Memories Require Nuance

Declan Da Barp

The German Catechism debates laid bare the tumultuous creation of memory in the post-45 context. In the piece that spawned these debates, Dirk Moses raises a number of profoundly difficult questions about how holocaust memory was fostered and the memories that it is used to obscure – particularly that of colonial violence. Moses, quoting Franz Neumann, calls Nazism a form of “racial imperialism” (7). His comments were not without controversy. As pointed out by Neil Gregor, there is no clear other that Moses is pointing to but rather the ominous “high-priests”.

Fundamentally, these debates were part of a long history of remembrance and historical narratives that form the social milieu. As is so eloquently pointed out in Evans’ piece, the lack of a colonial narrative is not unique to Germany or Europe, but an issue here in Canada and countless other countries globally. Germany and many global north countries are changing, and these narratives are being challenged. With a colonial memory being brought to the fore, ideas of the holocaust’s uniqueness are being examined and repositioned within a much wider historical context. Nuance is being introduced into a composition of a past that was black and white – a German past rather than the past of Europe collectively. Debates, such as the German Catechism, are a crucial arena in which societal memory can be pulled apart and discussed – the voice of scholars in the public domain is a key in creating this nuance. Creating a grey narrative that views an event through a myriad of lenses promotes robust debate around tough and painful memories – ones that must be viewed within a wider context to fully understand their shortcomings.

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