Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys / Edition 1

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What has Germany made of its Nazi past?

A significant new look at the legacy of the Nazi regime, this book exposes the workings of past beliefs and political interests on how—and how differently—the two Germanys have recalled the crimes of Nazism, from the anti-Nazi emigration of the 1930s through the establishment of a day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism in 1996.

Why, Jeffrey Herf asks, would German politicians raise the specter of the Holocaust at all, in view of the considerable depth and breadth of support its authors and their agenda had found in Nazi Germany? Why did the public memory of Nazi anti-Jewish persecution and the Holocaust emerge, if selectively, in West Germany, yet was repressed and marginalized in "anti-fascist" East Germany? And how do the politics of left and right come into play in this divided memory? The answers reveal the surprising relationship between how the crimes of Nazism were publicly recalled and how East and West Germany separately evolved a Communist dictatorship and a liberal democracy. This book, for the first time, points to the impact of the Cold War confrontation in both West and East Germany on the public memory of anti-Jewish persecution and the Holocaust.

Konrad Adenauer, Theodor Heuss, Kurt Schumacher, Willy Brandt, Richard von Weizsacker, and Helmut Kohl in the West and Walter Ulbricht, Wilhelm Pieck, Otto Grotewohl, Paul Merker, and Erich Honnecker in the East are among the many national figures whose private and public papers and statements Herf examines. His work makes the German memory of Nazism—suppressed on the one hand and selective on the other, from Nuremberg to Bitburg—comprehensible within the historical context of the ideologies and experiences of pre-1945 German and European history as well as within the international context of shifting alliances from World War II to the Cold War. Drawing on West German and recently opened East German archives, this book is a significant contribution to the history of belief that shaped public memory of Germany's recent past.

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Editorial Reviews

Jacob Heilbrunn
The most profound book to appear in the past decade on German history.
The New Republic
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
West and East Germans remember the Nazi past in divergent ways that reflect the ideological differences between socialism and communism. In this deep and valuable study, Ohio University historian Herf demonstrates how these two responses to the Nazi past permeated the entire history of the divided Germany. After 1945, only socialists and communists could point to an unbroken history of opposition to the Hitler regime and to their own persecution by the Nazis. West German leaders, especially the socialists, perceived this as giving them a kind of solidarity with the Jews. But even West German conservatives adopted this stance. Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of West Germany, rehabilitated German conservatism by ridding it of its anti-Western elements and by recognizing that Judaism is a major part of the Western tradition. The fact that this position was espoused by a conservative leader helped create the West German consensus on the Nazi past that saw reparations to the victims as a duty. East German Marxists associated Jewish with bourgeois capitalism, though, and opposition to anti-Semitism never became an important part of German communist ideology. The defeat of Germany by the Soviet Union and its allies also seemed to validate the theory that Nazism was merely a tool of reactionary capitalism. For East Germany, then, the important point was not the Holocaust, but the defeat of fascism. It's a complicated topic, but Herf does a fine job of treating it clearly without sacrificing either depth or nuance. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Numerous books such as Andrei S. Markovits and Simon Reich's recent The German Predicament have examined in some manner the Nazi past versus the present world. Herf (history, Ohio Univ.) questions what Germany has made of its past: Is the memory different in the former East than in the West, and if so, why? Herf examines the papers and writings of the major personalities of the former East and West Germany, such as Walter Ulbricht and Konrad Adenauer. Herf feels that leaders who urged their compatriots to look their history in the face raised issues important to any country. Furthermore, they left behind "an often unpopular, discomforting, demanding, yet precious legacy." This study should be in larger academic libraries or large public libraries with strong collections on the Third Reich and Germany.Dennis L. Noble, Sequim, Wash.
Jacob Heilbrunn
The most profound book to appear in the past decade on German history.
The New Republic
Kirkus Reviews
An in-depth analysis of how, during the Cold War, the respective political leaderships of the two Germanys developed very different narratives concerning the legacy of the Third Reich and of the Holocaust in particular.

Herf (History/Ohio Univ.) describes how, in Communist East Germany (GDR), the prevailing ideology of "antifascism" came to be divorced from Nazism; rather, it stood for opposition to the "bourgeois capitalists" in Bonn, London, Washington, and, ultimately, Israel. The GDR's leaders viewed themselves as victims of the Nazis, rather than as heads of one of the Third Reich's successor states, with all the obligations that might entail. Thus, in the early '50s, when some of the GDR's leading theorists advocated reparations to Jewish Holocaust survivors, they were purged from the party. The history of Holocaust memory in West Germany is decidedly more ambivalent. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer accepted the policy of reparations to the Jews, but he did so grudgingly while also "integrating" ex-Nazis into his Christian Democratic government and proceeding sluggishly in prosecuting suspected Nazi criminals. The "heros" of Herf's study are a number of West German presidents, particularly Theodor Heuss (in office 194959), who took the initially highly unpopular stance that postwar Germans should feel collective shame, if not collective guilt, for the Nazis' war crimes, as well as such Social Democratic leaders as Kurt Schumacher, Ernst Reuter, and Willy Brandt. Herf focuses almost exclusively on policy-makers; there is unfortunately little here on the role of public opinion in West Germany, and nothing on such cultural influences as the writer Günter Grass, or on the roles of the small Jewish communities in each country.

Still, this illuminates much of the political cultures of the two Germanys. Herf also has provided a valuable case study of how the quest for memory and justice are largely subsumed by present- day nationalist and other political needs.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674213043
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 558
  • Sales rank: 1,538,128
  • Product dimensions: 1.13 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Herf is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. Among his books is Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich.

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Table of Contents

1 Multiple Restorations and Divided Memory 1
2 German Communism's Master Narratives of Antifascism: Berlin-Moscow-East Berlin, 1928-1945 13
3 From Periphery to Center: German Communists and the Jewish Question, Mexico City, 1942-1945 40
4 The Nuremberg Interregnum: Struggles for Recognition in East Berlin, 1945-1949 69
5 Purging "Cosmopolitanism": The Jewish Question in East Germany, 1949-1956 106
6 Memory and Policy in East Germany from Ulbricht to Honecker 162
7 The Nuremberg Interregnum: Divided Memory in the Western Zones, 1945-1949 201
8 Atonement, Restitution, and Justice Delayed: West Germany, 1949-1963 267
9 Politics and Memory since the 1960s 334
10 Conclusion 373
Notes 397
Sources 503
Acknowledgments 507
Index 515
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