Essay about Memory and Individual Identity in Post World War II German Literature

Essay about Memory and Individual Identity in Post World War II German Literature

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Events that occur in the world around us shape our personalities. The experiences that a person lives through, both good and bad, have a direct relationship to that person’s growth as an individual. It could be argued that a person is the sum of their experiences, or more accurately the sum of their memories of those experiences. The memory of an experience does not always reflect the literal truth of what occurred, rather it will reflect how the experience affected the person who remembers it. Two different people who have the same experience can remember it in two very different ways. The differences in their memories will show how the experience affected them differently. An experience as large and life-changing as living through a war will affect a large number of people, who will each remember it and be changed by it in their own way. Literature written about such events will reflect the affected individuals and societies. Some of the effects of World War II on the average German person can be seen through an analysis of the different memories and experiences of the war represented in a selection of post World War II German literature including Gregor von Rezzori’s Memoirs of an Anti-Semite and Heinrich Böll’s And Where Were You, Adam?.

The short story “Troth” from Gregor von Rezzori’s Memoirs of an Anti-Semite is a great example of the Anti-Semitism that was already prevalent in Europe before WWII and how the war changed that Anti-Semitism. The main character, Arnulf, was raised into Anti-Semitism and sees nothing wrong with it despite his own frequent interactions with several Jews, people whom he sees as his friends. This does not fit into the common stereotype of the rabid Anti-Semite. According to Daniel Goldhagen’s b...


... middle of paper ...


...wo examples, and in fact in all of post WWII German literature, reflect on the whole German people as the full spectrum of individuals who were affected and changed by WWII.


Works Cited

Böll, Heinrich. And Where Were You, Adam? Trans. Lelila Vennewitz.. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern UP, 1994.

Frei, Norbert. “People’s Community and War: Hitler’s Popular Support.” The Third Reich Between Vision and Reality: New Perspectives on German History, 1918-1945. Ed. Hans Mommsen. Oxford: Berg - Oxford International Publishers, Ltd., 2001. 59-77.

Goldhagen, Daniel. Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Afred A. Knopf, Inc., 1996.

Jaspers, Karl. The Question of German Guilt. Trans. E. B. Ashton. New York: The Dial P, 1947.

Rezzori, Gregor von. “Troth.” Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. New York: Random House, 1981. 190-242.

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