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The Politicization of Holocaust Memory in Post-Fascist Germany and Italy

Mon, December 17, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Beacon Hill 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel considers the evolution of various politicized narratives in Germany and Italy during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It attempts to answer the following questions: How and why did politicized narratives about the Holocaust emerge in the context of nation-rebuilding in these post fascist-states? How did narratives about the Holocaust in Germany and Italy shift and respond to transnational political forces? Which narratives could be openly spoken of and which could not? What was the effect of the Cold War on these narratives and how did the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 reshape them?
In her paper “Thirteen Cubes and a Menorah in West Berlin,” Natasha Goldman discusses an early West Berlin Holocaust memorial and what it reveals about which narratives could be openly told in the Cold War atmosphere of mid-1960s Berlin. Daniela Weiner’s paper “1989 as Turning Point?: German and Italian History Textbook Representations of the Holocaust and Resistance, 1980-2003” also studies the impact of the Cold War on national narratives—by considering how textbook narratives about the Holocaust and resistance shifted in reaction to geopolitical changes. Volker Benkert’s “The Holocaust as Secular Religion. Apologia and Redemption on German Television Today” carries the panel to the present. It examines how narratives of apologia and redemption make a particularly politicized narrative palatable in today’s Berlin Republic. Gavriel D. Rosenfeld will serve as respondent to the papers. By tracing the development of politicized narratives about the past in these post-fascist countries, this interdisciplinary panel will illuminate larger questions of how memorials, textbooks, and television both contributed to and reflected the processes of Vergangenheitsbewältigung and building postwar national identities. More broadly, the panel also contributes to a richer understanding of how post-dictatorial states struggle with a difficult past.

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