The Claims of Memory: Representations of the Holocaust in Contemporary Germany and France

Synopsis

Over a half a century after World War II, Germany and France still struggle to understand the Holocaust and to confront their roles in the tragedy. Through an interpretation of a wide array of contemporary cultural texts--including memorials and memorial sites, museums and exhibits, national commemorations, books, and films--Caroline Wiedmer traces the evolution of an often conflicted postwar politics of memory in these two nations. Her analyses of sites of memory and of policies and national debates reveal the two countries? deep-seated ambivalence in the face of a desire to forget the horrors of the Holocaust and the need to remember them. Among the issues Wiedmer examines are France's emerging sense of accountability and the fierce conflicts generated by the ?Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe? to be built in Berlin. In her detailed account of how the Nazis took over a ready-made system of internment camps built by the French before World War II, and in her discussion of the uses to which the Sachsenhausen concentration camp was put by both the Soviet and the East German governments after the war, Wiedmer uncovers disturbing patterns of recurrence that painfully complicate France's and Germany's relationships to the Holocaust itself and to the act of commemoration. The author also examines Art Spiegelman's Maus and Michael Verhoeven's film The Nasty Girl.