German 272


German 272  
Fall 1997 
Dienstags, Donnerstags:  
10:00 - 11:15 Uhr  
CH 134 
Silke von der Emde
Chicago Hall 133, x 55618
Di, Do 11:30 - 12:30
email: vonderemde

G 272: Mastering the Unmasterable German Past

"What is past is not dead; it is not even past."  Christa Wolf

The vehement debate about Daniel Goldhagen's recent book Hitler's Willing Executioners, the contradictory reactions to the opening of Schindler's List in Germany, the heated discussions about the planned Holocaust memorial in Berlin, the reactions to Ronald Reagan's visit to the military cemetery of Bitburg in May 1985, the acrimonious dispute among West German historians about the place of the Holocaust and the Third Reich in German history--all these examples not only attest to the lack of a national consensus about German history but also demonstrate the extent to which Germany is still haunted by a past which cannot be forgotten. There have been countless attempts to re-write German history and to fit the atrocities of the Hitler period into a tolerable master narrative.  Since the mid-1970s an increasing amount of books and articles, academic conferences, exhibitions and films have focused on the discontinuities in German history and the lack of a national identity.  More than in any other country, it seems, politicians, journalists, historians, and artists struggle with the history of their problematic "fatherland."

This course will examine German responses to the experiences of the Third Reich and analyze the German "obsession" with history.  The question of representation will be one of the foci of this class.  By analyzing different attempts to talk about the suffering of ten million victims of the Holocaust we examine how artists tried to come to terms with Adorno's dictum that it was barbaric to produce art after Auschwitz.  We will examine how different philosophers, historians, and psychologists, from Hannah Arendt to Theodor W. Adorno and Margarete and Alexander Mitscherlich, have tried to explain the atrocities of the Third Reich.  We will be examining texts from a variety of different media, from literature and documentary material, to film and Holocaust memorials.



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