Written by Emma Bronsema
Overtime, memory culture changes, as does the way we look at and understand certain historical events. Discussions and research surrounding the holocaust were based on the political and intellectual context of the time. Memories and stories were not immediately following, and in the same way, right after the war, in comparison to decades following. Some reasons are due to the desire to maintain hidden following the war. Other reasons include interests and focus being placed on different aspects of the war. In relation to the commemoration of the jewish experience and the use of plaques and monuments, they were not popular until the 1980s.
Stories are told, memories shared, and memorials are created successfully through collaboration between the two groups and a receptive audience. A minority group may rally for something, but until their voice is heard by the majority and people are genuinely willing to work together, whatever it is they are asking for will not be given.
This is especially prevalent in regards to the holocaust memorials in small German towns. While members of the returning Jewish community were pushing for a monument or plaque to commemorate the Jewish lives lost and their experience during the Second World War, it was not until they gathered together and got their voices heard by the rest of the community. They had to get their community interested and invested in order to get their wishes granted. At the same time, without the return of the Jewish communities, their voices would have been lost and experiences unheard by the residents still there.
By working together, not only are their memories able to be kept alive, but the collective population is able to learn about other people’s experiences. Furthermore, they, and historians and researchers, can attempt to understand how people can become marginalized, as well as become involved in a system of collective violence. This includes figuring out how to deal with it, and grapple with the limits of our collective and individual knowledge and understanding.
Helmut Walser Smith, “It Takes a Village to Create a Nation’s Memory” Zocalo Public Sphere https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2021/01/11/post-war-germany-jewishreturn-memory-national-reckoning/ideas/essay/
Mary Fulbrook, Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice podcast https://soundcloud.com/historyhit/coming-to-terms-with-the
Michael Rothberg, “Comparing Comparison: From the “Historikerstreit to the Mbembe Affair” Geschichte der Gegenwart September 23, 2020 https://geschichtedergegenwart.ch/comparing-comparisons-from-the-historikerstreitto-the-mbembe-affair/
W. Sollors, “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.