Synopses & Reviews
"This book will provoke intellectually, ideologically, and emotionally loaded responses in the U.S., Germany, and Israel. Barnouw's critique of the 'enduringly narrow post-Holocaust perspective on German guilt and the ensuing fixation on German remorse' questions taboos that the political and cultural elites in those three countries would rather leave alone.... [Barnouw] makes us understand why the maintenance of a privileged memory of the Nazi period and World War II may not survive much longer." --Manfred Henningsen, University of Hawai'i
In Germany, the reemergence of memories of wartime suffering is being met with intense public debate. In the United States, the recent translation and publication of Crabwalk by Günter Grass and The Natural History of Destruction by W. G. Sebald offer evidence that these submerged memories are surfacing.
Taking account of these developments, Barnouw examines this debate about the validity and importance of German memories of war and the events that have occasioned it. Steering her path between the notions of "victim" and "perpetrator," Barnouw seeks a place where acknowledgment of both the horror of Auschwitz and the suffering of the non-Jewish Germans can, together, create a more complete historical remembrance for postwar generations.
"In a deliberately polemical manner reminiscent of Arendt, Barnouw confronts the petrified, sanctified and officially approved memories of the German past...." --German Studies Review
"Barnouw's articulate War in the Empty Air... makes for lively reading." --German History, V.25:2 Indiana University Press
"[Barnouw's] work is a thought-provoking addition to the flourishing literature on the politics of memory in the contemporary world." --War in History, Vol. 16 no. 4 (2009)
"The willing executioners of Hitler's project... had only one experience to tell. This overwhelming silencing of Germans as executioners could not last forever. Dagmar Barnouw's book, The War in the Empty Air, provides evidence of Germans recovering their voice." --Shofar Indiana University Press
"... offers an engaging, provocative outline of the political forces inhibiting the retrieval of memories [of] how the war felt to those who lived through it." --Clio
"In this book, decisively (and with great sensitivity) Barnouw establishes a case for creating a more complete historical remembrance for postwar generations." --Journal of American Studies
The legacy of war, guilt, and memory in German life and its political uses in the U.S.
Sixty years after the end of World War II, its impact on German civilians remains a subject that is still difficult to broach in public discourse. The war experiences of ordinary Germans have been little studied, as if the memories of the defeated were not deserving of preservation. In Germany, the subject sparks intense debates about the official national memory that the defeated were collectively guilty. In the United States, evidence that these memories are surfacing is apparent in the publication of Crabwalk by GA1/4nter Grass, The Natural History of Destruction by W. G. Sebald, and The Fire by JArg Friedrich. Steering her path between the Scylla and Charybdis of the notions of victim and perpetrator, Dagmar Barnouw seeks a place where the memories of the horrors of Nazi persecution and the horrors of war together might create a more complete historical remembrance for postwar generations.
About the Author
Dagmar Barnouw was Professor of German and Comparative Literature, University of Southern California, until her sudden death in May 2008. Her books include Weimar Intellectuals and the Threat of Modernity (IUP, 1988) and Naipaul's Strangers (IUP, 2003), among other books of cultural criticism.
Table of Contents
Preface: The Loss of History in Postwar German Memory
1. Historical Memory and the Uses of Remorse
2. "Their Monstrous Past": German Wartime Fictions
3. Censored Memories: "Are the Germans Victims or Perpetrators?"
4. The War in the Empty Air: A Moral History of Destruction
5. No End to "Auschwitz": Historical or Redemptive Memory
6. This Side of Good and Evil: A German Story