Brian Holmes - Peace-for-War Brian Holmes is an art critic, activist and translator, living in Paris, interested primarily in the intersections of artistic and political practice. His current research focuses on the role of media in post-Cold War conflicts, from Somalia to Bosnia to Iraq and beyond. Ivan Kucina - Liberation Ivan Kucina is an architect, lecturer, member of the Stealth Group and a key initiator for much of the current research on uncontrolled processes within the Belgrade city structure.
He was born in the city in and graduated from the Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade in Since he serves as a lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture. He is currently building a family house on Avala mountain near Belgrade and is leading an effort to create software - Personal Housing Generator - based on the Belgrade urban experience during the last decade. Project excerpts have shown widely as installations or lectures, including the Whitney Biennial Wrong Gallery.
Since he also holds a professorship at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Since he is a member of European Culture Parliament.
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Widerstand der Juden in Europa zusammen mit G. Heuberger und A. Fischer Verlag Sag nie du gehst den letzten Weg. Spanische Ausgabe: Partisanas. Left school when he was Went to Westberlin in in order to avoid being drafted into the Bundeswehr , where he worked in a left wing bookshop. Member of the urban guerrilla group "Bewegung 2.
Juni" since , arrested in Spent 15 years in Prison. Since active in several leftist campaigns. Published on politics, history and posters of the militant left. Lives as typesetter and layouter in Berlin. Weizman has taught, lectured, curated and organised conferences in many institutions worldwide. Weizman is a regular contributors to many journals and magazines and is an editor at large for Cabinet Magazine New York. He worked as an executive producer for the daily morning show Aalam Al-Sabah at Future Television-Beirut, where he also produced most of his early video pieces.
It is to the credit of the Germans that, as of , they sought to come to terms with the injustices committed in the name of socialism during the period of the Soviet occupation of eastern Germany — , and in the GDR — It is also to their credit that they reacted with a swiftness that was in marked contrast to the dilatoriness with which the two Germanys had faced the National Socialist past: legal, political and social measures were quickly put in place to redress the wrongs of socialism.
Without doubt, too, the intense concern in the period — with the crimes of socialism served to enhance interest in the National Socialist past. The two pasts were compared. Yet this very process revealed more differences than similarities. In the GDR, as in the Third Reich, political opponents were persecuted, freedom of opinion was suppressed, and rights of movement were denied—most brutally by shooting fugitives at the border.
Moreover, in contrast to National Socialism, the GDR was, on paper at least, committed to equality and social justice, not destructive nationalism. It also, arguably, realized this commitment in certain areas. Those who subscribe to the totalitarian paradigm would elide these differences. The identity debate has not yet been resolved, but it is unlikely that it will be won by the right. Over the last ten years, I would argue, the historical focus in the public realm has gradually shifted away from socialism towards National Socialism.
It was as if the German public had understood where the greater Introduction 7 criminality lay, namely in a past common to all Germans—in west and east. Certainly the hope of some conservatives that one set of crimes would be understood as cancelling out the other has been severely dented. German national identity, I argue in the final chapter of this book, will probably be based on an inclusive model of memory.
By remembering National Socialist crimes and the victims of these crimes, Germans will maintain a sense of the need to uphold and defend democracy Structure and layout I have structured the book in chronological accordance with the main discussions on the National Socialist past since These views were therefore inclusive, while opposition to them was based on principles of exclusion. To enable the reader to understand these views and the accompanying debates in context, many of the chapters deal in some detail with various aspects of divided memory in the two German states between and To summarize briefly the contents of the chapters: Chapter Three looks at the image of German resistance which prevailed in , an image reflecting the contribution of both communists and the military elite to German resistance, rather than focusing on just one of these.
Chapter Four examines the controversial manner in which 8 May was commemorated in The East German tradition of remembering this day as one of liberation was combined with the West German tradition of remembering it as one of German pain and loss. Martin Walser may have given a rather revisionist speech in , but the complex reception of this speech, the subject of Chapter Seven, led among other things to an awareness that Germans in the present and future must take personal responsibility for remembering Nazism, instead of delegating responsibility to the state.
Chapter Eight looks at the evolution of the plan beginning in and ongoing to build a Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a plan that inspired a debate about principles of inclusion and exclusion. A consideration of developments at concentration camp memorial sites since reveals most clearly how Facing the Nazi past 8 previously neglected areas of Nazism have been included in the landscape of memory. There are, however, references in passing to legal questions, and the still current issue of the compensation of forced labourers is examined in Chapter Nine. The chosen debates do not represent the only ones since , but they were—or still are—the most important.
The final chapter Chapter Nine looks at the role played by the National Socialist past in the Berlin Republic—the term applied to Germany since the parliament moved to Berlin in It also examines the impact on coming to terms with the past of the change of government. Throughout, I have sought to write a book that will be of interest to the general reader, specialist and student alike. I was very aware when I began this project that there is, to date, no book which provides an overview of the post debates in Germany on the Third Reich, despite the fact that several of these debates are now discussed in university courses at German and history departments in Britain and in the USA.
Each chapter is therefore largely self-supporting, providing the necessary historical background required for an understanding of the issues addressed. For overview purposes, a chronological table of the main events of the period — in Germany is provided at the start of the book.
The book draws inter alia on a wide range of newspaper reports. References to these have been kept as brief as possible, so as not to disturb the flow of the text a key to the abbreviated names of newspapers is provided at the end of the book. I have also drawn on academic secondary literature. The bibliography features only a proportion of the books and articles relating to issues of coming to terms with the Nazi past which have appeared in the last ten years.
However, the ones listed are, I believe, the most important. Together with the present book, they will provide a corpus of material for university courses. The facts of concentration camp conditions, the causes of the atrocities there, the assessment of degrees of guilt and the naming of the victims are, taken together, important areas of information which must never be repressed nor forgotten. Arguably, it was during the Weimar Republic — that the first concentration camps were created in Germany. Although conditions in the Weimar Republic camps could be poor, they were not murderous; and they were not a typical feature of the Weimar political system.
It was the Nazis who institutionalized, perfected and made a murderous machine of the concentration camp system. After the arson attempt on the Reichstag on 27 February —which the Nazis blamed on the communists—the regime set about incarcerating communists in prisons and camps. But it was under the SS that the concentration camp system was to be developed into a monstrous instrument. The first SS-run camp to be established was Dachau, opened in March In the course of the s, the whole concentration camp empire was coordinated and centralized by SS leader Heinrich Himmler, who placed it under the authority of Theodor Eicke.
Eicke had become Commandant at Dachau in June But economic factors played an increasingly central role in the choice and development of sites, as the SS sought to turn the camp empire into a thriving economic concern. Many satellite camps were set up at the site of armaments firms. The number of inmates rose rapidly in the course of the first five years Hitler was in power. The composition of the inmate population changed over time and was different from camp to camp. A few generalizations, however, can be made. Increasingly, racial politics played a part in reasons for internment.
In , the Nazis stepped up their campaign of terror against Jews. The sharpening of the laws against homosexuality in led to the imprisonment of homosexuals in the concentration camps, although their number remained relatively low. In the course of , it developed into a full concentration camp. As the Red Army pushed the Wehrmacht back in and , the Nazis were forced to evacuate the work and annihilation camps in the occupied territories.
Thousands of Jews died during the transport to Buchenwald, Dachau and other camps. In the overcrowded camps in Germany, the mortality rate in the final months of the war—as a result of Concentration camp memorial sites 11 hunger, disease and murder—was catastrophically high. More than 7, of them died see AIN But systematic slaughters and innumerable gratuitous killings were still the norm. One of the most notorious massacres was the methodical execution of Soviet POWs.
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Eight thousand Soviet soldiers died in this way at Buchenwald alone between the summer of and the summer of Many concentration camp prisoners died when they were deported to Nazi extermination centres in Poland. Others perished as a result of labour, starvation and disease in the concentration camps. Thus, all in all, about 50, people lost their lives at Bergen-Belsen, 56, at Buchenwald.
Those who survived till liberation died soon afterwards, or lived with lifelong traumas—victims of a concentration camp system notorious for its injustice, exploitation and murderous brutality. After the end of the war, Auschwitz-Birkenau, site of the mass murder of over a million Jews, lay beyond the East German border in Poland, and far enough away from West Germany for its citizens to be tempted to forget it had once existed—at least until the — Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt.
More than anything else, the post-war treatment of these sites was going to be a measure of the preparedness of Germans to face up to the criminality of National Socialism. This chapter will demonstrate that, while memorial sites were set up at the former camps in both Germanys more resolutely in East Germany, and also with more staff , these sites were subjected to the process of divided and one-sided memory outlined in the Introduction.
Ideology, with its attendant overemphases, distortions and omissions, made its mark on forms of representation at the memorial sites more so in East Germany. From the immediate post period onwards, more-over, most former camps were subjected to a process of refunctionalization, and thus of historical estrangement. Only as of the s, but particularly after unification, did a concern to create a more rounded picture of camp life, of victims and perpetrators, and to recover the original topographies become noticeable. This concern has resulted in significant changes to the exhibitions at all concentration camp memorial sites, especially in eastern Germany, where the ideological imprint was more pronounced than in the FRG.
Facing the Nazi past 12 Putting to a new use After liberating the camps, the Allies did, to a degree, confront Germans with the atrocities there, as, for example, when the Americans made the citizens of Weimar face piles of corpses at Buchenwald. In November , moreover, the Americans were instrumental in arranging for a small exhibition on SS crimes to be shown at Dachau, concurrently with the staging of the first Dachau Trial. But the Allies also set a precedent of erasing traces and of new utilization. Faced with the need to intern or relocate so many people, moreover, the Allies cannot readily be blamed for turning the former concentration camps into internment or relocation camps.
With hindsight, however, it is unfortunate that the Allies inscribed new historical narratives into the sites, because to a degree these overwrote the first narrative. There was an additional problem. While some of these narratives, as in the case of the imprisonment of SS men by the Western Allies, appeared at least to stand in punitive relation to National Socialist crimes, others created new legacies of injustice. This was a narrative East Germans were not able to relate until , but when it was related, there was a danger it would divert the focus away from the atrocities of the concentration camps see Chapter Two.
Even when the former concentration camps had become well established as memorial sites, the Allies continued to use parts of them for military purposes, particularly so in East Germany. Their officers lived in the yellow-painted settlement formerly used by the SS administration and camp guards, and a number of new buildings were constructed for canteen, commercial, industrial and living purposes. A whole new military culture encrusted itself around the fig-leaf memorial site. After this, the Bavarian riot police took over these areas, sealing off the original entrance to Dachau camp.
The use of parts of the camps by the Allies continued beyond their immediate post-war remit. The Germans were also quick to allocate other uses to the camps, and here the concern was both one of practicality, and one of hiding an uncomfortable past. After liberation in , it was used to imprison SS men.
From to , it was used as a United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration camp, housing displaced persons DPs such as former concentration camp inmates, forced labourers and prisoners of war. Family homes replaced the traces of terror as the expellees became a permanent feature of the landscape.
The presence of these expellees was a political and psychological statement to the effect that the Germans chose to empathize with this group of victims, rather than with the victims for whose sufferings the Germans themselves had been responsible. The sense of injustice at the expulsion from and loss of the eastern territories was inscribed stubbornly over the narrative of National Socialist perpetration. Street names, such as Sudeten Street and Silesian Way, functioned as signposts to this injustice. A different, yet comparable situation, obtained at Neuengamme.
In , the city of Hamburg took over the former camp site from the British and promptly turned a significant part of it into a massive prison [Plate 1. Certainly the prison was well intended, but it also represented a rather hurried and defensive attempt at demonstrating self-improvement. Hamburg sought to avoid confronting its past by asserting that it was now operating a penal system in accordance with the highest standards of justice.
Worse, there was an all too pervasive implication that the problem under the National Socialists had been the inhumane way the camp was run. Of course this had been one of the problems, indeed the main one. But the other problem had been that the people incarcerated under Hitler were innocent. It was not just the penal environment that was criminal in Neuengamme camp, but the fact that people had been imprisoned there in the first place.
Facing the Nazi past 14 Plate 1. In the background, a prison built after the war by the City of Hamburg. Yet in the prison still stood at Neuengamme despite years of protest from former camp prisoners, and it seemed set to stay; indeed a second prison, a youth detention centre, had been added in Commercial use was no exception in the West. The Upper Palatinate Stone Industry used the quarry area, with its huts and SS administrative buildings, as of ; the camp laundry-room and kitchen, together with the roll-call area, was used for years by the French firm Alcatel.
In line with this commercial use, new factories were built on the site in the s and s. Nor did the GDR shy from industrial use. In Buchenwald, an agricultural collective kept grain in a former concentration camp building until Other institutions also made use of former Concentration camp memorial sites 15 camp sites.
The uses described above reduced or even removed the space available for memorialization. In giving the camp sites new functions, the GDR and FRG created new associations for these sites, linking them to the present or future, thus stifling associations with the past. Indeed the former sites were used as a vehicle for demonstrating the selftransformational energies of the perpetrator nation, at the cost of empathy with the victims. Victims insisted on the revisualization of the true parameters of their agonies. They thus soon found themselves engaged in a new struggle against discrimination, this time in the area of memory.
While such protest often went unheard, it could not be articulated, or not to the same degree, in East Germany.
In the case of West Germany, forms of remembering were often heavily Christianized. This was particularly so at Dachau Memorial Site. In , the foundation-stone was laid for a Carmelite Monastery. Construction of the Protestant Church of Conciliation began in Given that these confessional buildings were constructed on the site of the former camp vegetable garden and disinfection building, one might see here a certain covering up of traces.
In providing spiritual support, the Protestant and Catholic Churches could make some amends for the degree to which, as institutions, they had tolerated and even collaborated with National Socialism. But there was, equally, a danger that their role in administering consolation in the present would obscure their failures in the past. Unveiled in September , the International Memorial by Nandor Glid portrays emaciated figures whose thin bodies are so contorted and drawn out that they have become indistinguishable from barbed wire [Plate 1.
Setting camp suffering within a Christian context lends it an air of inevitability and stresses that it can be overcome through divine love and grace. The focus on the Facing the Nazi past 16 consolations of the life after death also usefully deflects attention from issues of immediate human responsibility and redress on earth. As Plate 1. The journey symbolizes the transition from earth to heaven, or even hell to heaven. It was constructed from granite stones taken from torn-down camp watchtowers.
Three original watch-towers do remain, one of which is connected to the Chapel by a walkway; but this link implies that the Chapel can transform perpetration into grace and forgiveness. As in the case of Dachau, it seemed that the state of Bavaria preferred to delegate coming to terms with the past to the Christian Church. While it was necessary to lay out graveyards, this could, moreover, serve a dubious purpose, in that the National Socialist past could then be buried along with the bodies.
To make Concentration camp memorial sites 17 way for this cemetery and park, another original concentration camp building, the Disinfection Building, was torn down. In East and West, a certain touristy prettification prevailed. To be fair, the suffering of non-Christians, notably of Jews, was commemorated in the West by means of various memorials.
Jewish prisoners in Bergen-Belsen erected a wooden memorial in ; it was replaced by a memorial of stone in , which still stands at the memorial site today. But there was often a time-lag. Memorials at West German memorial sites dedicated to all victims of National Socialism, such as the memorial slabs naming the countries of the victims at Neuengamme , or the wall of commemoration in different languages in Bergen-Belsen dedicated in , reflected the will to honour the dead in all their diversity.
But there were omissions. The Sinti and Roma were not allocated a place on the Bergen-Belsen wall until , and an application put in by Dutch Sinti and Roma for a memorial at BergenBelsen has, to date, not been approved. Moreover, there was a problematic tendency to lump German war-dead together with camp victims. Only gradually did the realization set in that memorial sites should not function solely as places of commemoration, but also, especially given continued evidence of right-wing radicalism in West Germany, as places of historical enlightenment.
Initial attempts at documentation, with its inevitable focus on the crimes, were resisted. Bergen-Belsen followed suit in In line with the Cold War, West German exhibitions understressed communist resistance in the camps, while overstressing Christian Facing the Nazi past 18 resistance.
By contrast, an enlarged photograph of a statistical table listing the various kinds of religious prisoners hits the visitor full in the face. The Christianization of Dachau went hand in hand with an anti-communist exhibition agenda. The same agenda was visible in the lack of sympathy for the fate of Russian soldiers.
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Between and , tens of thousands of Russian soldiers were either murdered, or died of maltreatment, starvation and disease at Bergen-Belsen. A similar situation existed in Dachau. Dachau in the early s had four permanent members of staff, while pre Buchenwald had about a hundred.
The memorial sites in the East Concentration camp memorial sites in West Germany were the responsibility of regional ministries and local government, with considerable involvement on the part of groups representing former prisoners. In the GDR, there was the opposite problem of overcentralization. Not that centralization was only negative. Public donations helped towards their construction. Ulbricht himself oversaw preparations for the opening of the memorial site at Sachsenhausen, to which some , people came: the streets of Oranienburg were lined with flags to mark the occasion.
But, in the final analysis, centralization meant uniformity, monopolization and politicization of memory. The second article of this statute outlined the various functions this mega-site was to have see MfWFK b: The result of this mandate was a uniform picture at all three memorial sites, which told the same tale of communist-led resistance.
Strikingly, then, there were unexpected structural and semantic similarities between the West and East German models of remembering. His suffering, like that of Christ, is everywhere. The message is: he died so that you might live. The imposition of sense on suffering removed the need to ask how the suffering came about.
The significant difference between East and West Germany lay in the concept of victimhood. In the West, camp inmates were often seen as passive, helpless pawns in a devilish game. In the East, the communist inmates, at least, Facing the Nazi past 20 were seen as active. They suffered, but they transcended their suffering by directing energies towards resistance, even liberation.
Thus the GDR made much of the fact that camp inmates had helped to liberate Buchenwald, transforming their assistance of the American liberators into an act of self-liberation. The more active the prisoners appeared, the less they came across as victims. The active prisoner had another essential asset: he was forward-looking.
Indeed it had already fulfilled some of the goals of these anti-fascists in setting up a socialist state which had overcome the evils of capitalism and was opposed to capitalist imperialism throughout the world. At frequent junctures the GDR stressed this role as worthy successor in an ongoing battle. Not just official commemorative acts, but exhibitions and catalogues were often little more than illustrations of this model of memory.
In , the memorial centre at Buchenwald published a small brochure designed to act as a guided tour to the site. The section on the Effektmkammer informed the reader that this was where the prisoners had to hand over their clothes and possessions, and where anti-fascists hid the three-year-old Jew Stefan Jerzy Zweig Ritscher A teleological superstructure was imposed on camp life which, if unintentionally, legitimized its horrors. By means of enlarged photographs of emaciated figures, as well as stylized drawings, suffering is resignified as spiritual strength.
An artistic representation of camp inmates on glass—culminating in a figure with rifle in hand, and accompanied by a heroizing text by Brecht—imposes a positive narrative structure. The glass is illuminated from within, creating a transcendent glow. The negative-positive principle dominates throughout. Blown-up photographs undermine, rather than enhance, the reality of what is portrayed. In the pathology building, enlargements of photographs of detached limbs rob these of their natural dimensions. The overall impression is one of an unreal chamber of horrors. The GDR understood fascism to be a barbaric form of capitalist exploitation.
Antisemitism and racism were regarded at best as secondary manifestations, or mere byproducts.
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Given this fact, there was little room for the history of racial Plate 1. Facing the Nazi past 22 persecution in GDR representations of camp life. Sinti and Roma were virtually excluded from representation. But the fate of the Jews was presented one-sidedly. At Sachsenhausen, the exhibition on the Jews presented the visitor with little concrete information on Jewish suffering, focusing instead on acts of resistance such as the revolt of Jewish prisoners in the face of imminent deportation to Auschwitz on 22 October zur Nieden The persecution of the Jews, moreover, was viewed from the perspective of communist sympathy and solidarity.
In GDR remembrance ceremonies, the pogrom was principally associated with communist courage, only secondarily with Jewish suffering. At Buchenwald Memorial Site, there was a particular focus on the fact that the camp resistance groups had saved the life of a young Jew, Stefan Jerzy Zweig. The hiding of Zweig was presented to the outside world by the GDR as proof of communist grit and pro-Jewish sentiment.
Zweig left the GDR in The GDR was quick to politicize the theme of Jewish suffering. The final section of the Sachsenhausen exhibition on the Jews featured the not unfounded claim that West Germany had failed to overcome the legacy of anti-semitism, and the unfounded claim that the GDR had succeeded in doing so zur Nieden In reality, the GDR, certainly in the s, was hardly friendly towards Jews, some of whom fell prey to an increasing anti-Zionism following the Slansky trial in Prague in ; many left for the West, reducing the Jewish community in the GDR to a few hundred.
Jewish victims of Nazism were treated as second-class victims following a ruling of The VVN was gradually purged of individuals of whom the SED had grown suspicious, and Jewish members were also excluded prior to its dissolution Leo The real attitude of the GDR towards the Jewish victims is perhaps best exemplified by the case of Jamlitz. From onwards, a Concentration camp memorial sites 23 stone sculpture by a Hungarian Jew imprisoned at Jamlitz served as a memorial.
In May , a mass-grave with bodies was uncovered. In a macabre imitation of Nazi practice, the Ministry for State Security Stasi in Cottbus removed the gold from the teeth of the victims before passing the bodies on for cremation—in contravention of GDR laws Weigelt The Jewish memorial was removed in September By moving the memorial to Lieberose, the local SED sought to resignify it, loosening its associations with Jewish suffering at Jamlitz. The new generation Were it not for the engagement and persistence of surviving victims, the major concentration camp sites in the West might have fallen into complete neglect.
The work of processing the past was left to the Christian Church. In the East, camp memorial sites were so heavily politicized that only certain groups of victims were remembered, and then only in so far as they were useful. Their agony was not the central issue. It took a new generation of West Germans, not least schoolchildren and students, in the s and particularly the s to draw attention to the need for Germans to remember their victims.
To a lesser degree, generation changes in the GDR had a similar impact. By the late s, some 75, young people in the FRG had submitted all in all some 15, projects on various aspects of local German history. Many youngsters, such as the daring Anja Rosmus in Passau, chose to probe into the National Socialist past. Thanks to their energies, many previously forgotten sites of pain and perpetration came to light.
In East Germany, too, schoolchildren researched into remote sites. Laura, a satellite camp of Buchenwald, was opened as a memorial site on 6 May In the West, schoolchildren and students did much to bring into sharper relief the history and topography of camps which already had memorial sites.
It was also a group of students and academics who, in , began to undertake serious research into the history of the Emslandlager camp. Younger generations, of course, had nothing to hide, unlike the war generation. Indeed they often had an urgent desire to uncover. The work of these young people helped, in West Germany at least, to make possible a shift towards a more self-critical commemoration of victims, and towards the conceptualization of camp memorial sites as places of historical learning.
For a long time, documentation had very much taken second place in relation to commemoration. Arguably, moreover, it was the youth-driven peace movement in both West and East Germany which best understood the legacy of the concentration camps as one of warning against war and destruction. This walk became a regular yearly occurrence. But it nevertheless represented a determined attempt by the GDR peace movement to interpret the legacy of the camps in the interests of peace and freedom of movement, against the anti-fascist instrumentalization by the state.
Towards the end of the s, as Gorbachev began to pursue his policies of glasnost and perestroika, first tentative steps towards a depoliticization of memory became possible in the two Germanys. This also affected camp memorial sites. An advisory commission was convoked. In January , it recommended transforming the exhibition to take account, among other things, of the use of Bergen-Belsen as a POW camp prior to its use as a concentration camp.
The acknowledgement of German inhumanity to Soviet prisoners, and the broadening of focus to include the history of the Second World War, represented a significant development. Bergen-Belsen was no longer to be understood merely as a case of SS brutality, but also as an example of a system of warfare and violence in which the Wehrmacht was implicated.
In East Germany, there was no development that can be compared with that at Bergen-Belsen, but there were noteworthy attempts to adopt a less aggressive policy towards the West. A greater focus on historical documentation, and to a degree therefore on the facts of perpetration, also found its way into the catalogue of changes formulated by the BergenBelsen advisory commission in Not only is a fuller picture a prerequisite for fuller understanding; it also enables the visitor to trace processes back to points of inception and acquire a sense of the need to resist such processes as and when they begin.
The pedagogical aims of the new concept were reflected in the plan for a larger, better-documented, in part audio-visual exhibition with work-folders for groups of schoolchildren. The increased interest in pedagogy reflected the awareness that young people needed to be informed, especially in view of the danger of neo-Nazism.
But it is noteworthy that it was often young people who first undertook the job of enlightenment frequently eschewed and indeed resisted by the older generation. The Wende, unification and the chance of greater change By , while the situation at concentration camp memorial sites in the GDR was still largely one of monolithic idealization of anti-fascist resistance, the situation at the West German ones was slowly becoming less tendentiously commemorative, more self-critical and less half-hearted, but there was still much to be improved.
In the ten years between and the time of writing in , the topographies of memory at both east and west German camp memorial sites have either been radically transformed, or are in the course of such a transformation, whereby problems of inadequate financial support, degrees of ideological stonewalling and disputes with local communities or organizations representing groups of victims are slowing down the pace of change.
In the west, this change is a continuation of developments in the s, but would not have proceeded as it has done without a number of additional factors. Gestures of good will extended to eastern European camp inmates in the s at Dachau Memorial Site, for instance, were made possible by the end of the Cold War, as was the erection there of a Russian-Orthodox Chapel in The 50th anniversary of the end of the war in was bound to attract enormous international attention see Chapter Four. The date of 8 May became a focal point either for the completion of changes or, at least, for the expression of a will to change.
Developments at east German camp sites were more significantly affected by the end of the Cold War. Soldiers from the USA—whose role in liberating Buchenwald had been played down in the GDR—were invited to take part in large-scale acts of commemoration at Buchenwald Memorial Site in It was also in that the new concentration camp exhibition was opened at Buchenwald.
But changes in the east of Germany have been much more radical because of the collapse of socialism. History has decided otherwise. GDR anti-fascist renderings of camp history, not least monuments or exhibitions, were summarily removed or shut down in or subsequently. There are signs of creeping Christianization since at eastern memorial sites, as is demonstrated by the Christian crosses erected in memory of those Germans who died in Soviet camps at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald after the end of the war see Chapter Two. However, it can hardly be disputed that GDR representations of concentration camp life were highly ideological and in need of revision—something recognized in the course of the Wende by GDR citizens themselves.
Extending the topography Overall, changes at both eastern and western camp memorial sites over the last ten years reflect an enormous improvement over the pre situation. The post period has seen a remarkable push towards the inclusion within memorial sites of previously excluded parts of the original camps. Also, surroundings of relevance to the camps, such as the sites of related work camps, quarries and factories, have been included or Concentration camp memorial sites 27 themselves designated as memorial sites, creating an integrated network which provides a more comprehensive picture of the realities of imprisonment.
The culture of integration or reintegration is the culture of post-unification Germany, and it would have been a surprise had this cultural discourse stopped short of sites of memory. Some facts will illustrate the parallel developments in east and west. Not far from Sachsenhausen is the site of an almost forgotten clinker brick factory, where prisoners were also subjected to slave labour. After , it was used by the Soviet army and then the East German army. In the west, at Dachau, the Bunker building has recently been integrated into the memorial site and fitted out with a small exhibition.
Negotiations are under way to persuade the Bavarian Riot Police to cede this building to the memorial site. In , after years of wrangling, the Hamburg Senate agreed to move the prison away from the former concentration camp site at Neuengamme. Organizations representing former prisoners hope to install exhibitions in the vacated buildings. Finally, it has become possible to include the camp kitchen, laundry-room and roll-call area in the memorial site. But the supermarket never opened. Following international protest Facing the Nazi past 28 and the intervention of Minister President of Brandenburg Manfred Stolpe, it was agreed that an alternative location should be found.
The supermarket scandal, as it became known, was a perfect example of unscrupulous east-west commercial cooperation. A west German supermarket chain, Tengelmann, contracted the construction of a supermarket on the site, and subsequent attempts to stop the building were resisted by local mayor Wolfgang Engler, formerly SED, now SPD.
But the scandal had another, equally significant dimension: the clash between the need for a community of east Germans to confront the National Socialist past and their perceived right in the present to consumer goods and chances of employment. Unemployment had grown. The supermarket was a lifeline. Engler was implying that a normalization of life was under way which was being blocked by an abnormal intrusion of the past.
By means of a curious inversion, he created the impression that it was not commercialism which was intruding into the territory of memory, but the concentration camp memorial site which was intruding on areas of commerce; that it was not the camp inmates who were victims, but the local townspeople. In line with this inversion, Engler, the press and eventually the Brandenburg government found themselves caught up in a macabre discussion about the need to compensate the builders and the supermarket chain should the construction be halted. One element of the Walser debate, namely the fear that the past had become an irresponsible moloch threatening the German chance of normality see Chapter Seven , was anticipated here.
It was also anticipated in the west. The Greens objected to the fact that the new prison was to be built in an idyllic country environment. Behind the objections to the move are normative systems which place economic considerations, notions of the irreversibility of past misjudgements and, above all, issues of environmental protection above considerations of greater acknowledgement of the past.
Nevertheless, the SPD-run Hamburg Senate has continued to press for the move, and it will occur in the next one or two years. The discrepancy between the memorial sites and the true extent of the camps they memorialized was the physical manifestation of the German reluctance on both sides of the Iron Curtain to remember the whole story. With almost criminological zeal, memorial sites since have embarked on a large-scale process of archaeological retrieval. It demonstrates a wish to recover what can be recovered of the univers concentrationnaire.
As more and more is recovered, more and more has to be faced. Even within the confines of the memorial sites as they used to be, a certain expansion is taking place. At Sachsenhausen, the former camp sick-bay areas Revierbaracken , used by the GDR for archive and library purposes, were repaired in the s and will be used for an exhibition as of In the course of repairs, the cellars were cleared of rubble with which they had been filled after This led to the discovery that the original pathology rooms were situated beneath one of the sick-bay huts. These underground rooms are to be made accessible to visitors.
It is significant that it is not just the topography of the victims, their huts or places of labour, which is now emerging in Facing the Nazi past 30 more detail, but also that of the perpetrators. The current generation of Germans is taking upon itself the responsibility for pointing up effect and cause, the crime and its criminals. This will certainly help in proving, in an age where it is possible to deny Nazi atrocities, that they really happened. But there is a danger of an unintended countereffect. Some, notably neo-Nazis, might see in the process of revealing the remains of perpetrator buildings, and particularly in their restoration, an implicit celebration of these perpetrators.
More generally, there may be a danger of former camp sites being understood as a set of archaeological remains, associated more with scientific and distanced recovery than with active memory. Of course any aesthetic accretion in the present may create a new form of alienation. But the chosen models are characterized by a self-consciousness which encourages critical reflection in the visitor. The case of Polish architect Daniel Libeskind will demonstrate this. Now, however, it appears that the area will be memorialized. While, at first glance, Libeskind seemed more committed to trace obliteration than preservation, this was not so.
Visitors, on bridges, would have been able to see the troop complex through the water. Libeskind hoped to encourage reflection on the erosive and submersive effects of time, the susceptibility of memory and the apparent inevitability of the past becoming the past. But there will be no supermarket. Indeed it will remain distinctly visible, intruding into the present, a constant reminder of what once was. Here too, a dialogue between past and present has been set in motion. Thus a dividing wall in the reconstruction bears traces of the arson-attack, reminding the visitor how destructive the desire to forget or repress can be.
The reconstruction is itself a reconstruction of a reconstruction. The GDR rebuilt the huts in the early s, using material from a number of similar period models. Thus the Jewish Huts represent a reconstituted and compromised, indeed staged originality. Yet they still convey an impression of the past reality, and represent an act of attempted resistance against the corrosive present. In accordance with a prize-winning model by Stefan Tischer and Susanne Burger, Uckermark is to be covered in blue flowers, except for the annihilation complex, which is to be the site of archaeological diggings.
Former victims have objected to the blue flowers. But the contrast to the archaeological site will create a dialogue between beauty and horror, surface and depth, present and past, covering and uncovering. Tischer and Burger clearly want visitors to reflect on this dialectic. The Tischer and Burger proposal envisages the removal of these post buildings and the gradual archaeological recovery of the remains of the foundations of the concentration camp huts. It also stipulates that the area around these remains, as they are revealed, be covered with slack taken from a heap visible to visitors.
The slack will therefore highlight these remains and mark out the basic groundplan. Given that the uncovering of these foundations is likely to take several years, the heap will dwindle very slowly, symbolizing both the ongoing process of recovery, and the arduous struggle against forgetting. Where uncovering pre use means removal of post buildings, it has been objected that Spurensicherung can result in the undesirable erasure of subsequent layers of narrative.
Accordingly, suggestions have been exhibition on post-war use. The issue is at the time of writing still undecided. The made that a part of the post cell tract at Facing the Nazi past 32 Neuengamme be retained for an question of whether or not to represent the post camp use by the Allies is a particularly sensitive one, as doing so may seem like wanting to shift the focus and play down German guilt.
Representing the victims The process of inclusion at post-unification memorial sites has extended beyond buildings and grounds. Again, it is particularly the east that has been affected. In the early s, as state controls relaxed, GDR camp memorial site staff began to adopt a critical stance towards the distortions of anti-fascism.
It would be easy to dismiss such statements as attempts to turn with the tide, and they will have been this to an extent. They had had, however, little scope for implementing the results of such research. In the course of the s, the Memorial Site opened additional rooms dedicated respectively to July Plot victims see Chapter Three , Jews, Sinti and Roma and Christian resistance.
It saw no problem in adducing these rooms to the eighteen rooms from GDR times which housed exhibitions on national groupings such as the Polish, Russians and French. In this sense they were ground-breaking, certainly as far as the GDR was concerned. If the rooms on national groups did rather understate racial, religious and non-communist political reasons for incarceration, the new rooms placed these more in the foreground, while not necessarily denying other motives.
Moreover, the commemorative landscape at Buchenwald has been redesigned to include new memorials. The Jewish Memorial by Tine Steen and Klaus Schlosser, located at the site of Block 22 which was occupied largely by Jewish prisoriers from April onwards, was dedicated on 10 November It was dedicated in April Both the Sinti and Roma Memorial, designed by Daniel Plaas, and the Jewish Memorial use stones as a commemorative motif, evoking memories of the nearby quarries where prisoners endured slave labour.
The Sinti and Roma Memorial organizes them into a sequence of decreasing size, symbolizing death and erasure from memory, while the Jewish Memorial organizes them into a sloping structure of similar symbolic force.
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Again, the dialectic of past and present is addressed. Since , plaques dedicated to the memory of Sinti and Roma as well as homosexual victims have been mounted at Sachsenhausen Memorial Site. But it would be wrong to suggest that it was only in the east that such inclusions were necessary.
An exhibition on homosexuals which opened at Oranienburg Castle on 21 April pointed out that paragraph , used to discriminate against homosexuals for generations, was not completely scrapped in the Federal Republic until ; the GDR abolished an equivalent paragraph in At Dachau, where the exhibition made no mention of homosexual victims, the International Dachau Committee in refused to allow a commemorative plaque to be mounted.
It is to be hoped that the new permanent exhibition at Dachau will provide detailed information on the sufferings of Sinti and Roma, homosexual and communist Facing the Nazi past 34 prisoners, as is indeed planned. The small Plate 1. Donated by their fellow Romanies, who sought refuge here. This is a positive development. Also in the west, attempts by the Gay-Lesbian Archive in Hanover to secure for homosexual victims a place on the wall of commemoration at Bergen-Belsen have so far been rejected on the grounds that this wall only commemorates national and ethnic groups Rahe Strict adherence to national and ethnic groupings represents here an act of exclusion.
It also denies the basic realities of National Socialist persecution as an often multilayered phenomenon. It may be that this absolute personalization is the only way to overcome the possible exclusion of victims. Blank Concentration camp memorial sites 35 scrolls in the building await the addition of new names, or at least symbolize the need to remember those whose names have not been recorded. The second of these focuses largely on women incarcerated for their part in staging resistance, but in such a way that the visitor is made aware of the whole gamut of possible forms of, motives for and sources of resistance, and of the infinite possibilities of overlap between political, racial and ideological discrimination by the National Socialists.
The exhibition consists of biographical overviews, which include photographs of the women. The advantage of this shift from the macronarrative towards the micronarrative is that individual contours and complex realities emerge. Empathy becomes possible because the visitor is not confronted with anonymous group suffering. In a sense the biography is a counter-narrative to all group narratives, which can force affiliation at the cost of difference.
It is interesting that one or two of the biographies reappear in slightly altered form in the cell block rooms dedicated to Jews, or Sinti and Roma. Should we see Irmgard Konrad as a victim of racial or political discrimination, or both? Should we see her in terms of her German-Jewish background, or of her socialist affiliation? Boundaries become fluid. The exhibition on Jewish prisoners which opened in Sachsenhausen in also highlights individual biographies, each with its own complex mix of the personal and the general. A series of contrasting slides projected onto opposite sides at the centre of the exhibition impresses on the visitor the need to understand suffering in both collective and personal terms.
On the right, looking down from above, we see a series of slides of Jews and other victims being ridiculed, deported, made to assemble in groups, trodden on and shot. On the left, we see a series of facial shots of some of those individuals whose biographies are featured in the exhibition.
This critical dialogue between the impersonality of photographic representations of the holocaust and the very personal nature of the victims is complemented by a display of tattered remains of leather shoes under a glass-case extending between the sets of slides. Facing the Nazi past 36 It is hard to believe that these remains were once part of individual items with individual owners; yet their very fragmentation triggers an inchoate impulse in the viewer to want to reconstitute the pieces into a whole or wholes.
Of course one cannot reconstitute disparate pieces; and the victims whose faces we can put a name to in the one set of slides are not the same people we see being brutalized on the other set. Repersonalization remains a process fraught with obstacles. What matters, ultimately, is that the visitor be made aware of it as a desirable process.
And what of the perpetrators? Should they also be represented in the form of detailed biographies? So far, new exhibits relating to the SS are still in the planning stages at most sites. At Buchenwald Memorial Site, however, the new exhibition features, in addition to a comprehensive overview of SS structures and activities, biographies of notorious figures such as Camp Commandants Karl Koch and Hermann Pister, or SS man Martin Sommer, known for his atrocities at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.
Just as the victims were not anonymous, nor was the SS. Exemplary biographies can moreover demonstrate the diversity of possible paths to commitment to National Socialism and to involvement in atrocities. A case in point might be Waldemar Hoven, a doctor in Buchenwald who, we learn in the new Buchenwald exhibition, not only committed atrocities, but also had a brief, if peripheral fling at a career in Hollywood GB Representing the SS remains generally a controversial issue.
Behind these reservations are fears of misinterpretation, leading to the buildings becoming places of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis. Decentralization At concentration camp memorial sites, then, the focus is now constantly widening to encompass not just the various groups of victims and perpetrators, but also the variety of individuals among these.
The result is a degree of complexity and a multi-perspectival view of camp experience. Because memory is no longer organized around a structuring principle such as anti-fascism, a certain decentralization has set in. Instead of one major exhibition and one or two minor ones, as in pre Sachsenhausen, Morsch plans ten smaller ones. The drive to decentralization reflects the inherent polylocality and Concentration camp memorial sites 37 multi-narrative of camp life. Morsch seeks to allocate to buildings and rooms exhibitions describing events or people associated with these locations.
All the memorial site advisory commissions have stressed the need for carefully differentiated presentation of the victims in these new exhibitions. If more examples of the multinarrative approach be needed, one could point to the process of wider embedment. At Buchenwald, the memorial site topography has been extended since to reconnect the camp to the wider system of National Socialist repression of which it was both expression and end-point. And it can embrace the whole issue of coming to terms with the past or not after , as is planned for Dachau, Neuengamme and Sachsenhausen.
This ideal is closer to realization in Germany now than at any other point in the post period. Visitors to the rapidly changing memorial sites will have to bring much more time with them than was the case before. Instead of being offered a neatly packaged version of camp history, they will be invited to construct their own interpretations.