Manual Abschied (Wenn das Scheiden nicht wär) (German Edition)

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David Roberts is even more forceful in denying the literature of the zero hour a place in postwar West German literary history. On the one hand Briegleb attacks the dominance and self-celebrations of Gruppe 47, but precisely in making it the centerpiece of his attack, while ignoring other literary figures, he paradoxically helps to cement the ex post facto dominance of Gruppe It is precisely the systematic neglect or even repression of the zero-hour authors that suggests the need for a reexamination of them. Two recent studies suggest that such accusations against zerohour literature still have credibility.

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Nevertheless, Schlant unfairly includes her among the authors participating in the obfuscation of the past. In addition, the latter novel even thematizes the denial of Nazi crimes. Propaganda, nothing more. Gypsies and Jews, Poles.


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  5. Such depictions of the Holocaust as part of a Christian history of struggle between God and the devil may now seem offensive to many, and they may even be perceived as silencing the specifically Jewish dimensions of the Holocaust. However no matter how inadequately, they do thematize the Holocaust, even if they do not use that word — itself a product of cultural history after the zero hour.

    In the immediate postwar period, such thematizations were tremendous accomplishments. But far from rejoicing in her fate, Ellen wishes she could wear a yellow star like her Jewish friends; when she does wear one, she suffers the same kind of discrimination and racism that they suffer. Two wrong grandparents and two right ones!

    However, in the context of the novel it is clear that Ellen is trying to help her grandmother, not to dishonor her. Concentration, you know, concentration of the human being. That difference certainly needs to be acknowledged, and the reasons for it need to be explored. In the immediate postwar period what is now called the Holocaust was seen as one particularly horrific part of a general panoply of horrors, not as a unique and incomparable event.

    It was seen not from the perspective of late twentieth-century identity politics, but from the perspective of a generally idealistic universalism that potentially included all human beings. And it was generally seen from the perspective not of the Jewish but of the Christian religion. Such ways of approaching the Holocaust may now seem outdated or wrongheaded, but they do not constitute silence. And it is quite likely that by exploring them further we may come to understand more about our own approaches to and preconceptions about the Holocaust.

    This raises another question: how can one now treat the Jewish aspects of the zero hour? There is no question that in both East Germany and West Germany, as well as in Austria, Jews and people of Jewish ancestry played an important role in the intellectual rebuilding of the country. However it is also safe to say — as the preceding discussion of the Holocaust has shown — that sensitivity to and interest in Jewish questions was significantly less acute then than it is now — in both Central Europe and the United States.

    Nor did all of the postwar figures now perceived as Jewish actually perceive themselves as such. Victor Klemperer, for instance, who is now generally perceived as a Jew, at least in Germany, saw himself as a German Protestant who happened to have Jewish ancestors. Arnold Zweig had actually emigrated to Palestine in , but he returned to Germany in because as a German Marxist and an anti-nationalist he felt more at home there than he did in non-German-speaking, Zionist Israel. Max Horkheimer, who had four Jewish grandparents, and Theodor W.

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    Adorno, who had two, returned to West Germany from exile in the United States in and helped to lay the foundations for postwar German sociology and philosophy. Both Horkheimer and Adorno were products of the history of Jewish assimilation in Germany during the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries; both probably saw themselves primarily as Germans, not as Jews; neither was religious. In the general turn to religion after the Second World War, it was primarily Catholicism and Protestantism, not Judaism, that predominated.


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    Those writers, such as Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, and Hermann Broch, who became more interested in questions of Jewish tradition and Jewish identity generally did not return to live in Germany, either East or West. Hence although it is accurate to say that Jews and people perceived as Jews played a significant role in postwar intellectual reconstruction, it is important to understand that many of these intellectuals did not see Jewish identity as a primary category for their self-understanding, and that the intellectual climate in Germany at the time was not particularly conducive to explorations of Jewish identity.

    They are not ahistorical or in some way natural; to posit them as such would, paradoxically, mirror Nazi notions of racial essences. In effect, Richter and others in the first postwar generation had laid the groundwork for the emergence of what were only later to become the dominant voices of postwar literature. In that myth, even if the Davids of Gruppe 47 had failed to triumph politically over the Goliaths of conservative restoration during the interregnum period, at least they could continue the struggle more successfully later in the realm of culture.

    There is no doubt that this is the way Richter and Andersch wished to view themselves and to be seen by others.

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    And yet the line between Gruppe 47 and the inner emigration is by no means as easy to draw as Richter and Andersch would have wished. During the last decade and a half, literary historians have uncovered considerable evidence of conformism and complicity during the Nazi period on the part of some of the very writers later celebrated as the heroic nonconformists of the zero hour. Far from being the youthful writers invoked in their own prose, they were nearly middle-aged by the time the war ended. No one falls from heaven. And yet this fundamental debunking of the zero hour concept by one of its own primary proponents has not yet been absorbed in a broader scholarly understanding of zero-hour literature.

    Richter, Andersch, and their associates are still for the most part accepted — even by critics like Briegleb — as the founders of postwar West German literature, while their inner emigrant colleagues are still largely ignored. It was not just with respect to society at large that the zero hour failed; the zero hour was also not a zero hour for Richter and Andersch. In a sense, they were themselves part of the postwar restoration. In a study of the zero-hour myth completed fifty years after the end of the Second World War, I suggested that if the year is denied the status of a zero hour, then German cultural history is faced with a fundamental dilemma, forced to explain how a supposed restoration could ultimately result in the most liberal and open society Germany has ever known.

    At what point did the National Socialist Germany become the democratic Germany Germans and oth53 ers know today? Kiesel has identified the same fundamental dilemma with respect to postwar literary history, suggesting that because of their reliance on the theory of restoration to discredit cultural development in West Germany during the immediate postwar years, literary historians have boxed themselves into a corner.

    Another fundamental complication in any attempt to reexamine German literary culture of the zero hour is the division of Germany. Literary critics and scholars have tended anachronistically to project the subsequent history of German division onto a period in which neither the Federal Republic nor the GDR existed. This complication is no doubt reason enough to leave the — period out of postwar literary histories.

    However with the reunification of Germany such an approach is no longer tenable, and it becomes crucial to examine the zero hour period as a kind of prehistory to the reunified Germany of today. In what follows I will explore the German literary situation of the immediate postwar years neither as a radical zero hour nor as a restoration but rather as a complex, ambiguous, and productive period in which German authors in all four occupation zones and in both the east and the west sought to respond to specific challenges, to engage in concrete debates, and to position themselves for the future.

    Because Austrian writers like Ilse Aichinger and Swiss writers like Max Frisch were also part of literary discourse in Germany during these years, I will not exclude them, but they will not be my main focus. Likewise, since many German-language writers living outside German-speaking Europe at the end of the war, such as Thomas Mann, were nevertheless directly or indirectly involved in literary discourse in Germany, they are an important part of the story.

    I am less interested in institutional history than I am in the concrete discourses that writers and other literary intellectuals engaged in during the immediate postwar years.

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    This is partly because good institutional histories are already available, and partly because, aside from broad cultural histories of the postwar period such as those by Hermann Glaser and Jost Hermand, there has been remarkably little systematic study of literary dis55 course during these years. Implicit in my approach is the conviction that what writers were talking about is more important than the cultural and literary institutions in which many of them were organized.

    One of my primary contentions is that the substance of literary culture was surprisingly similar in both east and west during the Nuremberg interregnum, in spite of all institutional and political differences, and it is precisely such discursive similarities that tend to be obscured by institutional history. Moreover a focus on institutions can hardly capture the flight from politics that was one of the dominant trends in literary culture at that time.

    In exploring the literary culture of the immediate postwar period, I draw on novels, plays, poems, essays, speeches, and reports. Rather than focusing primarily on certain genres, authors, or regions, I organize my material around seven primary thematic problems, which correspond to some of the most pressing cultural-political questions faced by Germans in the postwar period. To each of them I devote a chapter. The most pressing was the problem of German guilt.

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    Thus literature is not simply a reflection of social reality; it also participates in the creation of that reality. Within the context of the present study, what this means is that the literary-cultural developments and debates that form the subject matter of this book are a fundamental part of the history of postwar Germany. From the perspective of a West German culture of the s and s in which the national unity still envisioned by most of the zero-hour authors was largely repressed, much of postwar literary culture appeared old-fashioned and even discredited — part of an unpleasant and unwanted past that had supposedly been overcome.

    In the context of German culture after reunification, these authors and debates may well have acquired a new relevance — a relevance to which I will return in the postscript. The once famous authors and intellectuals of the postwar period and their then marginal opponents were doing more than just writing about Germany; they were, through their writing, seeking to recreate the nation itself and their role in it. Of course Germany was not a blank slate, even in Jost Hermand, —; here, Wiesbaden: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Unless otherwise specified, all translations from German in this book are my own; the German appears in the notes, followed by sources.

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    Manfred Durzak, 14—31 Stuttgart: Reclam, Sebald, Luftkrieg und Literatur Munich: Hanser, , Parkes and White, i—xxiii; here, iv Amsterdam: Rodopi, Weltkrieg erlebt. Propaganda und weiter nichts. Zigeuner und Juden, Polen — und solches.