Holocaust Memory and the Air War: W. G. Sebald’s Luftkrieg und Literatur (‘Air War and Literature: Zürich Lectures’)

  • Richard Crownshaw
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


The last chapter argued that Sebald’s work pre-empts formulaic theorisations of trauma, that his work resists the conflation of literature and traumatic memory, and that, through a series of provocations and revocations, it ultimately accommodates the reader’s transferential relation to the trauma of the Holocaust rather than traumatisation itself. This chapter continues the argument that trauma must always be thought through in various mediating contexts. Whereas the last chapter introduced the implications of the German-ness of Sebald’s authorial position, this chapter looks more closely at that context, particularly in relation to the controversial issue of German victimhood that gained prominence in the mass media, literature, history, film and television in the 1990s and 2000s. The controversy lies in the fact that discourses of German suffering might inform in German cultural memory an equivalence between the suffering of Germans and the suffering caused by Germans. In the first of two chapters on the idea of the German victim, the following argues that Sebald’s lectures (and subsequent publication) on the German cultural memory of suffering caused by the Allied bombing of German towns and cities do not argue for that equivalence but rather that memories of the two types of suffering have become thoroughly entangled.


Photographic Image Traumatic Memory Cultural Memory Victim Status Trauma Theory 
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  1. 1.
    Published in English as J. Friedrich (2006), The Fire: The Bombing of Germany: 1940–1945 (New York: Columbia University Press).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    This chapter will refer to the following version of Sebald’s essay: W. G. Sebald (2003), ‘Air War and Literature: Zürich Lectures’ in On the Natural History of Destruction, trans. A. Bell (London: Hamish Hamilton), pp. 1–106.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Crownshaw 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Crownshaw
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English and Comparative Literature, GoldsmithsUniversity of LondonUK

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