Summary, abstracts and full texts of issue no. 113
Philippe Mesnard (Editor in chief): Editorial. Du sang, entre ciel et terre. À propos de nouvelles tendances de l’historiographie de la Shoah (pdf in French) (pdf in Dutch) [Blood between heaven and earth: on new tendencies in the historical study of the Shoah]
Portfolio Terezin / Theresienstadt (pdf in French and Dutch) (fotos: Philippe Mesnard)
Dossier: Les tabous de l’histoire allemande [The Taboos of German History]
Edited by Martine Carré, Ingeborg Rabenstein-Michel and Ralf Zschachlitz
Emmanuelle Aurenche-Beau (Lumière University – Lyon 2): La mémoire de la fuite et de l’expulsion dans Niemandszeit de Jörg Bernig (2002) et Die Unvollendeten de Reinhard Jirgl (2003) (pdf) [Memories of flight and expulsion in Niemandszeit by Jörg Bernig (2002) and Die Unvollendeten by Reinhard Jirgl (2003)]
- After having been more or less kept under cover in the former GDR, flight and expulsion are the central themes in two novels published in the first decade of the 21st. century and written by two authors from former East Germany, both the grandsons of former Sudeten German families. Their books have certain points in common which distinguish them from works published in earlier decades (a strong historical basis, an attempt to go beyond a dualistic opposition between victim and executioner), but show similar ways of handling the subject of flight and expulsion by members of a generation which did not live through these events. Bernig has clearly chosen the path of fiction by setting the action of his novel in a place without a name which serves as a sort of experimental example of a possible shared life between Czechs and Germans, while Jirgl attempts to reconstitute the history of four generations of his family.
Carola Hähnel-Mesnard (Charles de Gaulle University – Lille 3): La mémoire de la fuite et de l’expulsion chez Hans-Ulrich Treichel et Reinhard Jirgl – distanciation ou victimisation? (pdf) [How Hans-Ulrich Treichel and Reinhard Jirgl remember flight and expulsion – distancing or victimization?]
- The article examines the representation of the flight and expulsion of Germans from territories in the East at the end of the war in two contemporary literary works, Der Verlorene by Hans-Ulrich Treichel (1998), and Die Unvollendeten by Reinhard Jirgl (2003). While the subject does not constitute a taboo per se, having found its way into literature from 1945, the familial and emotional dimensions that characterize the return to this subject today merit examination. The two works, written by authors whose families were affected by these historical events and who both belong to the second generation, address the subject in very different ways. Treichel’s novel uses narrative and stylistic procedures to keep the suffering of the German population at a distance and recalls the Jewish genocide by adding a reflection on German actions and responsibility. Jirgl’s novel, on the other hand, presents a typical German victim who carries the traits of the archetypal victim, and casts doubt on the idea of calling history into question.
Delphine Klein (Jean-Monnet University – Saint-Étienne): De l’abus à l’affût des tabous. Ulrike Maria Stuart d’Elfriede Jelinek (pdf) [From abuse to lying in wait for taboos: Ulrike Maria Stuart, by Elfriede Jelinek]
- In her play Ulrike Maria Stuart, written in 2005, Elfriede Jelinek, a highly controversial playwright despite her 2004 Nobel Prize for literature, calls on the voices of terrorists from the German Red Army Faction, an episode in Germany’s recent history which was surrounded by taboos. An analysis of her handling of her historical subject shows how Elfriede Jelinek is able to invoke the memory of a poorly healed wound from the past and question the workings of memory. The author not only confronts the taboos of history and deconstructs myths, but also makes war on the taboos surrounding the practice of writing for the stage. She compares traditional theatrical conventions with a style freed from all constraints, which commits the supreme sacrilege of using and sabotaging a canonical text of Germany’s literary and cultural heritage, Maria Stuart by Friedrich Schiller. But does this type of writing have an impact in the end, or does its attempt to express the inexpressible and free what has been repressed result only in impenetrability and an excess of meaning?
Ingeborg Rabenstein-Michel (Claude Bernard University – Lyon 1): Adolf Hitlers Mein Kampf, gezeichnete Erinnerungen an eine große Zeit: Kurt Halbritter et la déconstruction du tabou du suiveur par et dans la BD (pdf) [Adolf Hitlers Mein Kampf, gezeichnete Erinnerungen an eine große Zeit: Kurt Halbritter and the deconstruction of the follower taboo by and in graphic books]
- In Adolf Hitlers Mein Kampf: gezeichnete Erinnerungen an eine groBe Zeit, Halbritter aims to denounce the taboo on discussing Nazi fellow-travelers which has been and still is so strong in Germany. By choosing in 1968 the comic book form, a genre considered minor and even subversive, to record the chronology of daily life under the Third Reich from Hitler’s accession to the fall of the regime (thus anticipating the principle of the graphic novel), he adds an additional dimension to his provocation. Bearing in mind the surveys of German students which unveiled the extent of their ignorance of this part of their recent and disturbing history, Halbritter’s satire may also be read as a salutary didactic undertaking which goes against the voluntary interruption in the transmission of History practiced during their parents’ generation. In preparation for 2016, when Mein Kampf will fall into the public domain, it may be useful to recall Halbritter and his unusual and rather iconoclastic appeal to confront the past.
Martine Carré (Jean Moulin University – Lyon 3): Quand un tabou en cache un autre: Tod eines Kritikers – Mort d’un critique de Martin Walser (pdf) [When one taboo hides another: Tod eines Kritikers – Death of a Critic by Martin Walser]
- Martin Walser’s novel Tod eines Kritikers both announces and denounces the debate it triggers. The article shows that its restrictive structure invites the reader to question the taboo on antisemitism in Germany in the 90s. Can the taboo be considered as a “screen taboo” which aims to conceal another taboo, that of a “mortgaged freedom of reflection” in the democracies of communication through the coercive power of opinion as shaped by the media (here a type of collective guilt)?
Sibylle Goepper (IEP Strasbourg): La judéité dans les romans de Barbara Honigmann et Jan Faktor: tabou dépassé, identité refondée (pdf) [Jewish identity in the novels of Barbara Honigmann and Jan Faktor: taboo transcended, identity recreate]
- For over 40 years the Jews of the GDR lived through a paradoxical situation: welcomed as “victims of Fascism” they benefited from privileges, but at the same time were forced to remain silent about their origins. Among writers, eminent personalities accepted this concealment. This was the case until the 1990’s, when they began to return to their Jewish roots. Barbara Honigmann (born 1949), a daughter of Jewish Communists who had escaped the Shoah, returns to this taboo in her novels. They make it clear that the “generation of survivors” agreed to the renunciation involved in order to prove their loyalty to the regime. They also illustrate the problems which affect not only the children of survivors, but more especially their children, who have inherited an empty shell of family history. The reference to Judaism is recent in the works of Jan Faktor (born 1951), and is intrinsically linked to his passage to prose in the first decade of the 21st century. His novels deal essentially in a humorous way with, the concentration camp experience of the women in his family. Honigmann and Faktor share a quest for identity in their writing, and both offer an authentic and optimistic synthesis between historical periods, generations, cultures and systems.
Hélène Camarade (Michel de Montaigne University – Bordeaux 3): Le viol des femmes allemandes en 1944-1945: Un tabou transgressé dans les journaux intimes et les romans? (pdf) [The rape of German women in 1944-1945: a taboo transgressed in personal diaries and novels?]
- It would not be correct to claim that the taboo concerning the rape of German women in 1944-45 was only broken in Germany during the last decade. In the former GDR there was a political taboo on the subject, but it was already broken during the second half of the 1970s (Christa Wolf, Werner Heiduczek). After a period of silence ending in 1959, the rapes were referred to in the German Federal Republic, both in novels, (Günter Grass, Edgar Hilsenrath) and in written and orals testimony, films and political speeches. Even today, however, references to the rapes still seem to respect certain narrative conventions, which raise the question of whether those conventions are not due to the fact that the victims’ voices were not heard, rather than because the events themselves could not be expressed. In diaries (Anonyma/Marta Hillers, Hans von Lehndorff, Käthe von Norman, Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, Ursula von Kardorff), these narrative conventions mainly consist of preserving the anonymity of the victims, referring to the text via a third party, giving the subject only marginal importance and using circumlocutions as euphemisms. Authors of contemporary novels (Hans-Ulrich Treichel, Jlia Franck, Gudrun Pausewang) favor the child’s viewpoint, thus making it possible to raise the effects of the taboo on families.
Anne Peiter (Réunion University): À la recherche d’un champ anhistorique. Mise en place de tabous allemands: les exemples de Leni Riefenstahl et Albert Speer (pdf) [In search of an ahistorical field: the establishment of German taboos; the examples of Leni Riefenstahl and Albert Speer]
- The contribution examines the ways in which the photographer and film director Leni Riefenstahl and Hitler’s armaments minister Albert Speer perceived the Nazi past when the taboo process, or rather the “de-tabooing” process, was set up after 1945 in West Germany. In general, German political memory evolved from collective silence to progressive recognition of Germany’s crimes, but Speer and Riefenstahl did not follow this evolution. Their names were banned until the 1960s, when they gained notoriety due to their “journeys”. Speer went round the prison garden in circles like a man obsessed, and called this circling “a journey around the world”. Riefenstahl brought back photographs from the Sudan which gave a new impetus to her career, while at the same time taking her back to the past, all the way back to the Third Reich. In Riefenstahl’s view, it was not the past which cast light on the succeeding period, but the present which cast light on a past in which she saw only pure, apolitical and ahistorical beauty. Speer was more inclined to confront the past via self-questioning. But it may be asked whether in fact he too did not aim at purifying the present, and thus, like Riefenstahl, reconciling past and present under the sign of purity. “De-tabooing” thus signifies an encouragement to turn the page and file the Shoah away.
Ralf Zschachlitz (Lyon 2 University): Tranches de vie sous le national-socialisme marquées du sceau du tabou dans Anders de Hans-Joachim Schädlich, Demenz de Tilman Jens et Beim Häuten der Zwiebel de Günter Grass (pdf) [Slices of life under National Socialism marked by the seal of the taboo in Anders by Hans-Joachim Schädlich, Demenz by Tilman Jens and Beim Häuten der Zwiebel by Günter Grass]
- Sixty years after the end of the Third Reich, a number of German literary works focus on biographies affected by the taboos and physical repression surrounding Germany’s twelve darkest years. Ralf Zschachlitz presents three biographical or autobiographical works which deal with the taboos woven around three characters who played important roles in the intellectual and cultural life of post-war Germany. “Anders”, a work by Hans-Joachim Schädlich, looks at the falsified biography of Hans Schneider, alias Hans Schwerte, professor of literature at Aachen University and former SS member. “Demenz” by Tilman Jens, son of the distinguished professor of rhetoric Walter Jens, relates how his father's hitherto concealed membership of the National Socialist party came to light In his autobiographical work “Beim Häuten der Zwiebel”, Nobel prize-winner Günter Grass revealed that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS, while attempting to minimize this fact.
Dr. Fabian Van Samang (Historian): “Elke handeling met de intentie te vernietigen…”. Inhoud en limieten van het concept genocide in het proces tegen Ratko Mladić (pdf) [“Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy...”: the content and limits of the concept of genocide in the trial of Ratko Mladić]
25 ans après sa disparition. Ce qu’a vraiment dit Levi (pdf) [25 years after his death: what Levi really said]
Bookstore (pdf of Book reviews)
- Bernard Bruneteau, Le Totalitarisme. Origines d’un concept, genèse d’un débat (1930-1942), Paris, Cerf, 2010. [Totalitarianism: origins of a concept, genesis of a debate]
Review in French by Anne Roche (Aix-Marseille University)
- Bernard Bruneteau, L’âge totalitaire. Idées reçues sur le totalitarisme, Paris, Le Cavalier Bleu, 2011. [The totalitarian age: conventional ideas on totalitarianism]
Review in French by Nancy Berthier (Sorbonne University – Paris IV)
- Philippe Mesnard, Primo Levi. Le passage d’un témoin, Paris, Fayard, 2011. [Primo Levi: the passage of a witness]
Review in French by Frediano Sessi (Mantova University)
- Philippe Mesnard, Primo Levi. Le passage d’un témoin, Paris, Fayard, 2011.
Enrico Mattioda, Levi, Rome, Salerno, 2011.
Review in French by Albert Mingelgrün (President of the Fondation de la Mémoire Contemporaine)
- Enzo Traverso, L’histoire comme champ de bataille. Interpréter les violences du XXe siècle, Paris, La Découverte, 2011. [History as a battlefield: interpreting violence in the twentieth century]
Review in French by Frediano Sessi (Mantova University)
- Guy Penaud, L’Inspecteur Pierre Bonny. Le policier déchu de la “Gestapo française” du 93, rue Lauriston, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2011.
Review in English by Sash Lewis
- Gérard Haddad, Lumières des astres éteints. La psychanalyse face aux camps, Paris, Grasset, 2011. [Light from extinct stars: psychoanalysis in light of the camps]
Review in French by Michel Enaudeau (Journalist)
- Philippe Masson, Histoire de l'armée allemande, 1939-1945, Paris, Perrin, 2010. [History of the German army]
Review in French by Leonore Bazinek (Rouen University)
- Anne Roche, Exercices sur le tracé des ombres. Walter Benjamin, Paris, Grasset, 2011. [Exercises on the track of shadows]
Review in French by Carola Hähnel-Mesnard (Charles de Gaulle University – Lille 3)