The Changing of Memory

By: Willem Nesbitt

Over the course of thirty years, Hugo Spiegel fought for his hometown of Warendorf to erect a monument to commemorate the Holocaust. Having survived the horrors of Dachau and Auschwitz, the last of which took his young daughter’s life, Hugo exemplified the gradual shift in Germany memory of the Holocaust during the latter half of the twentieth century. With surviving Jews emigrating to Israel and America en masse, author Helmut Walser Smith describes how the act of commemoration and remembrance of the Holocaust gradually came into form over the years, with, as outlined by Michael Rothberg, eventually culminating in the “Historikerstreit” in the 1980s. While both authors do attempt to address why it took so long for Germany to reconcile its past, Smith placing emphasis on the idea of German-Jewish co-operation and Rothberg highlighting larger, public commemorations such as Schindler’s List and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, both articles gloss over German society itself. While I understand it may be difficult to accurately look into the feelings and actions of an entire population, the articles leave me wondering why it was that the Holocaust fell by the wayside for so long in public consciousness. Was it shame, or perhaps embarrassment? Was it because those who lived through the war themselves did not want to speak of it, and it was only the younger generations who finally picked up the torch?

One Reply to “The Changing of Memory”

  1. Hey Willem, great point! You would think that something of that magnitude would be addressed sooner rather than later. To expand on your last point of whether it might have been shame or not wanting to speak of it that left it buried for so long, another option to consider in conjunction to those might be fear—under a fascist regime like that, they might not take too kindly to people speaking out against it. Just a thought, however I agree that both articles do not properly address this issue.

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