The monument : the Shoah and German memory
The aim of this research project is to analyse forms of remembrance and memory of the Shoah in Germany in its and their political and cultural formations. The underlying question driving the research project is Adorno's famous essay 'What does it mean: coming-to-terms with the past?'. The thesis deals with historical-philosophical reflections and the historical-literary perspective on the complex process of remembering the Shoah in Germany and its monumental manifestations in the form of the planned Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The research project sets out to critique and analyse a body of artistic, literary and philosophical works that engage with the problematics of remembering and re-presenting the Shoah. It explores these critical questions against the backdrop of the changed social and historical conditions of the reunited Germany and makes reference to the debates of the 1990s, the planned Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and the wider context of post-Holocaust discourse. The first chapter delivers an exegetical reading of Walter Benjamin's texts in order to open up new interpretative perspectives for an understanding of the issues at stake. Benjamin's notions of 'history' and 'memory' serve as ideas for a comparative analysis of the problematics of memory in the country of the perpetrators and for the possibilities of future memory. The second chapter discusses the decision-making process for a national, central 'Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe' in Berlin; it explores the winning designs of the competition and their respective implications on what constitutes the memory of the Shoah in Germany. The decision for a central memorial and the implications of the chosen design are measured against the backdrop of the debates of the 1990s and the politics of a re-united Germany. The third chapter discusses the different attempts of literary and (historical-)philosophical reflection on the occurrence of the Shoah in the writings of Thomas Mann, Hannah Arendt, Karl Jaspers and Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich. The chapter questions the political positioning and action of the author Martin Walser, as a representative of the generation of perpetrators, to the process of working-through and coming-to-terms. It critically examines Walser's speech of October 1998 and places the speech in the historical context of coming-to-terms in post-war Germany. The thesis demonstrates that the choice of design. for the planned Holocaust Memorial correlates with the status of politics in the united Germany. It is argued here that the focus on what it is that needs to be worked through and come to terms with, has shifted during the post-Holocaust discourse. The thesis demonstrates that the questions at stake in the most recent debates are the workings-through of a younger generation that confronts part of a horrifying family history. The thesis argues for the necessity of memory and remembrance in the future.