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Public Memory, Public Repentance

Germany, South Africa and the United States
  • Donald W. ShriverJr.
Chapter

Abstract

If humans and their historical archives survive to the year 3000, none will lack a store of information denoting what the word ‘Holocaust’ meant to many Citizens of the 20th Century. One can imagine some curious scholar, viewing the mountain of documents about the event, exclaiming to a neighbour: ‘Back then, they couldn’t write enough about it.’ To which that neighbour might reply: ‘Funny, how every age has its peculiar preoccupation.’

Keywords

Political Culture Court Trial Truth Commission Holocaust Survivor Negative Memory 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    William Faulkner, The Hamlet (Vintage Books; New York: Random House, 1956), p.86.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Cf. Hannah Arendt, On Violence (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969), pp.52–56, where she stresses that collective consensus on the legitimating norms for the establishment and conduct of political power is the source of enduring political power. Violence may temporarily protect power, but violence cannot create it.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Charles Maier, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust, and German National Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp.98–99. The book is a study of the Historikerstreit of the late 1980s in Germany, whose chief bone of contention was whether or not Nazi murder of the Jews was only one event on a spectrum of historic mass annihilations.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    David K. Shipler, A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), p. 153. See also below under ‘Educators.’Google Scholar
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    Eric Lomax, The Railway Man (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995), p.236.Google Scholar
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    Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 1986), pp.426ff.Google Scholar
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    For extensive descriptions of the Bitburg controversy, cf. Geoffrey Hartman (ed.), Bitburg in Moral and Political Perspective (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986) andGoogle Scholar
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    By 1970 West German courts had prosecuted some 12,900 collaborators of the Nazi regime, among them death camp guards, police battalion murderers of Jews, and other officials with direct roles in perpetrating the Holocaust. Of these, 5,200 were imprisoned, only 76 of them for life. Cf. John Ardagh, Germany and the Germans: An Anatomy of Society Today (New York: Harper and Row, 1987), p.391.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    I borrow this language from Jeremiah 8:6, where the prophet cries that he has found in Jerusalem ‘not one sinner crying remorsefully, ‘“Oh, what have I done?”’ The shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’ is difficult in most ordinary legal procedures, however, as was dramatized in Bernhard Schlink’s novel, The Reader. In the trial of a former woman Auschwitz guard, she turns to the judge and asks, ‘What would you have done?’ The judge never answers the question. (Bernhard Schlink, The Reader, trans. Carol Brown Janeway (London: Phoenix Paperback, 1997), p.110).Google Scholar
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    Antjie Krog, Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa (Times Books; New York: Random House, 1999), p.313. The passage cornes from an ‘imagined conversation’ which she bases upon four writers: Ian Beruma, Herbert Morris, Johan Degenaar and Carl Jung. It is unclear which of these sources is primary for her imagining here.Google Scholar
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    Cf. David McCullough, Truman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), pp.542–543.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Nicholas Tavuchis, Mea Culpa: A Sociology of Apology and Reconciliatio (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), especially pp.97–117, on official collective apologies. ‘All told, the consummate collective apology is a diplomatic accomplishment of no mean order’ (p. 100). Cf. also the large anthology.Google Scholar
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    Max Weber, ‘Politics as a Vocation,’ in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958), pp.126–127.Google Scholar
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    For a survey of this ten-year-old debate in Germany, cf. Das Holocaust-Mahnmal: Dokumentation einer Debatte, ed. Michael S. Cullen (Zurich: Pendo Verlaga AG, 1999).Google Scholar
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    David K. Shipler, A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), p.166.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald W. ShriverJr.

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