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Canadian Journal of Sociology Online May-June 2007

New Analyses of Trauma, Memory, and Place in Berlin and Beyond
A Review Essay

Jennifer A. Jordan.

Structures of Memory: Understanding Urban Change in Berlin and Beyond.

Stanford University Press, 2006, 304 pp.
$US 24.95 paper (0-804-75277-X), $US 65.00 hardcover (0-804-75276-1)

Karen E. Till.

The New Berlin: Memory, Politics, Place.

University of Minnesota Press, 2005, 296 pp.
$US 25.00 paper (0-816-64011-4), $US 75.00 hardcover (0-816-64010-6)

Maria Tumarkin.

Traumascapes: The Power and Fate of Places Transformed by Tragedy.

Melbourne University Press, 2005, 288 pp.
$AUS 34.95 paper (0-522-85177-0

Many nations have experienced forms of trauma that became salient elements of their histories. For older generations of Americans, national trauma in collective memory is still associated with December 7, 1941, when the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor. As Wolfgang Schivelbusch has reminded us, the initial experience of loss and defeat can spur collective action and lastingly realign a nation’s cultural and political systems if tied to a larger meaningful story. [1] After the end of World War II, such a story emerged quickly in American culture, and refracted in various forms from popular movies to textbooks in political science, it retained a nearly hegemonic status for decades. The story was so powerful because in counterpoint to a horrible beginning it offered a redemptive ending: After facing the trauma of being drawn into yet another world war, the United States and her Allies emerged victorious, having repulsed the territorial ambitions of the axis powers, which had invented industrialized extermination in factories of death to inflict on their victims some of the most gruesome trauma in world history. [2] After World War II, the United States economy successfully shifted from a war to a peace economy, ushering in a period of unprecedented economic prosperity. It became the political leader of capitalist countries and ultimately the world’s only remaining military superpower. In short, the American nation reconstituted as an empire, to put it in Niall Ferguson’s somewhat controversial terms, benevolent in its intents and deeds to those on the political right and less so to those on the left. [3] A long-lasting period of national and international stability if not tranquility seemed not only conceivable but at hand.

September 11, 2001, shattered this modernist myth and showed at least its prospective elements to be a fiction. For younger generations of Americans, the events on that day, and the collective anxiety fueled by the domestic anthrax scare in their immediate aftermath, have become the new reference point for national trauma — but with no story in sight that promises redemption or recovery. In the United States no cultural meta-narrative that comes to terms with these events has emerged beyond a few, sometimes hollow-sounding slogans such as “the war on terror.” Since few if any new national goals were formulated as a response to September 11, no new strategies arose to pursue them. What has occurred, instead, is an intense debate about the repercussions of the Bush administration’s political response to national trauma, which domestically rolled back civil liberties and internationally engaged in military reprisal and unilateral intervention that predictably failed to bring about the intended outcomes and in due course squandered the trauma-generated good will initially extended to the United States almost world-wide.

Likely to remain synonymous with tragedy of a global scale for many years to come, the events of September 11 and the struggle over their meaning illustrate five core foci in analyzing trauma and memory. First, even in the absence of a dominant collective story about the meaning of September 11, important stories exist of the tragic events on that day. Embedded in these stories are immensely private and deeply personal thoughts and feelings, such as the harrowing experience of loss and despair written in the faces of men and women holding up or posting pictures of their spouses, children, or parents who had likely just perished in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Such trauma stories are important, for they represent both the result of individuals attempting to come to terms with large-scale tragedies and the ways in which society identifies with their suffering.

The second focus is the temporal ripple in society eventuated by the tragedy itself. It changes the societal perception of time from linear to non-linear, into qualitatively different periods before and after the tragedy. Bridging the periods or going back to the earlier one seems inconceivable, as the traumatic event opened a chasm between the two. This is trauma’s “ratchet effect” on temporal perception. It needs little elaboration in the context of September 11, the era before which seems woefully ignorant of the potential for violent religio-cultural conflict within or between societies.

The third focus of the analysis of trauma and memory is place. September 11 denotes at least three cemeteries — Ground Zero, a Pentagon wing, and a field in rural Pennsylvania—sacralized by trauma. Trauma is not spatially amorphous but inscribed in place. Its analysis must address the physicality of a location that quite literally embodies a traumatic event, and how people relate trauma to a physical space, interact with it, and commemorate at it. Its central element is the geography of physically, socially, and mnemonically appropriated space. Such appropriation, particularly through memorialization, transposes structures of places into structures of memory.

The fourth focus is on such structures of memory, often shaped by politics. Historically, few nations have withstood the temptation to influence how people memorialize. Governments provide funds for memorials and museums, shaping what, when, and how people remember (or sometimes forget) the past, as do some corporations and other entities. The workings of these entities are part of a nation’s memory culture, which denotes a distinctive collective approach to deriving meaning from traumatic events in the past. Memory cultures are contested, however, reflecting differences in opinion about the causes, manifestations, meaning, and consequences of national trauma and its proper role in national history. Nowhere is this more evident currently than at the Ground Zero site, where memory battles rage about what and how to commemorate. [4]

The fifth focus of trauma analysis addresses trauma’s international dimensions. Sometimes trauma transcends local and nation-based forms of commemoration. Although the traumatic event itself might be confined to a single region or spot, its effects and implications can be of such magnitude that they rank among those cultural phenomena that Max Weber once referred to as being utmost sociologically relevant, namely, those of “universal significance and validity.” It is thus useful in the analysis of trauma to distinguish between trauma that is universal in its effects and consequences and that which is not. The events on September 11, 2001, and December 7, 1941, arguably fit the first category, whereas, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the social catastrophe that followed the natural one in the wake of the hurricane Katrina, do not.

All three books reviewed here bring one or several of the five foci into sharp relief, in very different ways, but each magnificently so on its own terms. Maria Tumarkin’s book is the only one that provides a comparative phenomenology and sociology of trauma, which she calls traumascapes. She writes on six epicenters of national trauma and tragedy: Port Arthur, Tasmania, as the location of a former hellish penal colony and in 1996 of a massacre that claimed over seventy casualties; Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as a site related to the terrorist attacks on September 11; the Kuta region of Bali as a place of the deadliest terrorist attack in Indonesia’s history, in which more than 200 people were killed and another 200 people wounded in 2002;[5] Moscow, targeted in several recent terrorist attacks and sieges; Sarajevo as the object of a Serbian siege and urbicide from 1992 to 1995; and Berlin as the headquarters of Nazi terror in World War II. Other sites of atrocity and/or contested memories such as the former World Trade Center, Dachau (Nazi Germany’s first permanent concentration camp under SS supervision), and places of atrocity in the area of the former Soviet Union are mentioned as well.

Tumarkin first outlines how trauma effects changes in the perception of time and how the past intermingles on site with the present. At places “marked by traumatic legacies of violence, suffering, and loss,” she notes in the Introduction,

the past is never quite over. Years, decades after the event, the past is still unfinished business. Because trauma is not contained in an event as such but in the way this event is experienced, traumascapes become much more than physical settings of tragedies: they emerge as spaces, where events are experienced and re-experienced across time. Full of visual and sensory triggers, capable of eliciting a whole palette of emotions, traumascapes catalyze and shape remembering and reliving of traumatic events. It is through these places that the past, whether buried or laid bare for all to see, continues to inhabit and refashion the present (12).

In the first part of her book, she recounts journeys to the various traumascapes. She describes the geography of the sites, their histories subsequent to the traumatic events, and the reactions brought forth by encounters with the sites, weaving into her account analyses by academics, reflections by literary figures, descriptions by journalists, and last, and most importantly, the stories of those who perished in or lived through the traumatic events. In these stories, the voices of those who have experienced trauma speak loudly, and she uses them to illustrate her argument beautifully. The popularity of traumascapes, Tumarkin asserts, cannot be attributed entirely to a modern morbid fascination with death and tragedy or to what scholars of dark tourism have described as the tourist exploration (and sometimes exploitation) of disaster sites. Rather, it is the capacity of such sites to trigger a mixture of elementary affective states—fear, sorrow, pain, but also empathy, and in one’s struggle in coming to terms with these emotions, even empowerment—that anchor them in individual conscience and constitute the foundation for mythologies that give direct or vicarious personal experiences universal significance and meaning at regional, national, or international levels.

In the second part of her book, Tumarkin deepens some of these insights. She alludes to a deep emotional bond between survivors and sites of tragedy, which, without romanticizing the experience of trauma and its aftermath, she describes as frequently coexistent with remarkable resilience and courage. She analyzes how the victims of traumatic events are symbolically treated at the sites, and, as she puts it, even ruins can compel meaning. She explores how people that have long vanished can be reclaimed in their humanity and abandoned or destroyed buildings be recognized for their cultural value. She discusses how life goes on at traumascapes, how people reestablish themselves on such grounds, and the haunting qualities of such sites.

If there are drawbacks to this second part, and to the book as a whole, they lie in two areas. First, the references to Berlin as a traumascape, which arguably ranks among the most fertile soils for both national and international memory cultures, are rather subdued. Tumarkin simply doesn’t write much about it. Second, her book provides a somewhat cursory treatment of the fourth focus of trauma analysis, the politics of memory. Different nations commemorate differently, reflecting contestations over the meaning and significance of traumatic events, but little of it is discussed in the book, and Tumarkin references few of the major scholarly writings. As the author herself acknowledges (p. 215), her account only scratches the surface of this topic.

Yet in light of the book’s strengths these shortcomings are fairly insignificant. In large parts Tumarkin’s analysis is nothing short of mesmerizingly innovative and proves the author to be a gifted writer capable of strikingly original work. Born to a Russian family that settled in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where she grew up before emigrating to Australia and receiving a doctorate in history from an Australian university, Tumarkin is especially persuasive in her accounts of the traumascapes of Moscow and Sarajevo, for which few accounts exist in English, and none that evince the same depth of insight and attention to the victims’ experiences. Throughout the book, and in the best of ways, Tumarkin’s personal history and cultural background seem to inform her thought. As an émigré and proverbial outsider, she does not take collective memories and cultural interpretations of trauma for granted, but rather probes the shape and boundaries of such memories and interpretations and asks how they were socially constructed. As someone who had experienced first-hand the workings of state-mediated commemoration in the Soviet Union, she knows better than to trust official stories that serve national causes or to uncritically rely on existing accounts, which she subjects to validation though triangulation in multiple forms. As a former resident of the Ukraine who is also Jewish, she can relate to the cultural repertoire and experiences of a group and territory devastated first by Stalin’s politics of starvation in the 1930s, then in the 1940s by German empire-building so vile and murderous that it stands out even in the sordid history of Nazi genocide,[6] and again under post-war Soviet dominance. On these foundations Tumarkin builds a powerful analysis. It is therefore a pity that the book has not been readily available outside Australia.[7]

While Berlin plays only a subsidiary role in Traumascapes, it is at the heart of the other two books, both of which afford contested memories a central place. Sociologist Jennifer Jordan’s Structures of Memory is best described as a topography of Berlin’s architectural memory landscape since WWII, depicting how and what Germans chose to commemorate and to forget about Berlin’s past encounters with Nazism. Jordan employs an innovative theoretical model to explain the process in which a geographical location transforms into a memorial site that is invested with meaning and invokes rituals of commemoration. The model, sketched in the book’s opening chapter, consists of four core elements. First, Jordan argues, it takes memorial entrepreneurs to attract interest to a site worth memorializing. Second, the efforts of a memorial entrepreneur have to mesh with an audience receptive to adopting the entrepreneur’s cause and making it its own, at times spurring new entrepreneurs as multipliers of this cause. Memorial space is more likely to emerge when, third, competing land uses (such as low-cost housing) are few, and, fourth, the land is held in public instead of private ownership.

Jordan subsequently analyzes how different configurations of these four elements in Berlin’s recent history have affected whether and how the past is memorialized. The authenticity of a site, she demonstrates, is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for the production of urban memory space. Yet it is not insignificant either, as she shows in the second chapter, where she traces historical changes in Germany’s memory culture since World War II. Whereas East Germany cultivated a multitude of state-sponsored memorials to the victims of fascism, often in bombastic representational forms, in order to bolster its political legitimacy, West Germany’s political awakening in the 1970s went hand in hand with grass-roots efforts to memorialize past trauma in new and different ways. Jordan describes this as the pluralization, democratization, and decentralization of German trauma commemoration, which went hand in hand with a shift to conceptual forms of commemoration. This new form of commemoration tends to emphasize the pedagogical goal of learning from the past, often drawing on the authenticity of a site and local history to drive home the point that the past can teach powerful lessons for the present and future. These elements are still alive in Germany’s highly dynamic memory culture today.

While Jordan’s depiction of collective memory landscape in Germany is competent but treads on familiar territory covered in previous accounts,[8] her book really shines in the following chapters. In the third chapter, she investigates the fate of memorials located in East Berlin that were established before the unification. Even though the East German top-down approach of dictating what was remembered and how fell completely out of favor after 1989, and the booming real estate market in the early 1990s exerted significant pressure to turning public space into private real estate, the Eastern memorial landscape remained largely unaltered. Exploring what happened to memorial plaques, memorial stones, and a street that hosts a memorial ensemble of a former Jewish cemetery-turned-park and adjacent Jewish home for the aged that the Nazis turned into a deportation camp for Auschwitz, Jordan demonstrates a high degree of continuity in the memorial landscape, because the memorial sites were largely unsuitable for alternate use, remained public property, and memorialized the past in a way that was commensurate with newer (Western) forms of commemoration. Chapter four addresses the micro-history of memorials built since German unification. Next to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe that opened in 2005, Jordan traces the micro-histories of monuments at four lesser-known places: the Bebelplatz, where the infamous public book burning occurred in 1933; the Koppenplatz, chosen to honor Jewish Berliners’ contribution to their city; the Rosenstrasse, where a number of courageous women demanded the release of their imprisoned Jewish husbands in 1943; and a house on the Rosenthaler Strasse, where an entrepreneur attempted to save blind Jewish factory workers by employing them in his brush business. Common to the process of enshrining memory in these places were, as she describes it, “arduous negotiations involving residents, activists, multiple levels of elected and appointed government officials, survivors, the press, and in many cases a larger international public of survivors, artists, and even newspaper readers” (p. 132). The book then ventures into largely uncharted territory in chapter five, turning to trauma sites over which such negotiations never occurred or remained confined to victims and survivors, resident historians, and district agents at the local level. Jordan explores sites of former Jewish synagogues, wild concentration camps, and forced labor enclaves that have largely remained unmarked and inconspicuous. The absence of commemoration is due to a variety of factors: original buildings have disappeared, research on the history and precise location of sites is still in its infancy, private property owners holding title to the land are sometimes loath to permit the placing of a commemorative plaque, or the land has been used in an alternate way for some time. Consequently, with one important exception that Jordan mentions only in passing and which has since become one of the most recent additions to Berlin’s expansive list of memorial sites,[9] memorial entrepreneurs remained absent and there was little resonance with the larger public. The findings of these negative case studies, which provide a rare glimpse at forgotten territories, are consistent with the results of Jordan’s previous investigations and the predictions derived from her theoretical approach.

Jordan’s book amounts to an impressive scholarly accomplishment, even though two of the five core foci in the analysis of memory and place are hardly addressed in it. The book’s title is aptly chosen—Structures of Memory—for it thematizes the configuration of the memory landscape within which commemoration occurs, and recent historical processes shaping this configuration, not who commemorates, or how, or what larger socio-cultural consequences arise from memory related to trauma and memory. In other words, Jordan quite deliberately leaves out a subject on which Tumarkin dwells at length, namely, what sites of trauma do and how stories of trauma told through guides and place markers shape the experience of those who visit, commemorate, and reflect, from the personal to the national level. Moreover, only in the conclusion does Jordan hint at the ways in which globalization and increasing cultural interpenetration have influenced memorialization in Berlin and beyond, pointing to the diverging fates of the Wannsee Villa and Hitler’s bunker. In the case of the Wannsee Villa, the notoriety of the building, which derived from its immediate ties to the Nazi “Final Solution” so strongly evoked both a national reaction and an “international gaze,” that it compelled official recognition and disuse as housing for school children on outings. In contrast, the site of Hitler’s bunker was subjected to successive steps of obliteration lest it turn into a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and an embarrassment for Germans concerned about their status in the international community. While this is true and Jordan’s attention to the presence of an “international gaze” at Germany’s dealings with trauma in its past, which other scholars have related to the emergence to a larger, twenty-first-century cosmopolitan memory culture,[10]is appropriate and timely,[11] there is more to the second story than what is told in the book. For in Berlin the absence of physical remnants and, until very recently, the absence of any official marking at Hitler’s bunker has, if anything, fueled rather than prevented the emergence of what is known as the Mythos Führerbunker, further enhanced by recent autobiographical revelations and a film in part based on them.[12] Comparable locations evoking a similar fascination in popular culture deal decidedly differently with the past.[13]

If the cosmopolitan turn in Berlin’s memory culture is understudied in Jordan’s otherwise excellent study, it figures prominently in Karen Till’s The New Berlin. Till applies the skills of an urban geographer to investigate Berlin’s renewal in the 1990s. Her focus is on “place making,” by which “people mark social spaces as haunted sites where they can return, make contact with their loss, contain unwanted presences, or confront past injustices.” Places of memory thereby “narrate national pasts and futures through the spaces and times of a city that is itself a place of social memory” (p. 8). Berlin is a particularly appropriate case for such a study, she argues, for in the process of the Holocaust becoming recognized as a moral universal representing humanity’s capacity for crimes against itself under conditions of modernity, this city has become both the centre where that crime was planned and overseen and the centre of a vast array of new government offices and corporate headquarters. While the massive influx of public and private assets fostered a spectacular building boom in the early 1990s, the trauma infused into Berlin’s city scape by its violent past could not be ignored and will continue to shape the past’s commemoration. In seeking to analyze the memorial process, Till is quick to point out that violent histories’ lingering legacies become relevant to communities only if and when social carriers engage in place-making activities. Of these she studies two main groups: on the one hand those involved in art, architectural, and urban design competitions as participants, commentators, and administrators, and on the other hand diffuse networks comprised of survivors’ groups, artists, citizen activist, guides, scholars and teachers, and politicians. Her analysis excels in depicting the workings of the first group.

Unlike Jordan and Tumarkin, Till focuses on large, high-profile sites of commemoration, which are, literally and figuratively, monumental. Her main case is what has historically been known as Berlin’s “Gestapo Terrain” and is now as the site of the exhibit Topography of Terror. After tracing the grassroots action that elevated the history of the place into the realm of public discourse, Till elucidates the contestation that followed over the form and function of such a site: Should it be a memorial to admonish the living, a Mahnmal, or a didactically more ambitious learning and documentation center, a Lern- und Gedenkstätte? Due to its close aesthetic ties to the older Denkmal, or traditional memorial (itself a derivative of the Ehrenmal, or monument to national heroes), its former instrumentalization in East Germany for political purposes, and concerns that it lends itself to forgetting the past rather than engaging with it, the former has fallen somewhat out of favor among memorial designers and civic fora. The latter sometimes incorporates the further intent of confronting visitors with elements of history in order to make them think and contemplate (a Denkstätte, literally “a place to think”), albeit at the perceived danger of overemphasizing its experiential elements (turning it into a Erlebnisstätte) or conceptual abstractness (leaving the visitor in a postmodern void). Or should the site just be left in its pristine state as an “open wound”? As Till shows in wonderfully thick description, such contested mnemonic practices have been about much more than preserving the past: in this case, they map the vagaries of German postnational identity, and one of their outcomes has been to infuse into German memory culture a disembodied documentary style characterized by a dispassionate, non-manipulative approach to engaging with historical artifacts.[14]

Till’s other major cases are Berlin’s Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the emergent “memory district” to which this memorial, the Topography of Terror’s present exhibit and future documentary center, and the Jewish Museum belong. Here, too, she retraces the protracted negotiations over the intended meanings and functions of these sites of memory, paying particular attention to the factors that shaped the artistic competitions for their designs. For the Holocaust memorial, she arrives at one conclusion that is widely shared among commentators—that the monument, in the final version in which it was erected, is largely built on the foil of an older Mahnmal tradition of commemoration, and may therefore fail to engage the visitor more radically—but also at another one that is bold and thought-provoking: that the memorial design privileges what historians term an intentionalist interpretation of the Holocaust over its functionalist rival, thus refocusing visitors’ attention on individual responsibility instead of the networks of persecution that were deeply ensconced into German society during the Nazi period and led to bureaucratic extermination first of the disabled via the “Euthanasia” project, then of the Jews, and less comprehensively, other groups such as the Romanies and segments of Eastern Europe’s population.[15] As illustrated by the artistically acclaimed “Bus Stop” project, neatly described by Till, which proposed a de-centered, conceptual monument by taking tourists around on buses that had concentration camps as imaginary destination points written in large letters on each bus,[16] proposals to implement the latter historiographical approach by means of aestheticizing the German nation as a people of perpetrators and supporters (rather than mere bystanders or even victims) were not lacking but failed to win over both design competition committees and core voices in the public sphere.

Till also expresses a concern that that the Jewish museum’s fine-grained depiction of Jewish history in Germany, which embeds the Holocaust in a broader historical narrative presented through multiple media, might be instrumentalized by the German state seeking to “normalize” its violent Nazi past via the centralization of commemoration in Berlin’s “memory district.” Instead of encouraging a critical reflection about the national past and identity, this museum and the other memorial sites may provide a collective affirmation that such a reflection has already happened and the past successfully mastered, thus allowing the twenty-first-century Germany national identity to be increasingly separated from its past. In light of Jordan’s account, which depicts a memory culture that continues to thrive next, and sometimes in opposition, to state-governed or state-mediated memorialization, I doubt that Till’s concern is warranted and applies to the ways in which new and increasingly multi-ethnic generations of Germans will confront the Nazi period. Be that as it may, Till’s other point, that the centralization of commemoration and the attendant concentration of government financial resources on memory mega-sites not only runs counter to the strategy of fostering successful grass-roots based and decentralized memory projects that have emerged since the 1980s, but also deprives other educational and commemorative facilities in Berlin and elsewhere of much-needed resources, certainly seems well taken. Given the uncertainties in the allocation of resources by the government, it seems clear that private organizations will need to play a larger role in the funding of these places.

In conclusion, what will the future of mnemonic practices and the study of memory culture at sites of trauma hold? As these studies and many others indicate, much work has been done to describe and analyze the emergence, present forms, and contexts of commemoration, but little is known about the mnemonic practices themselves. For the major national and international sites of collective or collected memory, at most we have data about how many people a year visit a museum, memorial, or monument, but typically we do not know how much time they spend there, on what they focus their attention, and whether their visit affects their lives and attitudes. Jordan’s study omits these issues, while Tumarkin’s focuses on the experience of witnesses and observers. Only Till begins to explore this experiential component of memory culture more directly, by consulting sources on the Internet where visitors reflect on their experiences. Till’s use of information found on the Internet, while methodologically problematic, points to the growing but barely recognized relevance of that medium. The Internet can both facilitate access to sites of trauma and be a medium for commemoration, even in ways that are not possible on site, as I have attempted to show elsewhere.[17] Till is also the only author among the three who begins to address the nascent commodification of trauma sites and commemoration. In Berlin and elsewhere, trauma sites and museums have turned out to be tourist magnets. The scientific exploration of this topic in the context of what is known as “dark tourism” has only just begun.

Notes

  1. The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003). Back to text
  2. The Nazi extermination machine was ruthlessly efficient but technologically crude. In contrast, the technologically more sophisticated means for civilian genocide and extermination developed by Japanese military scientists in the form of biological and chemical weapons have only recently received more attention, and the memorialization of the atrocities inflicted with them remains hotly contested. See Sheldon Harris, Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-up (rev. ed.; New York: Routledge, 2002); Daniel Barenblatt, A Plague upon Humanity: The Secret Genocide of Axis Japan’s Germ Warfare Operation (New York: HarperCollins, 2004); and Franziska Seraphim, War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945-2005 (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2006).Back to text
  3. Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004). In the book Ferguson largely sides with the first group, albeit not necessarily on ideological grounds.Back to text
  4. See Laura Sydell, “Plans for WTC Memorial Dogged by Controversy,” National Public Radio Weekend Edition, September 10, 2006.Back to text
  5. The 2005 terrorist attack in the same area occurred too recently to have been included in her book. Back to text
  6. See Karel Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2004); Wendy Lower, Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).Back to text
  7. After failing to locate copies for sale in North America and Europe, this reviewer obtained a copy from a used book store in Australia. No reviews of the book in academic journals appear to have been published outside Australia so far.Back to text
  8. See, e.g., William J. Niven, Facing the Nazi Past: United Germany and the Legacy of the Third Reich (London: Routledge, 2002); for Berlin, Brian Ladd, Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).Back to text
  9. This is the completely preserved former forced labor camp Berlin-Schöneweide. Financed by both the Berlin Senate and the European Union as well as private donations, the documentation center at the site offers information, guided tours, as well as opportunities for victims to tell their stories.Back to text
  10. Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006).Back to text
  11. In explaining Germany’s attempts to come to terms with its past, historians have rightfully pointed to the extensive embeddedness of Germany’s economic and political structures in international contexts in the post-World War II period, exposing the country and its internal workings to inspection from beyond its borders, but the continued importance of this factor for informing Germany’s present memory culture is often overlooked. To this day, many German politicians and members of the business community and general public remain concerned with this “international gaze,” in part for practical reasons. Germany exports more than one third of its GDP, far more than the U.S. or Japan (or Canada, for that matter), and its annual trade surplus is even larger than China’s. Furthermore, German corporations have an extraordinary presence in goods and production facilities on European markets and draw on an international and multiethnic labor force at their domestic and foreign locations. At the same time, due to its still generous welfare provisions, Germany has a high ratio of total government outlays to GDP, and to fund these outlays the state depends on a steady stream of both corporate tax revenue as well as social security taxes and other taxes raised from employees. Under these conditions, German business and political leaders are acutely aware of the potentially disastrous economic and political consequences of even the resemblance of a reappearance of the ghosts of the past, especially in dealing with executives, consumers, and workers from countries that had unpleasant war experiences with Germany—and the memory of these experiences still runs deep, particularly in Eastern Europe. During the most-watched sports event in 2006, the soccer world championship in Germany, many of them may well have been more concerned about the possibility of racist attacks on foreign residents and fans during the event than the possibility of Germany’s team losing in an early round, neither of which happened.Back to text
  12. Shortly before her death in 2002, Traudl Junge, one of Hitler’s personal secretaries, published her memoirs Until the Final Hour, focusing on Hitler’s final days, a book which became one of the main sources for the movie Downfall. The spot of the bunker is now marked by a display set up by the association Berliner Unterwelten.Back to text
  13. These are the Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally Grounds and the Obersalzberg, where once the homes of Hitler and other Nazi leaders stood. There exhibits document the crimes of Nazi Germany.Back to text
  14. In an interesting twist to this story in the context of a future documentation and visitors’ center at the site that Till is able to mention only in a brief note, the realization of architect Peter Zumthor’s ambitious design of a glass-plated façade was cancelled in 2004 because of its exorbitant costs, protracted technical challenges, and a growing uneasiness with what some considered the overly bold conceptual innovativeness of the design. After a new competition resulting in a more conservative design as the winner, the beginning of construction is slated for fall 2007. Other recent architectural attempts to reinterpret and reimagine Berlin’s history are discussed in Allan Cochrane, “Making Up Meanings in a Capital City: Power, Memory, and Monuments in Berlin,” European Urban and Regional Studies 13 (2006): 5-24.Back to text
  15. For a more in-depth analysis, see Claus Leggewie and Erik Meyer, “Ein Ort, an den man gerne geht”: Das Holocaust-Mahnmal und die deutsche Geschichtspolitik nach 1989 (Berlin: Hanser 2005).Back to text
  16. In this particular case, great art might indeed have proved impractical, for it is conceivable that right-wing extremists could have commandeered one of the installations on occasion to taunt and harass foreigners and Germans with a migration background, while uninitiated tourists could have mistaken the bus tours for evidence of a return of fascism.Back to text
  17. “A Memorial as Virtual Traumascape: Darkest Tourism in 3D and Cyber-Space to the Gas Chambers of Auschwitz.” e-Review of Tourism Research 5 (2007): 24-33; available at <http://ertr.tamu.edu/appliedresearch.cfm?articleid=124>.Back to text

Lutz Kaelber

University of Vermont

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Lutz Kaelber is an associate professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Vermont. His current research is on the commemoration of Nazi “Euthanasia” (the murder of the disabled, sick, and elderly). His review of Werner Sombart, Economic Life in the Modern Age appeared in CJS Online in 2003.

http://www.cjsonline.ca/reviews/traumamemory.html
June 2007
© Canadian Journal of Sociology Online

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