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«A. Dirk Moses Whoever thou art... by ceasing to take part... in the public worship of God, as it now is (with the claim that it is the ...»

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Nicolas Berg, Der Holocaust und die westdeutschen Historiker: Erforschung und Erinnerung (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2003); Otto Koehler, Rudolf Augstein: Ein Leben für Deutschland (Munich: Knaur, 2003). The “68ers” now are found to be anti-Semites like their parents: Wolfgang Kraushaar, Die Bombe im jüdischen Gemeindehaus (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2005).

14. Thomas Lindemann, “Es kommt spät, aber zur rechten Zeit,” Die Welt, May 8, 2005.

15. Robert G. Moeller, “Germans as Victims? Thoughts on a Post–Cold War History of World War II’s Legacies,” History and Memory 17, nos. 1–2 (2005): 147–94.

16. Jörg Friedrich, Der Brand: Deutschland im Bombenkrieg, 1940–1945 (Munich: Propyläen, 2002); Lothar Kettenacker, ed., Ein Volk von Opfern? Die neue Debatte um den Bombenkrieg 1940– 45 (Berlin: Rowohlt, 2003); Robert Moeller, “Sinking Ships, Lost Heimat, and Broken Taboos: Günter Grass and the Politics of Memory in Contemporary Germany,” Contemporary European History 12 (2003): 147–81.

17. Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider, “Memories of Universal Victimhood: The Case of Ethnic German Expellees,” German Politics and Society 23, no. 2 (2006): 1–27; Aleida Assmann, “On the (In)compatibility of Guilt and Suffering in Germany Memory,” German Life and Letters 59 (2006):

187–200; Norbert Frei, 1945 und wir: Das Dritte Reich im Bewusstsein der Deutschen (Munich:

Beck, 2005); “Germans as Victims during the Second World War,” special issue, Central European History 38, no. 1 (2005); Henning Sussner, “Still Yearning for the Lost Heimat? Ethnic German Expellees and the Politics of Belonging,” German Politics and Society 22, no. 2 (2004): 1–26.

50 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust Moreover, can a past such as Germany’s be contained in a comfortable way?

It is striking how long the debate has been framed by stark polarities: remembering or forgetting, too much memory or too little, its cynical instrumentalization or redeeming quality, capitulation in 1945 or liberation.18 All evidence points to the fact that the meaning of memory is actually indeterminate and controversial, and will not be tamed by political elites.

The point of this article is not to sound the tocsin about supposed revisionist tendencies in German memory, or to expound on some mythical German national character, or to express dismay at the apparently querulous Germans. It is to suggest an alternative way of thinking about the past sixty years of German memory debates. Rather than trace linear progress or transformations in collective memory,19 it tries to explain the source of controversies about the national past as manifest enactments of an underlying structure of German political emotions. This structure was articulated in a rival memory project after the end of the Nazi regime and began to dissolve gradually only at the beginning of the twenty-first century with the change of generations. I lay bare this structure by examining in depth two figures, Jürgen Habermas and Martin Walser, who, I claim, exemplify the two characteristic reactions to the stigmatized national history: the “non-German German” and the “German German.” Before I consider them, however, I explore the structure and logics of German political emotions, in particular the centrality of “basic trust” in a subject’s familial and national environment as a determinant of the country’s bifurcated memory culture.

An Underlying Structure of Political Emotions The language of German identity dramas invites a structural analysis because it is consistently framed in binary oppositions: forgetting/remembering, denying the past/working through the past, good Germans/bad Germans, truth/error, sin/redemption, sacred/profane, and so forth. We need not follow structural anthropology or linguistics in positing deep mental structures, discerning laws of universal application, or regarding discourse as a system of self-sufficient signs to find fruitful an approach that thematizes the striking dualisms of the German memory discussion. By highlighting how the elements of binary

18. Klaus Naumann made this aspect of German memory debates clear to me in a conversation in Hamburg in October 2003. See Jan-Holger Kirsch, “‘Befreiung’ und/oder ‘Niederlage’? Zur Konfliktgeschichte des deutschen Gedenkens an Nationalsozialismus und den Zweiten Weltkrieg,” in 1945—Der Krieg und seine Folgen: Kriegsende und Erinnerungspolitik in Deutschland, ed.

Burkhard Asmuss et al. (Berlin: Deutsches Historisches Museum, 2005), 60–71.

19. An important study tracking changes in German memory is Harold Marcuse, Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp, 1933–2001 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

A. Dirk Moses 51 oppositions are mutually interdependent components in a specific cultural system, we can see that none of the participants in a discursive field possessed a vantage point over others. The conceit of arrogating to oneself an epistemological (or moral) superiority over others is inherent in the atomism of conventional analyses that regard the terms of the memory discourse merely as elements in an aggregate, without necessarily any relation with other terms.20 To understand how the system works, then, we need to observe its functioning rather than participate in it.





Studying a structure demands what Jean Piaget called “a special effort of reflective abstraction.”21 We need, the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss explained, to look “beyond the empirical facts to the relations between them,” which “reveals and confirms that these relations are simpler and more intelligible than the things they interconnect.”22 By studying two intellectuals whose political emotions dramatize the structure of German subjectivities, we can reveal these relations in the case of postwar German memory and identity.

Intellectuals and writers are no different from other Germans in having to wrestle with political emotions. In fact, because their identity projects are so elaborately articulated in public language, they embody the affects and unconscious fantasies about their large-group identity as Germans in both oblique but sometimes disarmingly candid ways. Because of the high level of reflection in their thinking for and against the nation, intellectuals are more likely to develop internally consistent and coherent positions and, consequently, we can “read off” the logic and structure of their political emotions from their writings. Dissecting their writings is thereby at once an exercise in biographical study as well as the detection of those deeper, often quasi-religious currents that subtend public discourse. Nonetheless, while agreeing with Nietzsche that “every great philosophy” is “the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir,” this article does not argue that the link between individual intellectual life and social psychology affords access to the political emotions of every German.23 Consistent with the focus on the relation

20. Jean Piaget, Structuralism, trans. Chaninah Maschler (New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970), 7–8.

21. Ibid., 137.

22. Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Naked Man: Introduction to a Science of Mythology, vol. 4 (London: Cape, 1980), 687.

23. Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Prejudices of the Philosophers,” pt. 1, sec. 6, of Beyond Good and Evil, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Modern Library, 1992), 203. Successful examples of intellectual history that highlight the existential meaning of ideas

to thinkers are John E. Toews, Hegelianism: The Path of Dialectical Reason, 1805–1841 (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1980), 89–90; and Carl Schorske’s portrayal of Theodore Herzl’s “conversion” to Zionism, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Culture and Politics (New York: Knopf, 1980), 159.

52 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust between individual and group, this particular exercise in abstraction uncovers the subjectivities of those for whom the fate of their nation is a burning personal question, who regard it as an object about which they are entitled to worry and about whose fate they are socially qualified to propound.24 For all its merits, however, the structural gaze cannot explain why a particular vocabulary and emotions developed in any specific case. It is one thing to point out that German memory discourse was—and at times remains— relentlessly polarized; it is quite another to account for this dualism.25 This article suggests the following answer. The criminal deeds of the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945 bifurcated Germans’ collective identity and group self; that is, they were constituted by an underlying structure. The structure was underlying because memories of this past were inescapable; no German could avoid their inscription in his or her subjectivity. They constitute a structure because a strict logic determined the individual’s reaction to the shared, national past. Germans could try to convince themselves and others that they had invented (or were inventing) a new collectivity, divorced from an unbearable past. The dominant type here was the “non-German German.” Or they could defend the viability of their collective identity by making the national past bearable through various displacement strategies. These were the “German Germans.” These are, to be sure, metapsychological statements that posit a mutually dependent relationship between individual and large-group identity with intergenerational implications—a relationship notoriously difficult to define.26 Until recently, psychologists have been satisfied to assert that certain events, for instance, can be “internalized as powerful configurations that give the group structure and unity” without showing how or why.27 That membership

24. Cf. Ghassan Hage, White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society (Sydney: Pluto, 1998).

25. See the articles of Eric Langenbacher, which usefully describe “German memory regimes” but do not explain why their patterns occur and recur: “Changing Memory Regimes in Contemporary Germany?” German Politics and Society 21, no. 2 (2003): 46–68; Langenbacher, “Moralpolitik versus Moralpolitik: Recent Struggles over the Construction of Cultural Memory in Germany,” German Politics and Society 23, no. 3 (2005): 106–34.

26. Skeptical of psychological approaches is Wulf Kansteiner, “Finding Meaning in Memory: A Methodological Critique of Collective Memory Studies,” History and Theory 41 (2002): 179–97.

27. Rita R. Rogers, “Intergenerational Exchange: Transference of Attitudes down the Generations,” in Modern Perspectives in the Psychiatry of Infancy, ed. John G. Howells (New York: Brunner/ Mazel, 1979), 341; Rogers, “The Emotional Contamination between Parents and Children,” American Journal of Psychoanalysis 36 (1976): 267–71. Similarly thin is Kai Erikson, “Notes on Trauma and Community,” in Trauma: Explorations in Memory, ed. Cathy Caruth (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 183–99.

A. Dirk Moses 53 in a larger group is inherent in individual identity because the individual is also a social being, as a number of psychoanalysts and psychohistorians have suggested, is as intuitively convincing as it is difficult to demonstrate.28 The same goes for the analogy between the structure of the individual self and group self. Heinz Kohut, for example, wanted to entertain the proposition that the self’s structure—“the central unconscious ambitions of the grandiose self and the central unconscious values of the internalized idealized parent imago”—could be applied to the group, but he did not systematically discuss the relationship.29 If such statements were somewhat speculative, they at least began to supersede the methodological individualism of clinical psychology by positing a supra-individual, group self. Recent social psychologists have given firmer theoretical foundations to the relationship between the political emotions of individuals and the group self. The most elaborated attempt to answer these questions—to “investigate the psychology of we-ness”—has been undertaken by Vamik Volkan. Basing his approach on Erik Erikson’s definition of core identity as comprising the subjective experience of inner sameness, he shows how solidarity with one’s large group grows in children after the third year.

The external world is gradually internalized because cultural objects act as “shared reservoirs for externalization.” By adolescence, cultural membership is accepted—and in some cases, rejected—as part of his or her core identity, and for this reason the group self (the “we-ness” of a collective) can act “as an invisible force in the unfolding drama” of the economy of individual emotion and intergroup interaction.30 Elaborating on Freud’s foundation text of social psychology, “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego,” he regards the group less as a mass libidinally fixated on a leader than as a tent that individuals cooperate in keeping up, its canvas serving as a second skin. Accordingly, attacks on the group are experienced as an attack on the self. In fact, “at times

28. W. R. Brion, “Group Dynamics: A Re-view,” in New Directions in Psycho-analysis, ed. Melanie Klein, Paula Heimann, and R. E. Money-Kyrle (London: Tavistock, 1955), 461; Peter Loewenberg, Fantasy and Reality in History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); John Mack, “Nationalism and the Self,” Psychohistory Review 2 (1983): 52 (“Who one is as a person, one’s sense

of self, contains a number of fantasies or self-representations, among which are included one’s conviction of belonging to a particular national or ethnic group”); George Klein, Psychoanalytic Theory:

An Exploration of Essentials (New York: International Universities Press, 1976), 179.

29. The Search for the Self: Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut, 1950–1978, ed. Paul H. Ornstein, 2 vols. (New York: International Universities Press, 1978), 2:837n21.

30. Vamik D. Volkan, Bloodlines: From Ethnic Pride to Ethnic Terrorism (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997), 25; Volkan, Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crisis and Terror (Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone, 2004), 38–41.



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