Echo of the Past

By Moreno, Diana | Harvard International Review, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Echo of the Past


Moreno, Diana, Harvard International Review


Abstract:

Recently, Germans have been debating how to represent the past in a Holocaust Memorial to be built in the center of Berlin. The continuing debate over the Memorial indicates that many Germans still have not yet been able to come to terms with their history. The lessons of this debate will aid in understanding the rise on neo-Nazism spurred by the surge in unemployment in the early 1990s. However, the erection of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial symbolizes a willingness to come to terms with the past and to learn from it.

Text:

Headnote:

Germany's Stifling Indecision

In Bernhard Schlick's novel The Reader, the character Michael Berg asks, "What should our second generation have done, what should it do with the knowledge of the horrors of the extermination of the Jews? ... Should we only fall silent in revulsion, shame, and guilt? To what purpose?"

Berg's words echo the real anguish of Germans who were toddlers or not yet born when the Nazis systematically eliminated six million Jews. Recently, Germans have been debating how to represent the past in a Holocaust Memorial to be built in the center of Berlin. The continuing debate over the Memorial indicates that many Germans still have not yet been able to come to terms with their history. The lessons of this debate will aid in understanding the rise of neo-Nazism partly spurred by the surge in unemployment in the early 1990s. While neo-Nazis represent only a small minority in German society today, their numbers are increasing. The resolution of the debate over the Memorial would be an important step in a broader confrontation with the persistence of neo-Nazism.

Two-thirds of Germans are not old enough to remember the Holocaust that burdens their past. However, its specter is everywhere. It is on television, on commemorative signs and sculptures in almost every city, and most recently, it has been the focus of intense debate concerning the design of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. The Memorial was proposed a decade ago, but has since ignited discussion as to how Germany should represent the past in this structure. Several Germans, including the well-known author Gunter Grass, questioned whether it would even be possible to represent the atrocities of the Holocaust. Others suggested the former concentration camps as a more fitting location for the Memorial. However, then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl insisted that a monument in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate would expose more Germans to the Holocaust. Two international competitions produced designs varying from a ferris wheel built of railway cattle cars similar to those that transported condemned Jews to the concentration camps to a design by French sculptor Jochen Gerz that consisted of a field of 50-foot masts bearing the expression "Why?" in the languages of the victims. Kohl provisionally selected US architect Peter Eisenman's design of a labyrinth of 2,700 wordless stone pillars.

Thus, along with tax reform, treatment of immigrants, and unemployment, the Holocaust Memorial became a divisive issue in the 1998 chancellor elections. Candidate Gerhard Schroeder opposed the monument in Berlin because he believed it would not increase awareness and remembrance. Schroeder's successful election seemed to suggest that the German public wanted to move away from the shadows of the war imposed on them by Kohl.

Shortly after Schroeder took office, a fiery debate ignited between Martin Walser, a well-respected novelist, and Ignatz Burbis, leader of Germany's Jewish community. Upon receiving the top prize at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Walser expressed his discontent with the "routine of accusations" that had developed against Germans. He remarked, "Auschwitz is not suited to becoming a routine threat, a tool of intimidation that can be used any time, a moral stick or merely a compulsory exercise" After the speech, many Germans wrote letters to the press, praising Walser's articulation of what many felt unable to voice-that Germans no longer want to be burdened by a past that they cannot remember. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Echo of the Past
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.