Synopses & Reviews
Germany's changing historical memory of World War II and its aftermath, as reflected in the official and public remembrance of the German war dead, exposes an unresolved tension between a discourse of guilt and a discourse of national suffering and victimization. In Germany, under the auspices of the Allied occupation, remembrance honored the victims of the Nazis and those who had fought against the regime. After the partition of Germany, a new culture emerged, memorializing the civilian dead and fallen German soldiers. Despite the fierce ideological rivalry between East and West Germany, however, certain similarities existed. The political leaderships who shaped these cultures ceased to confront their citizens with the question of guilt and instead depicted the German people as victims. In Guilt, Suffering, and Memory--whose Israeli edition was awarded the Jacob Bahat Prize for best original book--Gilad Margalit discusses the official remembrance ceremonies for the German war dead, the memorials erected to commemorate them, the public discussions of these disparate cultures, and their treatment in postwar German literature and film.
"This is an ambitious and thought-provoking book. It presents a comprehensive overview of the ways Germans have remembered WorldWar II since 1945 and a forceful critique of what Margalit contends is the central narrative that has structured this memory work." --Central European History
"Margalit focuses his criticism on 'reconciliation' narratives--where the Holocaust was remembered alongside German suffering--as a means of eliding the differences between Jewish victims of Nazism and those Germans who died in battle or as a result of bombing and expulsion." --William Niven, Nottingham Trent University Indiana University Press
"... the best book of the year...." --Arnold Ages, National Jewish Post and Opinion, 4/21/10 Indiana University Press
"... this marvellous book...." --Arnold Ages, Indiana Jewish Post and Opinion, 4/21/10
"This well-translated book will be invaluable to scholars and students of German history and memory studies and is accessible to nonspecialists. Summing Up: Essential." --Choice, October 2010, Vol. 48 No. 2
"Margalit bases his arguments on an impressive amount of original archival research, as well as analyses of relevant fiction, memorials, public debates, and the pivotal secondary literature." --Jenny Wustenberg, March 2012
"Gilad Margalit's comprehensive exploration of how Germany viewed its own wartime dead provides new evidence about German attitudes and stresses Germans' primary focus on their own suffering and their repeated failure to come to terms with the past appropriately." --Holocaust and Genocide Studies
In 1985 Elie Wesel was featured on a television event during which he tried
unsuccessfully as it happened, to persuade President Ronald Reagan not to visit the cemetery at Bitburg Germanv, because SS soldiers were also buried there alongwith members of the Whermacht.'The words die on my lips,' said Wiesel, in his impassioned
plea,'your place is not there.'
Gilad Margalit, a senior lecturer at Haifa University, reminds us in an essay, which I recommend unequivocally as the best book of the year, that President Reagan's dilemma began not in 1985 but 40 years before that in 1945 at the end of World War II. The author has reached this conclusion by a thorough study of German reactions to their loss as they were reflected over six decades to this day in the words of political leaders,
memoirists, novelists clergymen, government spokesmen, propagandists and just plain folk.
The author notes that in the immediate aftermath of defeat Germans experienced a culture of guilt, which they readily exhibited when the full story of the concentration camps, the murder of civilians, the annihilation of six million Jews and the atrocities visited upon 20 million Russians became known...Arnold Ages, University of Waterloo, National Jewish Post and Opinion, 4/21/10 Indiana University Press
Margalit's well-rounded, thoughtful study analyzes the discourse of German suffering from 1945-2009 in East, West, and reunified Germany and the many efforts to craft a German national narrative about the Nazi era. During the early postwar period, discussions of guilt (theological, philosophical, and public) for Nazi crimes and of German wartime suffering (soldiers and civilians) developed. According to its Cold War ideology, each Germany developed a "reconciliation narrative" that placed all victims (victims of Nazi persecution--especially Jews--and German war victims) on the same moral plane. The communists emphasized the Western Allies' bombing attacks, especially against Dresden, and West Germans emphasized the expulsions and blamed the Soviets. The narratives of German suffering drew on Nazi ideas, yet they also compared German suffering to Jewish suffering. Margalit (Univ. of Haifa, Israel) demonstrates that reunification brought a revival of interest in German suffering and argues convincingly that a 'new preoccupation with German victims has come, explicitly, at the expense of the Nazis' victims.' This well-translated book will be invaluable to scholars and students of German history and memory studies and is accessible to nonspecialists. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. -- ChoiceG. F. Schroeder, St. John's University/College of St. Benedict, Minnesota, October 2010
"A... perspective on the consequences of empire building comes from Israeli historian Gilad Margalit's meticulously documented Guilt, Suffering, and Memory." --ForeWord, July/August 2010
"... this finely calibrated study...." --Arnold Ages, National Jewish Post and Opinion (Kentucky Edition), 4/21/10
"Gilad Margalit's new book offers a comprehensive, forcefully argued, and insightful analysis of German memories of the Second World War after 1945." --Jewish History
"[This book] make[s] important, original contributions.... Margalit's monograph is a useful and frequently insightful contribution." --American Historical Review
"[Provides] extensive coverage of the evolving treatment of this wide-ranging subject." --German History
About the Author
Gilad Margalit is Senior Lecturer in the Department of General History at the University of Haifa, Israel and Deputy Director of the Haifa Center for German and European Studies. He is author of Die Nachkriegsdeutschen und "ihre Zigeuner": Die Behandlung der Sinti und Roma im Schatten von Auschwitz and Germany and Its Gypsies: A Post-Auschwitz Ordeal.
Haim Watzman is a Jerusalem-based writer, journalist, and translator.
Table of Contents
1. Coping with Guilt: The Germans and the Nazi Past
2. Remembering National Suffering in World War II
3. German Memory and Remembrance of the Dead from 1945 to the 1960s
4. Memorial Days in West Germany and Their Metamorphosis, 1945-1946
5. The Bombing of Germany's Cities and German Memory Politics, 1945-1989
6. Flight and Expulsion in German Political Culture and Memory since 1945
7. The Resurgence of the German Sense of Victimization since Reunification