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Jacob HeilbrunnThe most profound book to appear in the past decade on German history.
— The New Republic
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.
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.
|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|