By Felix Nicol
In this week’s readings, a question stayed with me, shaping my interpretation of the readings. I wondered: to what extent is the reinterpretation and narrative-shaping present in recounting the past useful or perhaps instead counterproductive in molding our understanding of the past. As underlined in Fulbrook’s chapter Bearing the Voices of Victims, first-person accounts were often accompanied with information added by professionals to add context and perhaps give a more unbiased and “accurate” view of victims (371). It is understandable that some form of editing is necessary, as these accounts, usually recounted years after the fact, are likely to contain information warped through a post-war perception. However, on the other hand, the amazement of readers surprised by the objectivity of a victim whose work had been intertwined with a ghost-writer’s analysis as explored by Fulbrook provides problematic interpretation in the other direction (373). In this regard, there is a danger to be seen in the views of a general public who may have false understanding of the past due to objective information of a third party placed in the recountings of a primary source.
Moeller’s analysis of Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg underlines similar problems with the creative liberties taken in improving storytelling. Moeller explores this problem through the perspective of the American and German critics, the former of which glossed over the false recountings of the past, rather interpreting German criticism as proof that the German public was not willing to accept its past (510.) Without going into details, the use of Salomon’s work as a primary work of understanding Fragebogen explored by Sollors looks at the irony of his criticism of the survey without having submitted one himself (149). In both of these examples, though I do see merit in using creative liberties to ensure interesting work which allows a work to gain popularity, I feel we need to be careful not to create false perspectives of the past, especially towards readers and watchers who may not have the means and or the interest to inform themselves further on the subject.
Mary Fulbrook, “Discomfort Zones” and “Voices of the Victims” in Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp: 314-336, 361-377.
Robert Moeller, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522.
W. Sollors, “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.