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Generational Cohorts and the Shaping of Popular Attitudes towards the Holocaust

  • Harold Marcuse
Chapter

Abstract

In common parlance with regard to survivors of the Holocaust we often speak of ‘generations’, with a term such as ‘second generation survivor’ denoting the children of people who survived the Holocaust. Discussions of education about the Holocaust since the 1990s focus increasingly on what is termed the ‘third generation’. These are very rough terms at best, since a child of survivors might have been born in war-torn Europe in the late 1940s, or in more prosperous circumstances a decade or more later, often in Israel or the United States. Survivors of the Holocaust who were themselves children or teens in the early 1940s might not have had children until well into the 1960s. Given the different age-typical ways the wide age-range of survivor parents experienced the Holocaust, and the very different cultural climates in which their children learned of their parents’ experiences, we might expect that more precise attention to years of birth of the various generations would better enable us to discern their common traits.

Keywords

Political Attitude Jewish History Generational Cohort Holocaust Education Common Parlance 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Karl Mannheim is the seminal theorist on this issue. See especially his 1927 essay ‘The Sociological Problem of Generations’ in Paul Kecskemeti (ed.), Karl Mannheim: Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1952, 1972), 276–320.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For discussions of how age cohorts are shaped by pivotal experiences, see Hans Jaeger, ‘Generationen in der Geschichte: Überlegungen zu einer umstrittenen Konzeption’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft 3(1977), 429ff.;Google Scholar
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  6. 3.
    Note that this does not follow Mannheim’s distinction between ‘generation’ and ‘cohort.’ For a discussion of Mannheim’s thoughts on the two terms, see: Peter Loewenberg, ‘The Psychohistorical Origins of the Nazi Youth Cohort’, AHR 76:5 (Dec. 1971), 1457–1502, 1465.Google Scholar
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    Oral history projects such as Lutz Niethammer’s Lebensgeschichte und Sozialkultur im Ruhrgebiet, and scholarly works such as Von Stalingrad zur Währungsreform also found that 1948 was a more important subjective turning point than 1945. Memoirs such as those by Alfons Heck and Melita Maschmann emphasize the gradual reorientation after 1945. The term forty-fiver is used by A.D. Moses, ‘The Forty-Fivers: A Generation between Fascism and Democracy’, German Politics and Society 17:1 (Spring 1999), 94–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moses takes the term from Joachim Kaiser (b.1928), ‘Phasenverschiebungen und Einschnitte in der kulturellen Entwicklung’, in: Martin Broszat (ed.), Zäsuren nach 1945: Essays zur Periodisierung der deutschen Nachkriegsgeschichte (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1990), 69–74. Using the designation 1945ers would be equivalent to calling my 1918ers 1914ers (emphasizing the start of World War I, not its end), or my 1933ers 1929ers (using the dissolution of Weimar as the defining moment, not the start of Nazism). I am not completely consistent in that I bow to common usage and ease of pronunciation in calling the youngest cohort 1989ers instead of 1990ers.Google Scholar
  35. 19.
    Typically, however, the 1948er cohort of historians did not confront their mentors directly. This is superbly documented in the 1999 interview project conducted by researchers at the Berlin Humboldt University: ‘Fragen, die nicht gestellt wurden! Oder gab es ein Schweigegelübde der zweiten Generation?’ (‘Second generation’ refers to the 1948ers.) The interviews are archived at: http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/beitrag/intervie/interview.htm. See also Winfried Schulze and Otto Gerhard Oexle (eds.), Deutsche Historiker im Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1999).Google Scholar
  36. 20.
    Further examples of authors from this generation who were concerned with legacies of Nazism are: Hans Magnus Enzensberger (b.1930), Rolf Hochhuth (b.1931), Walter Kempowski (b.1929) and Jakov Lind (b.1927). Walter Jens (b.1923), although slightly older, might be counted among this group. On Walser’s 11 Oct. 1998 acceptance speech for the peace prize of German book dealers in St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt, see Frank Schirrmacher (ed.), Die Walser-Bubis-Debatte: Eine Dokumentation (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1999).Google Scholar
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    See the special report ‘20 Jahre Schülerwettbewerb’, in: Spuren Suchen 7(1993), 48–62. This journal is published by the Körber Foundation in Hamburg-Bergedorf. See also Körber Foundation (ed.), Remembering the Holocaust: Some Experiences of the German President’s History Competition for Young People (Hamburg: Körber, 1995), 58f on the selection of themes and the impact of Holocaust. The late industrialist Kurt Körber co-founded the history competition with his close friend Federal President Heinemann in 1973.Google Scholar
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  55. 33.
    The original publication was: Anja Rosmus-Wenninger, Widerstand und Verfolgung am Beispiel Passaus, 1933–1939 (Passau: Andreas Haller, 1983). See also Rosmus’s later publications: Exodus — im Schatten der Gnade Aspekte zur Geschichte der Juden im Raum Passau (Tittling: Dorfmeister, 1988); Gedenkstatten fur die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus in der Region Passau (M.A. Thesis, Univ. of Passau, 1993).Google Scholar
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  • Harold Marcuse

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