«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 ...»
54 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust of collective stress... the tent’s covering can take on greater importance than the various garments worn by the individual group members.”31 This is not the place to explicate all aspects of Volkan’s thought on trauma and cultural regression. Here his concept of the “chosen trauma” is the most relevant. He is interested in the indirect traumatization of the descendants of people who as a group have been subjected to some defeat or shame and humiliation. The chosen trauma is an unconscious choice “to add a past generation’s mental representation of a shared event to its own identity.” It “reﬂects the traumatized past generations’ incapacity for or difﬁculty with mourning losses connected to the shared traumatic event, as well as its failure to reverse the humiliation and injury to the group’s self-esteem (‘narcissistic injury’) inﬂicted by another large group.”32 Contrary to much of the literature on collective and historical memory, Volkan does not think that traumatic memories can be handed down intergenerationally.33 What is transmitted—he calls it “deposited”—to the next generation are the scarred self-images of the parents who have been unable to mourn the damage done to their individual and group selves.
31. Volkan, Blind Trust, 38.
32. Vamik D. Volkan, Gabriele Ast, and William F. Greer Jr., The Third Reich in the Unconscious: Transgenerational Transmission and Its Consequences (New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2002), 42; Volkan, Bloodlines, chap. 3.
33. “People do not transmit to their progeny their memories of historical experience, for memory can belong only to the survivor of trauma and cannot be transmitted” (Volkan, Ast, and Greer, Third Reich, 43).
34. Volkan, Blind Trust, 49.
35. Vamik D. Volkan, “Intergenerational Transmission and ‘Chosen’ Traumas: A Link between the Psychology of the Individual and That of the Ethnic Group,” in Psychoanalysis at the Border, ed. Leo Rangell and Rena Moses-Hrushovski (Madison, WI: International Universities Press, 1996), 258.
36. Vamik D. Volkan, “Traumatized Societies,” in Violence or Dialogue? Psychoanalytic Insights on Terror and Terrorism, ed. Sverre Varvin and Vamik D. Volkan (London: International Psychoanalytic Association, 2003), 231.
A. Dirk Moses 55 “a shared image of the tragedy develops,” and “a new generation of the group is unconsciously knit together.”37 The unspoken experience of individual sameness over time that Erikson identiﬁes as core identity is extended to the group.
“Children develop general history-related unconscious fantasies because the traumatized self- and object-images passed on to children by their ancestors become amalgamated with their identity as a member of the traumatized large group, which is part of their core identity.”38 These fantasies manifest themselves in speciﬁc tasks like, say, diminishing a humiliation so the parent will have less to mourn. The speciﬁc mission varies from generation to generation, but the task is not to forget the chosen trauma as an identity-conferring mission.39 Although he has cowritten a book on postwar Germany, Volkan does not indicate what the tasks for young Germans have been other than to follow the standard refrain that they suffer from an “inability to mourn,” a reference to the well-known book by Alexander Mitscherlich and Margarete Mitscherlich that he clearly admires.40 Nor does he reﬂect on how the chosen trauma functions in a society/nation that, although defeated, is regarded as the perpetrator rather than a victim. For all its insights, Volkan’s social psychology needs to be supplemented to satisfactorily explain how otherwise well-adjusted individuals and smoothly functioning societies feel that “something has gone wrong with their sense of collective self,” as T. M. Luhrmann puts it. Drawing on Volkan’s work, Luhrmann has developed the concept of the “traumatized social self,” by which she means the self-representation a person possesses that deﬁnes what constitutes a good member of a community but that is “now associated with failure, moral inadequacy, embarrassment and guilt.”41 For many, the national collective self is a self-representation that matters intensely. The feelings associated with group pride or shame affect the emotional economy of the individual. A chosen trauma may inhere in a perpetrator group as well, then.
Even if a group has started a conﬂict and inﬂicted the most damage, its members will feel victimized by the enemy, with attendant feelings of humiliation
37. Volkan, Blind Trust, 49.
38. Volkan, Ast, and Greer, Third Reich, 41.
39. Ibid., 37; Volkan, “Traumatized Societies,” 230–31.
40. Alexander Mitscherlich and Margarete Mitscherlich, The Inability to Mourn—Principles of Collective Behaviour, trans. B. R. Placzek (New York: Grove, 1975); for a critique of “The Inability to Mourn” see Anthony D. Kauders, Democratization and the Jews (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004).
41. T. M. Luhrmann, “The Traumatized Social Self: The Parsi Predicament in Modern Bombay,” in Cultures under Siege: Collective Violence and Trauma, ed. Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco and Antonius C. G. M. Robben (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 185.
56 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust and helplessness, after defeat. The deﬂation of the collective self-representation and self-idealization will be all the greater if the defeat is compounded with the shame of having committed genocide.
But are people emotionally attached to the “traumatized social self” in a uniform manner? If we examine cases like Germany, we see that the loss of “we-ness” is internalized in two different ways. It can lead to efforts either to defend the culture or to renovate it. This structure of political emotions—the dualism of subjectivities related to the collective self—can be traced to the question of “basic trust” in a national culture, that is, the conﬁdence in the predictability and moral reliability of the familial and social environment. The issue of such basic trust arises in adolescence. These concepts are taken from Erikson, who posited the midteenage years as a speciﬁc developmental stage in which the ego begins to understand the contingency of history and thus realizes that it needs to forge a personality that is both authentically its own and socially recognized.42 This task is complicated if “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”—Erikson referred to Hamlet—and the youthful sense of basic trust in the community/nation is ruptured. An identity crisis arises, and the relation between the generations is reversed. The young “tell the old whether the life as represented by the old and as presented to the young has meaning; and it is the young who carry in them the power to conﬁrm those who conﬁrm them and, joining the issues, to renew and to regenerate, or to reform and to rebel.” The identity crisis is resolved when the adolescent joins a tradition she can ethically afﬁrm and that links her to the fate of the community, which Erikson assumes to deserve trust.43 If Erikson’s resolution of the adolescent crisis overemphasized social integration—he was inclined to speak of youth rebellion in terms of delinquency44 —it nonetheless opens the way for considering disruptive identity dramas when basic social trust was violated. What if the corruption is experienced as so deep that Hamlet feels he has to make invidious choices? To be or not to be? Here is the origin of the dualism we seek to uncover, and it is no coincidence that Lévi-Strauss himself regarded Hamlet’s question as underlying the binary structure of reality.45
42. For Erikson, identity is always psychosocial: Identity and the Life Cycle (New York: International Universities Press, 1959), 57–67, 108–9, 122, 132; Childhood and Society, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 1963), 247–51.
43. Erik H. Erikson, “Youth: Fidelity and Diversity,” in Youth: Change and Challenge, ed. Erik H.
Erikson (New York: Basic, 1963), 5–20.
44. Erik H. Erikson, Identity: Youth and Crisis (New York: Norton, 1968), passim.
45. Lévi-Strauss, Naked Man, 694.
A. Dirk Moses 57 But how is this dualism inscribed in subjectivities, and what is the nature of the political emotions released? In the German case, one reaction—the nonGerman German reaction—was rage expressed against parents and grandparents for the pollution and stigmatization of the collective self that they had bequeathed the younger generation.46 As the sociologist Norbert Elias put it, Germans had “to struggle again and again with the fact that the we-image of the Germans is soiled by the memory of the excesses perpetrated by the Nazis, and that others, and perhaps even their own consciences, blame them for what Hitler and his followers did.”47 The rage of the non-German German—Erikson would call theirs a “negative identity”48—against the polluted collective selfimage was split off and projected onto German Germans, who represented the polluting agent and who acted as emotional reservoirs against whom scorn could be constantly directed to stabilize a non-German identity. This projective identiﬁcation allowed non-German Germans simultaneously to disavow their own national selves while excoriating the national selves of their compatriots.49 Most non-German Germans were not as reﬂective as Joschka Fischer, who in 1984 told fellow Greens that “even in rebellion, one could not wipe the ﬁlth of the Fatherland from one’s boots. One would always be caught in a web called Germany, and so the basic political feeling of my generation, the 68ers, could be summed up as: vomiting with indignation [zum Kotzen].”50 For German Germans, by contrast, constructing the Nazi past as a stigma and secular metaphor for evil in the West was incompatible with national subjectivity. To live with pollution as a constituent part of one’s core identity was impossible or, at least, tortuous, as some younger Germans’ nightmares about
46. I elaborate this point in detail in A. Dirk Moses, “Stigma and Sacriﬁce in the Federal Republic of Germany,” History and Memory 19, no. 2 (2007).
47. Norbert Elias, The Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of Habitus in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, trans. Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 16. He is not the only observer to resort to the language of pollution. Eric L.
Santner has written of the poisoning of Germany’s “cultural reservoir” (Stranded Objects: Mourning, Memory, and Film in Postwar Germany [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990], 45), while Dan Diner thinks that the German group self is tainted because every member of the group is affected by a common memory of this past (Beyond the Conceivable: Studies on Germany, Nazism, and the Holocaust [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000], 221).
48. Erikson, Identity and the Life Cycle, 139–43.
49. For the Kleinian background for this conclusion see Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco and Antonius C. G. M. Robben, “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Violence and Trauma,” in Suarez-Orozco and Robben, Cultures under Siege, 28–31; and Robert M. Young, “Psychoanalysis, Terrorism, and Fundamentalism,” Psychodynamic Practice 9 (2003): 307–24.
50. Joschka Fischer, “Identität in Gefarhr!” in Grüne Politik: Eine Stantortbestimmung, ed.
Thomas Kluge (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1984), 28–29.
58 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust the Holocaust attest.51 These reactions show that the stigma of the Holocaust results in “psychological dissonance” among Germans, that is, discomfort caused by the violation of one’s self-conception because of the conﬂict of two emotionally salient beliefs.52 In this case, it is the incommensurability of regarding oneself as moral and socially respected but also as belonging to a group that until recently was stigmatized as having committed the worst of all genocides, and within living memory. Consequently, the crimes were, literally, unbearable for national Germans. Such an identity, like all national identities, was based on the afﬁrmative continuity of ethnic traditions that reproduced basic trust. Positively loaded childhood emotions connected with the intergenerational transmission of these traditions cannot be reconciled with consciousness of these crimes unless they are displaced outside the in-group. The German German, then, was only viable by engaging in perpetual strategies of denationalizing Nazism and the Holocaust. What is more, German Germans similarly engage in projective identiﬁcation, disavowing their own resentments and genealogical relationship to the Nazi Volksgemeinschaft by displacing them onto non-German Germans, regarding themselves, the vast majority of Germans, as victims of persecution.53 If these were the only two tenable identity options for Germans until recently, the question is how these divergent reactions to the question of basic trust manifested themselves in concrete political projects.
The Non-German German and the Non-Jewish Jew Those Germans who felt indignant about the crimes committed by Germans and the subsequent lack of contrition sought to construct a political community cleansed of polluted nationalist ideals and values. The radicalism of this project should not be underestimated. It was to recast Germans essentially as European citizens of a republic cut off from the national traditions that led to Auschwitz. The social theorists like Habermas who have devised metanarratives to