Alfred Andersch, Peter Härtling, and Gert Hofmann
Germans cannot think of anything to say with respect to the victims. 1
In weiter leben, an account of her youth (which included deportation to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz), the literary scholar and Holocaust survivor Ruth Klüger points to a particular aspect of the huge gulf separating Jews and the perpetrators of the Holocaust. She says:
As so often happens when several Jews sit around a table, we started to speak about the great Jewish catastrophe. It strikes me that the questions Germans discuss in such conversations concern the perpetrators, while Jews want to know more about the victims. Germans cannot think of anything to say with respect to the victims, except that they were at the mercy [of the Nazis] (96).
When one looks at postwar West German literature, including the examples so far discussed in this study, one finds, in apparent contradiction to Klüger's observation, various references to Holocaust victims. In these instances, it is important to take note of the narrative strategies: How are the victims portrayed? What events have the authors chosen to depict? What perspectives predominate, and where, say, does the text contradict itself? Then the German silence that Klüger takes note of begins to resonate with complexity.