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Beschreibung des Verlags

If we are more interested in autobiographical narratives as instances of what scholars in Germany have termed Alltagsgeschichte (history of everyday life) than for their artistic merit as aesthetic entities, we should examine narratives by non-professional writers, since these tend to be more indicative of ordinary people's everyday history than the verbal high-wire acrobatics of the professional literati. My discussion of Willy Schumann's non-canonical memoir, then, reflects the increasing significance of ordinary people's life narratives in oral history, narratology, Holocaust and auto/biography studies, particularly since the cultural studies turn in the humanities. It is also indicative of a growing interest in academia and among the general public, both German and US-American, in how ordinary Germans remember and emplot their everyday life in the Third Reich more than half a century later in light of their subsequently acquired knowledge about the Holocaust. By "ordinary" I refer in the following analysis not only to non-prominent status but specifically to Germans who were neither perpetrators nor victims but followers and bystanders. The increasing interest in such ordinary lives is not only reflected in such recent blockbuster movies as Der Untergang (Downfall) but also finds expression in a growing thematic sub-genre of autobiographical writing, the Hitler Youth generation memoir (e.g., von der Grun; Harig; Hermand; Mahlendorf; see also Leiser; Reich-Ranicki; Wicki; Schmitz). Like all autobiographical writing, Schumann's memoir constitutes "a public performance of memory and [is] thus invested with contemporary interests" (Schmitz 152). Although unacknowledged, the author's core interest is to exculpate himself, his family, and all ordinary Germans not only from any individual or collective guilt for but any association with the crimes committed in the Third Reich. Schumann thus revives the notion that was first proposed by chancellor Konrad Adenauer and dominated the West German public sphere in the 1950s some three decades later. To achieve his aim, Schumann splits the world of his childhood and adolescence into two realms: the public sphere of history and the personal sphere of memory, which are separated by an unbridgeable void. The sphere of history is populated by the perpetrators, above all Hitler himself and a small number of leading nazis, and "their" victims. Holocaust and Nazi victims in general are largely absent from the text because Schumann seeks to claim victim status for ordinary Germans like himself and must therefore hide the fact that this subject position is already occupied. Perpetrators are cast as the evil Other of the ordinary Germans and ascribed sole responsibility not only for the crimes committed in the Third Reich, but also--and most significantly--for the suffering of ordinary Germans. The later, who inhabit the realm of personal memory, are portrayed as misled and manipulated but otherwise decent people who had to suffer the devastating consequences of nazi politics when many of them were killed in bombing raids, during the flight and expulsion from the East, and as Wehrmacht soldiers. In an attempt to transform collective German responsibility for nazi crimes into a discourse of collective German innocence and victimization, Schumann thus recasts the canonical perpetrator/victim dichotomy by recourse to the public/private division into a history and memory dichotomy.

GENRE
Gewerbe und Technik
ERSCHIENEN
2009
1. März
SPRACHE
EN
Englisch
UMFANG
29
Seiten
VERLAG
Purdue University Press
GRÖSSE
109
 kB

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