Germans in the 20th Century Essay

Germans in the 20th Century Essay

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The Story of Germans in the 20th Century
and Their Dynamic Understanding of It


HST 429
Term Paper









Although there has been a lot of controversy about the accuracy of the collective German memory of World War II, I believe that the many different viewpoints that have risen up in the last 60+ years have provided a vast patchwork of German memory that, together, show that Germans have at least adequately explored every aspect of their 20th century. The aspect of Germans as perpetrators has clearly been expressed, often overriding the aspect of victimization – particularly in the minds of many “normal” Germans who see their suffering as an inevitable result of the crimes committed “in their name.” The view of Germans as victims is the much more delicate, and supposedly ignored, subject. Writers W.G. Sebald and Gunter Grass both address the issue, which they believe is urgent, that the German people largely disengaged themselves from the issue of their or their relatives' status as victims. Through either complete withdrawal from the memories or the use of empty cliches, the German people, even when they do acknowledge their past as victims, are very passive toward it and have even formed an “almost perfectly functioning mechanism of repression” (Sebald 2004, 11) according to one side of the debate. The opposing viewpoint, from Mary Nolan and Robert G. Moeller, points to the many movies, books, government speeches, government policies, and TV series that have dealt with German victims over the years.
Sebald in 1999 in his book, On the Natural History of Destruction, focuses on the absence of literature dealing with the air war, and therefore the absence of resolution with the issue. He writes that during an...


... middle of paper ...


...ed on the subject in many different ways. Sometimes references have been more subtle, like the use of the word “millions” rather than a specific group – but German suffering has certainly always been present in the German consciousness.


Works Cited



Gűnter Grass, Crabwalk (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003), 252 p.
W.G. Sebald, On the natural History of Destruction ( New York: Modern Library 2004), p. 1-33, Hayden PT405 .S4313 2004, Online Book (Blackboard/Assignments)

Mary Nolan, Germans as victims during the Second World War, Air Wars, Memory Wars , in: Central European History , vol. 38, no. 1, 7-40 ( Blackboard/Assignments )

Robert G. Moeller, Sinking Ships, the Lost Heimat and Broken Taboos: Günter Grass and the Politics of Memory in Contemporary Germany , in: Contemporary European History , 12 , 2 (2003 ), p. 147 -< /span> 181 ( Blackboard/Assignments )

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