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Lecture 11

HI364 Lecture 11: HI364 Lesson 11 Memory & Commemoration
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Department
History
Course Code
HI364
Professor
Eva Plach

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HI364 Lesson 11: Memory & Commemoration History & Memory: The Field Cultural history • Developed out of the popularity of cultural history • Post-modern approach to studying the present and past Whose memory? • Individual memory? Group memory? Memory of the state/government/wider public/nation/people? • Should there even be something like a national memory? Is it the responsibility of the government to try to create one memory of a particular event in the past? Particularly of the Holocaust? • I.e. Germany has asked that question – what should the German state do to represent the Holocaust? How should it create a standard framework for understanding that event? How should it represent to its own people and to others? • Realm of public memory – how does the population at large see an event represented to them? What do they get out of it? What is the purpose of even doing that? “The only valuable thing about monuments is the discussion they provoke” • Some argue that monuments to the Holocaust are ultimately all flawed • It’s difficult to get any one particular meaning from any of them • They don’t do a good job of establishing public or national memory, of speaking for survivors or victims • Valuable, though, that they provoke discussion • Key ways in which monuments to an event like the Holocaust are important • Stimulate discussion, awareness about historical past Forgetting & neglect • Some argued (governments, politicians, individuals) that some measure of forgetting was absolutely vital to the development of a democratic stable politically healthy Europe in the post-war period • Particularly stable Germany in post-war period • Vital to economic reconstruction • Link then between economic and political stability was extremely important to Europeans in this period and to those who were concerned about the effects of the Cold War and playing out of th Cold War in Europe o America was concerned that an unstable economic Germany would become politically unstable o This would make Germany available for the Communist side • Argument: part of what we see in immediate post-war in Europe is a bit of forgetting, neglect in order to create a “usable past” o A past that was digestible o Able to be incorporated into the individuals, populations, state collective memory o Allows them to work on political and economic stability Compensatory surplus of memory • Memory boom late 1980s and 1990s • Happened in terms of population broadly and society, and also within academia as well • Part of this turn towards cultural history and questions of history and memory generally • Since 1990s have an explosion of monuments, memorials, museums devoted to the Holocaust in Europe and many other places Holocaust Tourism/Dark Tourism The “tourist trail” • Some of these sites of atrocity, where the Holocaust happened, are now very much part of the European tourist trail • Sites that are very much expected to be part of any person’s itinerary when traveling to certain destinations in Europe o That is problematic because of the ways in which the needs of tourists change those initial places • How does having a tourist capacity at Auschwitz place demands on Auschwitz that force certain concessions to be made at the memorial site? o Some fear that this violates the integrity of the memorial and institution Tim Cole • “We were tourists of guilt and righteousness: guilt at an almost pornographic sense of expectancy at the voyeurism ahead. And yet guilt tempered by a sense of righteousness at choosing to come to this place.” • What do people know about the Holocaust and what happened at these sites? • Problem of having these as a banal part of the tourist trail is that they don’t attract people who care about the Holocaust Ethics • Question of historical education • How the sites of commemoration can do enough to education people about what they’re seeing • Avoid t-shirts with images of death camps – real website sells these (Australian company redbubble.com) Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site 1933 • First concentration camp opened 1933 • Liberated by Americans Makeshift memorial towers • Prisoners already made makeshift memorial towers to commemorate their time there, to mark their time there Nazi internment camp • Immediate post-war period was repurposed as Nazi internment camp • It’s being determined who these men are, are they guilty, etc. • Then after that, the next phase is to take in expellees (millions of ethnic Germans pushed out of eastern Europe, pushed into Germany, don’t know where to go, so they’re housed in these camps) Permanent exhibition 1965 • Goes through a number of different permutations increasingly moving away from initial focus on German victimhood • Move toward the symbol of German national failure that it is now • We see in a camp like this is the different ways in which the structure of Dachau in post-war period as a memorial site and museum mirrors/reflects what the wider German public is thinking about its own culpability in terms of the Nazi period • Ultimately move from German victimization to a symbol of German national failure – full recognition and reckoning with German culpability “Holocaust icon” for western tourists • Only concentration camp that most regular people can name • Became the best-known Holocaust “icon” • 800,000 visitors per year • Its popularity reflects that it was liberated by the Americans (particular story of American liberation, known and celebrated in America) Buchenwald Memorial Largest camp • In the Soviet Zone/GDR (East Germany) when Germany is divided in 1949 (for Cold War reasons between the West/Soviet Union) • Used by Soviets for political prisoners in immediate post-war period o Thousands of former Nazis who were imprisoned by the Soviets at this former concentration camp o Create interesting problems much later in terms of who will be commemorated there and how Memorial 1958 • Once Soviet function of the camp closes down in 1950, it becomes time for Germany to think about how to turn the camp into a site of commemoration and remembering the Holocaust • Memorial reflects the context in which the camp exists in the Communist time • Focus first and foremost on the German Communist martyrs who died in this camp • GDR says that Germans have responsibility for the period of the Nazis, but not east Germans • Here in east Germany, we are the ones who fought Fascism • This camp is an appropriate site for their anti-Fascist Communist resistance • Key trope not just in east Germany, but in all of the Soviet Bloc until the collapse of Communism in 1989 o Emphasis on the anti-Fascist component of Communism than on any other part of the atrocity • Jews are left out of the commemoration Post-unification • 1990 • Clear that this kind of commemorative approach won’t work anymore • Transform the camp to show the two sides of the camp • On one hand, emphasis is still on the Nazi camp established by Nazis for the political prisoners of all sorts (including Jews) • Also a site of the Soviet “special camp #2” and that thousands of Germans die here as well o Identified by Communists as real Nazis or being enemies of the new German state Historical photographs • Interesting project to take photographs that they have from the camp and do a careful accounting of precisely where those photos are from • Establish very carefully the prominence of those photographs • One argument: so many photos of the Holocaust floating around, the same photograph is attributed in different places (can have one photo representing many different camps) • This needs to be fixed – it’s important to establish clearly where each photo is from o Having this misattribution gives Holocaust deniers an easy way of building their argument Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe Two competitions • Beings in 1980s in West Germany • The need to have some sort of big dramatic monument in Berlin to the Holocaust • When Communism falls and Germany is reunified in 1990, opportunity to use that urban space I Berlin in a different way • Berlin is united, now opportunity to build a big memorial • Competition in 1995 – doesn’t work • New competition in 1999 o Opportunity to build a memorial is awarded to an American architect, Peter Eisenman Brandenburg gate & Potsdamer Platz • Space between these areas • 1990s prime real estate in central Berlin for the new monument • Built as a Field of Stelai (2005) – concrete slabs Form & purpose • Debated • Eisenman is reluctant to talk about his vision for how people are supposed to experience/react to this site • The point is that there should be no one particular way to experience this space • What’s important is that every individual can experience their own individual way • Unregulated encounters with history that he’s trying to provoke • Thousands of concrete blocks, varying heights, spread over large area, ground undulates Unregulated “encounters with history” • Represents a new approach to monument building that focuses on individual experiences • Supposed to be an experiential monument The Backlash: The Risks of Too Much Memory? Burden of national guilt • “A people that as achieved such remarkable economic success has the right not to have to hear any more about Auschwitz.” (1969) • By 1960s Germany is only in a partial process of a full reckoning of the Holocaust – not about German suffering anymore German suffering • Problem of focusing on German victimization • Moral equivalency that it creates between what Nazism did and the suffering that the Germans experienced • Uncomfortable equivalency Commemoration and (West) German Culture Chancellor Adenauer 1949-62 • First post-war chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany • Father of West Germany • Responsible for German economic miracle • Advocated a policy of certain measure of reconciliation and forgetting – vital to Germany coming to terms with this legacy and burden • He emphasized that you can’t build a country on guilt alone • A measure of forgetting and neglect is important for political stability in the present President Heuss 1949-59 • Advocate of this approach • More inclined to issue statements like this one: Bergen Belson 1952: “No one will fit this shame from us” • Taking German responsibility for the crimes of the war • Patriotism means honesty in modern post-war period • Full reckoning with the past and understanding clearly what exactly Nazism was and what real individuals did, one can’t hide from the past and build a successful future Luxembourg Agreements 1952 • Financial for Israel and individual Jews o Conference of Jewish Material Claims against Germany/WJC o Germany gave money to the state of Israel and certain kinds of goods (ships, medical equipment, technology) stuff that was incredibly important for this new state in the Middle East o Absolutely vital for Israel’s own stability, economic issues, etc. o Germany worked with Israel and gave money to individual Jews as restitution – money came from Claims Conference • Enormously criticized o We shouldn’t do this, we have no obligation to do this o Adenauer pushed for this though • Israeli critics: o Begin (future PM) said “Our honour shall not be sold for money; our blood shall not be atoned by goods. We shall wipe out this disgrace!” o Ultimately restitution continues, but the criticism came from within Germany and Israel o Some said accepting this money means that we accept the apology, which we don’t – this doesn’t make everything okay Restitution & Memorialization in Eastern Europe Communist context • Key importance to the story that memorialization and restitution in eastern Europe • Basic things: property nationalized under Communist system o No negotiating for getting property back “Victims of Fascism” • Themselves having been victims • Ay Communist was a victim of Fascism • That is the victim equivalency/moral equivalency that they draw – Fascists did terrible things to Jews, but also to Communists • Jews get left out of these commemorative efforts Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Monument Granite slabs • Created in 1948 • The first big monument to the Holocaust in Europe • Created in a Communist context o Warsaw ghetto uprising is celebrated as an example of Communist fighters in action • Natan Rapoport designer – spent much of the war in Soviet Union, builds monument in Poland • Granite slabs used for the monument came from Sweden o Had been ordered by Hitler from Sweden to build Berlin Victory monument after the war’s end • Built on the site of the Warsaw ghetto so there’s symbolic element common to a lot of memorials – human remains encased in the structure Back • Anielewicz symbolically and Warsaw fighters, strong active figures that represent what Communists ant to show and don’t find threatening to that Communist context that they’re immersed in • Exile and redemption: scene on the
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