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Title: In the presence of the past : 'third generation' Germans and the cultural memory of National Socialism and the Holocaust
Author: Hohenlohe-Bartenstein, Alice
ISNI:       0000 0004 2712 7896
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2011
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This empirical study is based on interviews with 26 grandchildren of Nazi perpetrators, followers and Wehrmacht soldiers and examines how they remember their Nazi family histories and the Holocaust and the Third Reich more generally. Most studies of this ‘third generation’ are framed in the terms of purely constructivist theories of collective (Halbwachs [1925] 1992) or communicative and cultural memory (Assmann 1999) and thus cannot take account of present but unrecognized aspects of the past. In contrast, this thesis draws on the traumatic realism of Dominick LaCapra and others to examine questions concerning the memory and representation of extreme events and makes use of the psychoanalytic notions of working-through and acting-out/mourning and melancholia. It does so to distinguish between what is remembered and what remains dissociated, marginalized and excluded in the grandchildren’s accounts of their Nazi family pasts. It furthermore draws on this non-binary distinction to acknowledge the two interrelated dimensions that remembering the National Socialist past entails in ‘the double “post” of the postmodern and the post-Holocaust’ (Santner 1990: 18): 1) coming to terms with the absence of essential, unfractured and stable identities, i.e. with what Eric Santner and Dominick LaCapra term structural trauma and 2) mourning the suffering caused by the Nazis and countless ordinary Germans, i.e. what both theorists refer to as historical trauma. This study explores how these two dimensions intersect in the generation of the grandchildren to find that the structural dimension has been receding into the background since German unification. This implies that the cultural and official memory of the Holocaust is increasingly either used for the purposes of national identity building, and thus in a redemptive way, or rejected because it is considered to obstruct a return to an essential and pure national identity. In drawing on recent theories of shame, this thesis argues that efforts of ‘coming to terms’ with the NS past can only be ‘successful’ if working-through structural trauma is part of the process.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available