German National Identity After The Holocaust / Edition 1

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For over half a century, Germans have lived in the shadow of Auschwitz. Who was responsible for the mass murder of millions of people in the Holocaust: just a small gang of evil men, Hitler and his henchmen; or certain groups within a particular system; or even the whole nation? Could the roots of malignancy be traced far back in German history? Or did the Holocaust have more to do with European modernity? Should Germans live with a legacy of guilt forever? And how, if at all, could an acceptable German national identity be defined?

These questions dogged public debates in both East and West Germany in the long period of division. Both states officially claimed to have "overcome the past" more effectively than the other; both sought to construct new, opposing identities as the "better Germany". But, in different ways, official claims ran at odds with the kaleidoscope of popular collective memories; dissonances, sensitivities and taboos were the order of the day on both sides of the Wall. And in the 1990s, with continued heated debates over past and present, it was clear that inner unity appeared to be no automatic consequence of formal unification.

Drawing on a wide range of material - from landscapes of memory and rituals of commemoration, through private diaries, oral history interviews and public opinion poll surveys, to the speeches of politicians and the writings of professional historians - Fulbrook provides a clear analysis of key controversies, events and patterns of historical and national consciousness in East and West Germany in equal depth.

Arguing against "essentialist" conceptions of the nation, Fulbrook presents a theory of the nation as a constructed community of shared legacy and common destiny, and shows how the conditions for the easy construction of any such identity have been notably lacking in Germany after the Holocaust.

This book will be of interest to advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students in history, politics, and German and European Studies, as well as established scholars and interested members of the public.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Mary Fulbrook displays a rare capacity for clear and soberthinking about a complex and emotive subject. Her analyses ofacademic, political and private ways of understanding the past inpost-1945 Germany are illuminating. Ideas of fixed nationalidentity are revealed as constructs which serve to createsatisfying links between imagined past, troubled present anduncertain future.' John Breuilly, University of Birmingham

'This is a remarkable book, resting onhistorical scholarship of the highest order, rich in ideas andhighly nuanced in approach.' Journal of European AreaStudies

'An expert dissection of German national identity since 1945,and the role that historians have played in its formation,deformation and reformation ... Fulbrook writes with wit about theEast German leadership's forlorn efforts to manufacture asupportive past ... She is sceptical of grand notions aboutcollective memory, preferring to identify micro-communities eachwith its own sense of the past. Here the divergence between theofficial and the vernacular discourse of memory is starkest, a gulfthat Fulbrook can illustrate thanks to her unrivalled knowledge ofEast German social history.' David Cesarani, The Times HigherEducation Supplement

'In her discussion of these issues Fulbrook displays herenviable capacity for rendering complex ideas in an easilyaccessible form. Indeed, this accessibility, combined withFulbrook's ability to summarize and reflect upon the pre-existingliterature in such judicious fashion, is the chief strength of thisbook as a whole.' German History

'Despite the complexity of the subject, Fulbrook succeeds inpresenting a clear and fascinating account of national identityformation in the two German states after 1950, exploring newavenues of thought and combining public and private views of thepast and its consequences for the present to create a new approachto our dealings with the question of national identity.'European Review of History

'Fulbrook's achievement is to bring out both individualexperience and the importance of historical contingency inexamining questions of national identity. Above all, the booksuceeds in drawing together stark first-hand accounts, by bothperpetrators and victims, of life and death in a concentrationcamp, with their subsequent recontextualizing within the discoursesof shame and blame in the two post-war Germanys.' Patterns ofPrejudice

'All three groups of intended readers - students, establishedscholars, and interested members of the public - should find thisbook rewarding, stimulting, and at times controversial reading. Theoverall analysis is persuasive, judicious, and marked byconsiderable empathy.' Canadian Journal of History

'Fulbrook's tour de force is an informative read for anyone whowishes to educate themselves authoritatively about the "Germandebates" of the last decade.' Journal of ContemporaryHistor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745610450
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 6/11/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,340,121
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents


1. National Identity and German History.

2. Landscapes of Memory.

3. Overcoming the Past in Practice? Trials and Tribulations.

4. Awkward Anniversaries and Contested Commemorations.

5. The Past which Refuses to Become History.

6. Collective Memory? Patterns of Historical Consciousness.

7. Citizenship and Fatherland.

8. Friends, Foes and Volk.

9. The Nation as Legacy and Destiny.


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