Arad, Boaz, works by: “Hebrew Lesson,” 267 Arad, Yitzhak, 50 Arendt, Hannah, 204, 224 Arendt, Hannah, works by: Eichmann in Jerusalem, 75 Ash, Timothy Garton, 89 Assmann, Aleida, 217 Assmann, Jan, 217 Attie, Shimon, 137 Auerbach, Berthold, 72 Auschwitz and subcamps, as place, 11, 52, 83, 136, 137, 144, 146,

McGlothlin.indd 307

165, 197–99, 210, 260; used as metaphor or metonymy, 25, 110–11, 137, 161, 163–64, 167, 168, 171 Auschwitz Trials, 222 Ausländerfeindlichkeit. See xenophobia Austrian-Jewish literature, 142, 153. See also German-Jewish literature authorship, 142, 144, 147 autobiographical pact, 149, 180, 190 autobiography, 40, 49, 82, 94, 115, 141, 144, 147–53, 178–82, 185– 88, 189–91, 197; fraudulent, 85, 142, 147, 152 avant-garde, 115, 117, 300, 304. See also Holocaust representation, modernism and Babelsberg studios, 12, 229–45. See also German film Bachmann, Ingeborg, 73 Bäcker, Heimrad, 11, 109, 116–17 Bäcker, Heimrad, works by: nachschrift/transcript, 115 Baider, Tzipi, works by: Just the Two of Us, 10, 40–47, 52–53 Balka, Miroslav, 290 Barbieri, William, 87, 101 Barthes, Roland, 277 Barthes, Roland, works by: Camera Lucida, 113 Bartov, Omer, 94, 102 Basinski, William, works by: The Disintegration Loop, 119 Bathrick, David, 11, 214–25 Bauer, Fritz, 222

10/16/2016 2:06:10 PM

308



INDEX

Baumann, Tobi, works by: Der Wixxer, 256 Beck, Eldad, 197, 199 Becker, Jurek, 72, 73 Beckett, Samuel, 171 Bełżec, 222 Benigni, Roberto, works by: La vita è bella, 68 Benjamin, Walter, 77, 233–34, 242, 243, 303 Benjamin, Walter, works by: “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit,” 75 Bergen-Belsen, 60, 118 Berlin, as film location, 12, 229–45, 255; Holocaust memory in, 67, 88, 89, 90, 91, 96, 160–61, 263 Berlin Wall, 167, 200 Bernstein, Charles, 114 Bernstein, Michael André, 194, 211; backshadowing, 194, 211 Bhabha, Homi, 107; third space, 107 Bild-Zeitung (BILD), 101, 259 Biller, Maxim, 75, 142, 144 Biller, Maxim, works by: Wenn ich einmal reich und tot bin, 143 biographical pact, 180 Biography, 142, 146, 179, 181, 190, 291 Blackbourn, David, 90, 94 Blutinger, Jeffrey C., 33 Boghiguian, Anna, 121 Böll, Heinrich, 73, 76 Bomba, Abraham, 38 Borowski, Tadeusz, 95 Bosmajian, Hamida, 3 Bourke-White, Margaret, 267 Braese, Stephan, 3, 10, 28, 57–79, 153, 263 Braun, Eva, 205 Brecht, Bertolt, 131 Brecht, Bertolt, works by: Dreigroschenoper Threepenny Opera, 131 Brodsky, Marcelo, 290 Brown, Michael, 118

McGlothlin.indd 308

Browning, Christopher, 33, 82, 94, 103 Browning, Christopher, works by: Ordinary Men, 184 Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, works by: Sonnets from the Portuguese, 113 Bruch, Volker, 28 Brunner, Alois, 137 Brussig, Thomas, 97 Brussig, Thomas, works by: Leben bis Männer oder: Der Fußballtrainer, 97 Buchenwald, 37, 293 Buchenwald Anthem (Buchenwaldlied), 50 Büchner, Georg, works by: Woyzek, 291 Buck, Detlev, works by: Rubbeldiekatz, 243 Buñuel, Luis, works by: Chien andalou, 298 Burgstaller, Alois, 207 Burke, Edmund, 169, 171 Bush, George, 111 Butler, Judith, 107, 275–76 Butler, Judith, works by: Frames of War, 275 Byhan, Inge, 211 bystanders. See Holocaust representation, bystanders in Carrard, Phillipe, 180 Celan, Paul, 13, 71, 72, 73, 171 Chaplin, Charlie, works by: The Great Dictator, 247, 251 Chełmno, 222, 295 Cheney, Dick, 80 Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), 80 Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU), 262 Christov-Bakargiev, Carolyn (CCB), 120–22, 137, 299 Chrostowski, Witold, 49, 50 Churchill, Winston, 236 cinema. See film; German film Clinton, Hillary, 252

10/16/2016 2:06:10 PM

INDEX Clooney, George, works by: The Monuments Men, 232 Cohn, Dorrit, 180, 189 Cold War, 89 colonialism, 291–92, 297, 299, 301– 2. See also post-colonialism coming to terms with the past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung), 10, 20–23, 25–26, 29, 41, 76, 80, 84, 86, 88, 101, 102, 159, 221 Conter, Claude, 3 Crownshaw, Richard, 35 cultural memory. See memory Dachau, 118, 207–10, 293 Dada, 119 Dalbavie, Marc-André, works by: Charlotte Salomon, 132 Damon, Maria, 110, 112 de Winter, Leon, 75 Deckerinnerung. See screen memory Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst), 133, 139 Deleuze, Gilles, 110 Demnig, Gunter, 95 Derrida, Jacques, 108, 279 Desai, Anita, 290 Deutsche Bahn, 90 Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA). See German film Diekmann, Kai, 260 Diner, Dan, 70, 74, 164 Dischereit, Esther, works by: Joemis Tisch, 154 Disney, 251 dOCUMENTA, 120–22, 138 documentary film. See film Donahue, William Collins, 10, 67, 80–104 Donnersmarck, Florian Henckel von, works by: Das Leben der Anderen, 89 Dössekker, Bruno. See Wilkomirski, Binjamin Dyer, Geoff, works by: The Missing of the Sommes, 281 Eaglestone, Robert, 35

McGlothlin.indd 309



309

Ebbrecht-Hartmann, Tobias, 12, 229–48 Eger, Erik, works by: One Hundred Years of Evil, 249 Eichmann, Adolf, 2, 129, 204; trial of, 40 Eisenmann, Peter, 160–61, 267 Eisenmann, Peter, works by: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, 160–61 Eliach, Yaffa, works by: Tower of Faces, 277 emigration, 133. See also exile empathy. See Holocaust representation, identification in Entartete Kunst. See Degenerate Art Epstein, Helen, 181, 184, 185, 187 erasure poetry. See poetry Erdle, Birgit, 72 Erk, Daniel, 250, 265 Erpenbeck, Jenny, 98 Erpenbeck, Jenny, works by: Heimsuchung, 97, 175 ethnic cleansing, 58, 290. See also genocide Europe, concept of, 58, 72, 74, 75, 179, 191, 232, 291 exile, 70, 137, 185, 222, 235, 272 exile literature, 3 Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven, 3 Fackler, Guido, 50 fascism, 21, 264 Fassbender, Michael, 236 Federal Republic of Germany. See Germany, Federal Republic of Felman, Shoshana, 38, 148 Felstiner, Mary Lowenthal, 137 Fiedler, Cornelia, 261 film, 3, 9, 10, 12, 20, 84, 89, 132, 136, 201, 214–24, 229, 231–45, 250, 251, 253, 264, 284, 298, 301; documentary film, 10, 11, 35–47, 52, 148, 169, 196, 199, 202, 204, 210, 214, 219, 222, 240, 277, 278, 280, 284; Hollywood, 84, 235. See also German film

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

310



INDEX

Finkelstein, Norman, 182 Finsterwalder, Frauke, works by: Finsterworld, 248 Fischer, Joschka, 90 Fitterman, Robert, 109, 112–17 Fitterman, Robert, works by: Holocaust Museum, 112–14; Rob the Plagiarist, 112 Flusser, Vilem, 115 Foucault, Michel, 115, 215 Frank, Anna, 60–61, 63, 130 Frank, Anna, works by: Het Achterhuis: Dagboekbrieven, 60 Frank, Hans, 185 Frank, Niklas, 179, 181, 197 Frank, Niklas, works by: Bruder Norman!, 179, 186 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), 19, 162 Franz, Kurt, 49–50 Franzen, Jonathan, 102 Franzos, Karl Emil, 72 Freedman, Jonathan, 117 Frei, Norbert, 22 Fremont, Helen, 184, 190–91 Fremont, Helen, works by: After Long Silence, 178, 189 Freud, Sigmund, 66 Freud, Sigmund, works by: Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, 75 Friedländer, Saul, 33, 68, 98 Frisch, Max, 65 Fromm, Friedmann, works by: Nacht über Berlin, 229 Ganz, Bruno, 250 Garloff, Katja, 11, 141–55 Geisel, Theodor (Dr. Seuss), 251 Gelber, Mark, 71–72, 77 generations, 5–6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 19–20, 23–30, 41, 49, 52, 63–64, 68, 74, 77, 85, 86, 130, 142, 153, 161, 162–63, 167, 178–79, 181, 184–86, 188, 190–91, 195, 201, 214–21, 224, 239, 252, 254, 263–64, 273, 280, 285, 290. See also memory Genette, Gérard, 142, 145

McGlothlin.indd 310

genocide, 1, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 28, 29, 38, 39, 58, 81, 94, 98, 108, 164, 168, 222, 290, 291. See also ethnic cleansing; Rwandan genocide genocide studies, 12, 94 German Democratic Republic. See Germany, German Democratic Republic German film: contemporary, 20, 229, 236, 242, 243; DEFA, 231, 239; industry, 219, 230, 235, 238; Nazi cinema, 235, 237, 238, 242, 245; treatment of Nazi past in, 12, 20, 68, 197, 214, 221, 229, 231–33, 236, 238, 242–45; UFA, 230, 235, 242; Weimar cinema, 230, 235, 236, 242; West German, 231. See also film German studies, 1–6, 8–12, 30, 57, 62–63, 66, 69–77, 81–82, 84–85, 90, 94, 107–8, 179, 229, 263, 271–72, 290 German Studies Association, 81–82, 90, 94 Germanistik. See German studies German-Jewish literature, 3, 11, 72–73, 75, 76, 107, 109, 142, 143, 144, 146. See also Austrian-Jewish literature Germany: contemporary memory culture in, 9–10, 12, 19–30, 80–98, 167, 173–74, 229; Federal Republic of, 2, 64, 73, 164, 222, 223; German Democratic Republic, 20, 70, 88, 97, 102, 144, 146, 186, 231, 234, 239; politics and society, 21, 23, 58, 63–68, 76, 87, 90, 159, 162, 235, 237, 250, 255, 290; post-unification, 229; Third Reich, 7, 11, 12, 28, 195, 205, 215, 218, 219, 222, 231, 233–34, 236, 238–39, 242, 245; Wilhelminian Empire, 69 Gershon, Dora, 220 Gerster, Jan-Ole, works by: Oh Boy, 243–45, 248 Ghani, Mariam, 120 Ghraib, Abu, 275

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

INDEX Gilman, Abby, 84 Gilman, Sander L., 3, 72, 101 Glazar, Richard, 38, 49, 50–51 globalization, 58 Globke, Hans, 222 Goebbels, Joseph, 2, 63, 219, 221, 223, 231, 235–38, 242 Goering, Bettina, 197 Goeth, Monika, 197 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 2 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, works by: Faust, 291 Goethe Institute, 82 Gold, Artur, 50 Goldhagen, Daniel, 87 Goldhagen, Daniel, works by: Hitler’s Willing Executioners, 87 Goldsmith, Kenneth, 118 Goodrich, Frances, 60, 138 Grass, Günter, 21–23, 24–26, 65, 76 Grass, Günter, works by: Beim häuten der Zwiebel, 24; Im Krebsgang, 21–22 Greaney, Patrick, 112, 115 Green Party (Germany), 262 Greenspan, Hank, 41–42, 53 Grimm, Jacob, 69 Gross, Jan Tomasz, 94, 172–73 Group 47 (Gruppe 47), 76 Guattari, Félix, 110 Gudzuhn, Jörg, 97 guilt, 20–21, 31, 62–64, 76, 87, 146, 154–55, 173, 188–89, 191, 217, 220, 222–23, 261, 263, 279, 301 Gurlitt, Cornelius, 66 Gurs Internment Camp, 136 Gutmann, Ruth, 83 Hackett, Albert, 60, 138 Hake, Sabine, 266 Halbwachs, Maurice, 217 Handspring Puppet Company, 298 Hanika, Iris, 161–67, 173–74 Hanika, Iris, works by: Das Eigentliche, 11, 161–67, 174; Tanzen auf Beton, 162 Hansen, Miriam, 233 Harlan, Alice, 216–17

McGlothlin.indd 311



311

Harlan, Casper, 223 Harlan, Chester, 217 Harlan, Kristian, 223 Harlan, Thomas, 216, 220–24 Harlan, Thomas, works by: Hitler war meine Mitgift, 221 Harlan, Veit, 216–17, 219–23 Harlan, Veit, works by: Jud Süss, 11, 216, 219–24 Hausmann, Leander, 239 Hausmann, Leander, works by: Herr Lehmann, 234; Sonnenallee, 229, 239, 241 Hawkey, Christian, 113 Hawkey, Christian, works by: Sonne from Ort, 113 Heartfield, John, 251 Heer, Hannes, 204–5 Heger, Leo, 197 Heine, Heinrich, 71, 72, 77 Heisenberg, Benjamin, works by: Über-Ich und Du, 248 Heller, André, works by: Im toten Winkel—Hitlers Sekretärin, 210 Herbst, Christoph Maria, 256 Hersonski, Yael, 240, 247 Hersonski, Yael, works by: A Film Unfinished, 240, 247 Hilberg, Raul, 82, 85, 94, 115, 116 Hildesheimer, Wolfgang, 73 Hilsenrath, Edgar, 73, 143 Himmler, Ernst, 206 Himmler, Gebhard, 206 Himmler, Gudrun, 208 Himmler, Heinrich, 11, 184, 195, 202–5, 207–10 Himmler, Katrin, 197, 202, 205, 206, 207–10 Himmler, Katrin, works by: The Himmler Brothers, 210; Himmler privat, 202–3, 207, 210 Himmler, Margarete Hirsch, Marianne, 5, 52, 148, 152, 200, 203 Hirschbiegel, Oliver, works by: Der Untergang, 68, 250, 252 Hirsz, Walter, 50 Hitchcock, Alfred, 236

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

312



INDEX

Hitler, Adolf, 24, 28, 63, 83, 97, 187, 194–95, 205, 206, 208, 215; representations of, 12, 243, 249–65 Hitler, Adolf, works by: Mein Kampf, 115, 253, 261 Hitler Youth, 63, 65, 115, 179 Hochhuth, Rolf, 95 Hoelzel, Alfred, 1–4, 8–9, 13 Hoffmann, Eva, 34 Hofmann, Nico, 19–20 Hogan’s Heroes (television series), 252 Hollywood. See film Holocaust (television miniseries), 2, 68 Holocaust education: at German universities, 10; at American universities, 84 Holocaust memory: collective memory, 87, 174, 217; false memory, 147; generational memory, 5–6, 10, 62, 64, 148, 161, 195, 216, 218, 264, 290; memory culture, 8–9, 10, 107, 173, 275, 285; postmemory, 148, 152; prosthetic memory, 266; role of film in, 10, 20, 148, 216, 229, 233, 241–42, 245, 280, 283–84, 300 Holocaust representation: affect in, 27, 35, 40–41, 64, 148, 188, 190–91, 274, 275, 280, 283; in art, 137; bystanders in, 6, 12, 35, 201; commercialization and, 68; contemporary genocides and, 6, 12, 271–73, 282–84; debates about, 6–7, 80, 109, 112, 220, 290–91; digitalization and, 5, 12, 109, 110, 245, 265, 271–75, 277, 280, 282–85, 288; in education, 1, 10, 41, 64, 81, 84, 86; in film, 3, 9, 10–12, 20, 27, 35, 40, 41, 52, 68, 81, 148, 214, 218, 229, 231, 245, 251, 284; generational aspects of, 5–6, 8, 10–11, 20, 27, 29, 30, 41, 49, 62–64, 68, 74, 77, 86, 130, 153, 161–63, 178–79, 181, 188, 190–91, 195, 218, 239, 252, 263–64, 290; iconography of, 109; identification in, 11, 21,

McGlothlin.indd 312

34, 58, 65, 117, 148, 149, 153, 159, 160, 162–71, 174, 224, 275, 283; irony in, 22, 27, 45, 236, 253–55, 265, 275; in literature, 1–4, 8, 13–15, 72, 76–77, 94, 95, 130, 137; memorialization and, 11, 21, 40, 41, 52, 67, 89, 95, 159–61, 166–67, 274, 280, 284, 285; modernism and, 290, 302; perpetrators in, 3, 6, 10–12, 15, 20, 28–29, 33–35, 39, 47, 49, 59, 60–61, 63, 75, 77, 88, 94, 152–53, 159–61, 165, 170–74, 178–82, 183–85, 188–89, 191, 195–97, 201, 204, 208, 214, 218, 221, 224, 240–41, 271–72, 277, 279–80, 283–85, 291, 294, 299; satire in, 163–65, 174, 256, 298; survivors in, 3–4, 6, 8–11, 15, 33–35, 40–43, 46–47, 49, 52–53, 81–86, 129, 144, 146–50, 152–53, 165, 171, 178–80, 182, 183–85, 188, 271–76, 278–80, 282–85, 295; testimony in, 3, 15, 33–35, 38, 39, 41, 45, 47, 52, 53, 60, 81, 83, 84, 142, 148, 152, 184, 189, 223, 241, 281, 283, 285; trauma in, 4, 5, 9, 12, 45, 49, 58, 94, 97, 111, 113, 120, 136, 137, 147–48, 215, 219, 222, 266, 272, 273, 278, 280, 285, 290, 291, 294, 303; trivialization and, 161, 252; unrepresentability and, 291; victims in, 3, 6, 10–13, 15, 21, 33–35, 37–39, 66, 71, 74, 83, 85, 89, 94, 129, 137, 148, 152–53, 160–61, 162–67, 168–73, 174, 181, 183, 194, 221, 224, 252, 262, 274, 277, 278–81, 283–85, 291, 294, 299; violence in, 6, 148, 155, 170, 171, 181, 197, 199, 206–8, 210, 262, 274–75, 280, 281, 284, 286; voyeurism in, 154, 170, 282; witnessing in, 4, 179–80, 185, 187, 239, 241, 271, 281 Holocaust studies, 2, 4–5, 8–11, 63, 72–73, 75–77, 82, 85, 90, 94, 107–9, 179, 229, 263, 265, 290

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

INDEX Honigmann, Barbara, 142–43 Honigmann, Barbara, works by: Ein Kapitel aus meinem Leben, 143; Eine Liebe aus Nichts, 143 Horch, Hans Otto, 73 Hornstein, Shelley, 137 Höß, Hans-Jürgen, 198, 210 Höß, Rainer, 197, 199 Höß, Rudolph, 197 Hungerford, Amy, 147–48, 152 Huyssen, Andreas, 3, 5, 6, 12, 290– 304 identification. See Holocaust representation, identification in irony. See Holocaust representation, irony in Israel, 33, 40, 59, 67, 71, 75, 86, 129, 144, 146, 150–51, 224 Jaar, Alfredo, 282 Jaar, Alfredo, works by: “The Eyes of Gutete Emerita,” 282; “Rwanda Project,” 282 Jacoby, Jessica, 220–21, 223–24 Jacoby, Jessica, works by: Nach der Shoah geboren, 224 Jacoby, Klaus, 220 Jarry, Alfred, 297 Jaskot, Paul, 201 Jens, Walter, 66 Jewish studies, 86, 89, 98, 107–9 Johannesburg, 291, 292–95, 297, 299 Joods Historisch Museum, 121, 130 Judaism, 73, 129, 141, 145 Jüdisches Museum Berlin, 67, 89 Junge, Traudl, 210 Jureit, Ulrike, 159–62, 166–71, 173–74 Kabera, Eric, 278, 280, 284 Kacandes, Irene, 11, 48, 178–93 Kadelbach, Philipp, works by: Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, 19–20, 27–29, 173, 229, 248, 304 Kafka, Franz, 71, 72 Kagame, Paul, 275 Kapczynski, Jennifer, 1–16, 19–32

McGlothlin.indd 313



313

Karpf, Anne, 184, 85, 187, 192 Karpf, Anne, works by: The War After, 178, 181, 185, 187 Katz, Steven, 286 Kayser, Wolfgang, 69 Kékesi, Zoltán, 51 Kempowski, Walter, works by: Alles umsonst, 98 Kentridge, William, 12, 291–95, 296– 99, 300–303 Kentridge, William, works by: 9 Drawings for Projection, 292, 299; Felix in Exile, 293–94, 300; History of the Main Complaint, 300; “In Praise of Shadows,” 296; Johannesburg Second Greatest City after Paris, 300; Mine, 293, 300; Monument, 300; The Refusal of Time, 292, 296, 299–301; Shadow Procession, 292, 297–98; Stereoscope, 300; Tide Tables, 300; Ubu and the Truth Commission, 299 Kertész, Imre, 58, 95 Kessler, Michael, 256 Kierkegaard, Søren, 254 Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (KGM), 273, 277–78 Klemperer, Victor, 75, 206 Klüger, Ruth, 34, 65, 77, 95 Knopp, Guido, 204, 250 Knopp, Guido, works by: Hitler’s Generals, 204, 205, 213 Kohler, Adrian, 298 König, Christoph, 65 Körber, Hilde, 216, 220 Körber, Maria, 220 Körber-Harlan, Susanne Christa, 220 Kracauer, Siegfried, 230–31, 233, 235–36, 242, 243, 245 Kracauer, Siegfried, works by: From Caligari to Hitler, 236 Kramer, Sven, 11, 159–77 Krauss, Rosalind, 303 Krzepicki, Abraham, 39 Kubrick, Christiane, 220 Kubrick, Stanley, 220 Kumpfmüller, Michael, 24–25, 26, 29

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

314



INDEX

Lacis, Asja, 233 Landsberg, Alison, 5, 266 Langer, Lawrence, 2, 41 Lanzmann, Claude, 36–40, 49, 51, 302 Lanzmann, Claude, works by: Shoah, 10, 36–40, 42, 46–47, 49, 50, 51, 295 Lapa, Vanessa, works by: Der Anständige, 11, 202–5, 209, 213 Lebert, Norbert, works by: My Father’s Keeper, 209, 304 Lebert, Stephan, 208 Lebert, Stephan, works by: My Father’s Keeper, 304 Lejeune, Phillipe, 149, 180 Lemarchand, René, 286 Lemelman, Martin, 184 Lemelman, Martin, works by: Mendel’s Daughter, 178, 193 Leopold II, 282 Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim, 2, 76 Levene, Mark, 286 Levi, Primo, works by: The Drowned and the Saved, 184 Levinas, Emmanuel, 283 Levy, Daniel, 5, 57, 58–60, 61–62, 68, 304 Libeskind, Daniel, 89 Lifshitz, Lea, 41, 44 Lind, Jakov, 13 Lindberg, Paula, 128–29, 130, 134 Littell, Jonathan, works by: Les Bienveillantes, 48, 170 Loewy, Ernst, 70 Loewy, Hanno, 61 Lorenz, Dagmar, 2, 3, 14 Ludin, Barbel, 218 Ludin, Hanns Elard, 215 Ludin, Malte, works by: 2 oder 3 Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß, 214, 215–16, 218, 288 Mahncke, Dieter, 86, 87, 90, 100 Majdanek, 40, 52, 144, 146 Makgalemele, Alfred, 297 Malani, Nalini, 290 Mann, Thomas, 2

McGlothlin.indd 314

Manoschek, Walter, works by: Serbien ist Judenfrei, 184 Marcuse, Harold, 23 Martin, Elaine, 3 Masucci, Oliver, 255 McGlothlin, Erin, 1–16, 15–16, 31, 33–53, 48–49, 196 McHugh, Heather, 109, 111, 113 memoir. See autobiography Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, 67, 89, 160, 263 memorialization. See Holocaust representation, memorialization and memory. See Holocaust memory Menasse, Eva, 24–25, 26, 29 Meng, Michael, 94 Mengele, Josef, 212 Mengele, Rolf, 195, 212 Merkel, Angela, 67 Miles, William F. S., 286 Miller, Lee, 120 Milton, Sybil, 82 Mirroring Evil (exhibit), 267 mise en abîme, 199, 234, 244 Moeller, Felix, 223 Moeller, Felix, works by: Der Filmminister, 219; Harlan: Im Schatten von Jud Süss, 11–12, 214, 216–17, 219–24 Moers, Walter, works by: Adolf, die Nazi Sau, 252 Moller, Sabine, 63 monuments. See Holocaust representation, memorialization and Moore, Ottilie, 128–29, 134, 138 Morgenstern, Soma, 13 Morris, Leslie, 11, 107–19 Morrison, Bill, works by: Decasia, 119 Moser, Keith, 38 Moses, Stéphane, 72 mourning (Trauerarbeit), 20, 136, 274–76, 297 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 133 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, works by: die Zauberflöte, 291, 296 Mulisch, Harry, 130

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

INDEX Müller, Ray, works by: Die Macht der Bilder, 219; Die Verhoevens, 219 Nagler, Alexander, 134 National Socialism. See Germany, politics and society; Third Reich National Socialist Underground (NSU), 88, 101 Nazi cinema. See German film Ndahayo, Gilbert, 284 Ndahayo, Gilbert, works by: Behind the Convent, 285 Newbury, Catherine, 286 Newbury, David, 286 Nichols, Bill, 204 Niemann, Beate, 179, 182, 184, 185, 187, 188–89, 191 Niemann, Beate, works by: Mein guter Vater, 180, 181, 186, 187, 188 Niven, William, 89 Nolden, Thomas, 144, 154 Nora, Pierre, 234 Novick, Peter, 2, 82, 83, 182 Nuremberg Trials, 115, 179, 184, 185, 186, 284, 291 Obersalzberg (television series), 250 O’Connor, Flannery, works by: “The Displaced Person,” 9 Office, The (television series), 250 Oliv, Magnus, works by: One Hundred Years of Evil, 249 Pabst, G. W., 236 palimpsest, 108, 116, 236, 241, 292 paratext, 11, 142, 143, 144–47, 148– 50, 152–53, 154, 180–82, 183, 185, 191 Pathé, 208 PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamicization of the Occident), 7, 88 Percival, Brian, works by: The Book Thief, 232 Perloff, Marjorie, 109

McGlothlin.indd 315



315

perpetrators. See Holocaust representation, perpetrators in Petersen, Ad, 129 Petzel, Barbara, 139 Plath, Sylvia, 9 Plato, 296 poetry, 109–18, 171 Polanski, Roman, 239–41, 248 Polanski, Roman, works by: The Pianist, 229, 231, 239–41 Pollock, Griselda, 122 Pollock, Griselda, works by: The Book of Books, 122 Posner, Gerald, 197, 212 post-colonialism, 107, 302, 304. See also colonialism post-unification Germany. See Germany, post-unification Prager, Brad, 11, 49, 194–213 Primor, Avi, 86 propaganda, National Socialist, 216, 223, 235–36, 243, 251; artistic responses to, 114, 205, 236, 239–40 Proust, Marcel, 108 Rabinovici, Doron, 142, 153 Rabinovici, Doron, works by: Andernorts; Suche nach M., 153 Racine, Jean, works by: Esther, 108 Rancière, Jacques, 280 Reich-Ranicki, Marcel, 71 remediation, 11, 112, 211, 281 Remmler, Karen, 3, 12, 271–89 Renov, Michael, 214 Rentschler, Eric, 237 Resnais, Alain, works by: Nuit et brouillard, 202 Reznikoff, Charles, 115 Richardson, Michael D., 12, 249–68 Richter, Gerhard, 199–200, 201, 211 Richter, Gerhard, works by: Horst and His Dog, 201; Uncle Rudi, 199–201, 202 Rickels, Lawrence, 209 Riefenstahl, Leni, 219 Rilke, Rainer Maria, 113 Roseman, Mark, 22

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

316



INDEX

Rosenbaum, Ron, 194 Rosenblatt, Herman, 182 Rosenblatt, Herman, works by: Angel at the Fence, 182 Rosenfeld, Alvin H., 3, 61 Rosenfeld, Gavriel, 264, 267 Rosinski, Mark, 132 Rothberg, Michael, 5, 99 Rwanda Cinema Centre, 280 Rwanda Film Institute, 284 Rwandan genocide, commemoration of, 271–80, 282–85, 286, 287 Ryan-Braunsteiner, Hermine (Kobyla the Mare), 208 Ryggen, Hannah, 120 Sachs, Nelly, 71–72 Sachsenhausen, 136 Sagan, Leontine, works by: Mädchen in Uniform, 134 Salcedo, Doris, 290 Salomon, Albert, 129–30 Salomon, Charlotte, 11, 122, 128–37, 139–40 Salomon, Charlotte, works by: Leben Oder Theater?, 11, 121–37, 140 Sandberg, Willem, 129–30 Sarrazin, Thilo, 19–20 Sarrazin, Thilo, works by: Deutschland schafft sich ab, 20 satire. See Holocaust representation, satire in Sattler, Bruno, 179, 183, 185, 188, 189, 191 Schanze, Jens, 214–15, 218 Schanze, Jens, works by: Winterkinder, 214–15, 218 Schechner, Alan, works by: Self Portrait at Buchenwald, 267 Scherman, David E., 120 Schilling, Tom, 28 Schindel, Robert, 143 Schindler, Oskar. See Spielberg, Steven, works by: Schindler’s List Schirrmacher, Frank, 19–21, 23–24, 27, 29 Schirrmacher, Frank, works by: Das Methusalem-Komplott, 24

McGlothlin.indd 316

Schlant, Ernestine, 4, 85 Schlink, Bernhard, 85 Schlink, Bernhard, works by: Der Vorleser, 67, 85 Schlöndorff, Volker, 231 Schlöndorff, Volker, works by: Die Blechtrommel, 231; Der Unhold, 231 Schlußstrich (end of debate). See Germany, contemporary memory culture Schmiderer, Othmar, works by: Im toten Winkel—Hitlers Sekretärin, 210 Schmidt, Albert, 206–7 Schmidt, Harald, 250 Schneider, Christian, 159–62, 166–71, 173–74 Schneider, Peter, 11, 202, 211 Schneider, Peter, works by: Vati, 11, 195–96 Schoenberger, Gerhard, 129 Schönberg, Arnold, 171 Schöne, Albrecht, 72 Schönfelder, Rudolf, 199, 201, 202, 212 Schrobsdorff, Angelika, 143 Schubert, Franz, 130 Schubert, Franz, works by: Winterreise, 291 Schüttler, Katharina, 28 Schütz, Anneliese, 60 Schweitzer, Albert, 194 screen memory, 70 Sebald, W. G., 65, 73, 287–88 Sebald, W. G., works by: Austerlitz, 281–82, 296; Unerzählt, 281 Sedgwick, Eve, 108–9, 117 Seitz, Franz, works by: SA Mann Brand, 237 Seligmann, Rafael, 142, 154 Seligmann, Rafael, works by: Rubinsteins Versteigerung, 154 Sen, Faruk, 101 Şenocak, Zafer, 87 Serup, Martin Glaz, 114 Shandler, Jeffrey, 2 Sichrovsky, Peter, 178, 196

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

INDEX Sichrovsky, Peter, works by: Schuldig geboren, 178, 185, 193, 196, 197, 211–12 Simkhai, Joel, 263 Singer, Isaac Bashevis, 143–44 Sinti and Roma, 19, 89 Skakun, Michael, 181, 184, 186 Sobibór, 50, 222 Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), 97 Söderbaum, Kristina, 216, 222–23 Sondheim, Alan, 109–12, 114, 116–17 Sontag, Susan, 112–14, 118, 169, 171, 173, 275 Speer, Albert, 115 Spiegel, Der, 22, 60, 250, 256 Spiegelman, Art, 184 Spiegelman, Art, works by: Maus, 178, 181, 183, 184 Spielberg, Steven, 83, 84, 239 Spielberg, Steven, works by: Saving Private Ryan, 29; Schindler’s List, 68, 81, 239 Spitzer, Leo, 52 Spivak, Gayatri, 107 Srebnik, Simon, 295 Stangl, Franz, 50, 51 Starski, Allan, 239 Stein, Benjamin, 11, 142–43, 145, 146, 154 Stein, Benjamin, works by: Die Leinwand, 11, 141–42, 144–47, 148–53 Stein, Miriam, 28 Steinbrück, Peer, 80 Steiner, George, 63, 75 Steinhoff, Hans, works by: Hitlerjunge Quex, 237 Stenberg, Peter, 3 Stern, Juraj, 218 Stolpersteine. See stumbling stones Storr, Robert, 201 Straus, Emil, 129 Strauß, Lydia, 199 Stromberg (television series), 250, 256–57 Stroop, Jürgen, 239

McGlothlin.indd 317



317

stumbling stones (tripping stones), 95–96, 98, 103. See also Germany, contemporary memory culture Suchomel, Franz, 10, 36–40, 42–44, 45, 46–47, 49–50, 51, 53 survivors. See Holocaust representation, survivors in Svarcova, Iva, 215 Switch Reloaded (television series), 250, 252, 256 Sznaider, Natan, 5, 57, 58–60, 61–62, 68, 304 Taigman, Kalman, 40–42, 44–47, 52–53 Tarantino, Quentin, 242, 243, 245 Tarantino, Quentin, works by: Inglourious Basterds, 229, 236, 242, 242, 244 teamWorx studios, 19, 27 testimony. See Holocaust representation, testimony in Theresienstadt, 165 Third Reich. See Germany, Third Reich Tillich, Paul, 129–30 Timm, Uwe, 182, 183, 185 Timm, Uwe, works by: Am Beispiel meines Bruders, 179, 180, 181, 182; Rot, 97, 103 Tournier, Michel, works by: Le Roi des aulnes, 231 Towey, Chris, works by: Finding Hillywood, 284 trauma. See Holocaust representation, trauma in Treblinka, 10, 36–47, 49–53, 222 Treblinka Trials, 50 Treichel, Hans-Ulrich, works by: Anatolin, 30; Menschenflug, 30; Der Verlorene, 30 Trepte, Ludwig, 28 Tripp, Jan Peter, works by: Unerzählt, 281 Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC), 279, 284, 299

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

318



INDEX

Tschuggnall, Karoline, 63 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 49, 81, 82, 103, 112, 277; Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, 85, 94 Universum Film AG (UFA). See German film USC Shoah Foundation, 83, 271, 272–73, 274, 275, 277 van Alphen, Ernst, 195 Vennemann, Kevin, 167, 174 Vennemann, Kevin, works by: Mara Kogoj, 167; Nahe Jedenew, 11, 161, 167–74 Vergangenheitsbewältigung. See coming to terms with the past Verhoeven, Michael, works by: Das schreckliche Mädchen, 219; Die weiße Rose, 219 Verhoeven, Paul, 219 Vermes, Timur, 256 Vermes, Timur, works by: Er ist wieder da, 12, 255–65 Vice, Sue, 35, 43 victims. See Holocaust representation, victims in violence. See Holocaust representation, violence in Vogt, Jochen, 69 von Becker, Peter, 22 von Bülow, Vicco (Loriot), 259 von Schirach, Baldur, 179, 185, 187, 188, 193 von Schirach, Richard, 179, 182, 184, 187, 188, 189 von Schirach, Richard, works by: Der Schatten meines Vaters, 179, 180, 181, 185, 186, 188, 193 von Trotta, Margarethe, 241–42 von Trotta, Margarethe, works by: Rosenstraße, 232, 241 voyeurism. See Holocaust representation, voyeurism in Wagner, Richard, 262

McGlothlin.indd 318

Wagner, Richard, works by: Walkürentritt, 258 Walker, Janet, 52 Wallant, Edgar, works by: The Pawnbroker, 8 Wapnewski, Peter, 66 Warlimont, Walter, 207 Warsaw Ghetto, 39, 40–41, 104, 234, 239 Warshawski, Leah, works by: Finding Hillywood, 284 Waxman, Zoë Vania, 52 Weber, Sam, 303 Wedel, Michael, 234, 240 Weill, Kurt, 131 Weimar cinema. See German film Weiss, Peter, 73, 95 Weiss, Peter, works by: Die Ermittlung, 75 Weissberg, Liliane, 11, 72, 120–40 Weissman, Gary, 5, 193 Welzer, Harald, 63 West German cinema. See German film Wiesel, Elie, 34, 95, 181 Wilder, Billy, works by: Stalag 17, 253 Wildt, Michael, works by: Himmler privat, 202, 207–8, 210 Wilhelminian Empire. See Germany, Wilhelminian Empire Wilkomirski, Binjamin (Bruno Dössekker), 147–48, 149–50, 154, 182 Wilkomirski, Binjamin (Bruno Dössekker), works by: Bruchstücke, 85, 41–42, 144, 147–50, 152, 153, 154, 182 Willenberg, Ada, 42 Willenberg, Samuel, 40–47, 49, 50, 52–53 witnessing. See Holocaust representation, witnessing in Wolf, Christa, 103 Wolf, Christa, works by: Was bleibt, 96–97, 98 Wolf, Uljana, 119 Wolfsohn, Alfred, 134

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

INDEX Wolkenkraut, Siegfried, 165 World War I, 135, 253, 281, 282 World War II, 6, 7, 19, 23, 26, 27, 29, 63, 74, 83, 98, 128, 143, 167, 195, 221, 231, 236, 245, 250 Woukouache, François, 284 xenophobia, 9, 88 Yad Vashem, 49, 184

McGlothlin.indd 319



319

Yates, Pamela, works by: Granito or How to Nail a Dictator, 286 Young, James, 89 Ze’evi, Chanoch, works by: Hitler’s Children, 11, 196–200, 202, 210 Zeh, Juli, 25–26, 29 Zero Hour, 26 Zipes, Jack, 3, 72 Zisselsberger, Markus, 49

10/16/2016 2:06:11 PM

will m

At the same time, recent work has brought the Holocaust into the arena of the transnational, leading to a crossroads between localized and global understandings of Holocaust memory. Further complicating the issue are generational shifts that occur with the passage of time, and which render memory and representations of the Holocaust ever more mediated, commodified, and departicularized. Nowhere is the inquiry into Holocaust memory more fraught or potentially more productive than in German Studies, where scholars have struggled to address German guilt and responsibility while doing justice to the global impact of the Holocaust, and are increasingly facing the challenge of engaging with the broader, interdisciplinary, transnational field. Persistent Legacy connects the present, critical scholarly moment with this long disciplinary tradition, probing the relationship between German Studies and Holocaust Studies today. Fifteen prominent scholars explore how German Studies engages with Holocaust memory and representation, pursuing critical questions concerning the borders between the two fields and how they are impacted by emerging scholarly methods, new areas of inquiry, and the changing place of Holocaust memory in contemporary Germany. Contributors: David Bathrick, Stephan Braese, William Collins Donahue, Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann, Katja Garloff, Andreas Huyssen, Irene Kacandes, Jennifer M. Kapczynski, Sven Kramer, Erin McGlothlin, Leslie Morris, Brad Prager, Karen Remmler, Michael D. Richardson, Liliane Weissberg. Erin McGlothlin and Jennifer M. Kapczynski are both Associate Professors in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis. Cover image: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, photo © Jennifer M. Kapczynski, 2016. Cover design: Frank Gutbrod

Edited by M c Glothlin Kapczynski

ou w,

and culture traditionally have focused on particular national contexts.

and

ord ck

n studies of Holocaust representation and memory, scholars of literature

The Holocaust and German Studies

”)

Erin M c Glothlin Jennifer M. Kapczynski Edited by

and