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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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Then what? Germany would be populated by people(s) who bore no affective or effective relationship to the past commemorated in camps and monuments around the country.91 Ultimately, Habermas’s was an entreaty for the selfliquefication of the German nation via critical self-reflection and immigration in the same way as the non-Jewish Jew would mean the end of the Jewish people if all Jews adopted this identity.92 After all, not long ago, Edward Said could claim in that tradition that he was “the last Jewish intellectual.”93 Like the non-Jewish Jew, then, the non-German German subjectivity was predicated on the continuity of the nation/people it wanted to transform. National life was transmitted by those with national identity. That is the contradiction, even incoherence, in the postnational perspective.

Habermas’s unconscious historical fantasy, then, was not only the end of Germany as a nation-state but also the end of the German people as a “community of destiny” (Schicksaalsgemeinschaft). His rage against the stubborn self-pity of his compatriots that set the public and private tone of his youth and adolescence was shared by his friends, the psychoanalysts Alexander Mitscherlich and Margarete Mitscherlich. In their famous 1967 book, The Inability to Mourn, they told Germans that the “guilt feelings at the horrors that were committed, at murder on a scale which we can only know objecWalter Reese-Schäfer, “Universalismus, negativer Nationalismus und die neue Einheit der Deutschen,” in Universalismus, negativer Nationalismus und die neue Einheit der Deutschen, ed.

Petra Braitling and Walter Reese-Schäfer (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1991), 39–54.

91. Turkish-German authors disclaim feeling part of the German coming to terms with the past and enjoin a less-ritualized comportment to the past that excludes them. See Leslie A. Adelson, “The Turkish Turn in Contemporary German Literature and Memory,” Germanic Review 77 (2004): 326–38.

92. See Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, trans. Thomas McCarthy, vol. 2 (Boston: Beacon, 1987), 77, where he argues that the “linguistification of the sacred” entails making “symbolically mediated to normatively guided action.” In the national context, this means that the prepolitical bonds of ethnicity are supplanted by the communicative community of those committed to the procedures of constitutionally secured political deliberation.

93. Said is quoted in Ari Shavit, “My Right of Return,” Ha’aretz, August 18, 2000, cited in Ephraim Nimni, “Wada’an to a Jewish Palestinian,” Theory and Event 7, no. 2 (2004), muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/v007/7.2nimni.html.

A. Dirk Moses 69 tively, but are incapable of re-enacting in our imagination, can no more be eliminated from the German unconscious awareness than can the shame of having lost face as a civilized nation.”94 But the Mitscherliches were not simply reminding Germans of their pariah status in the eyes of the world. Their solution to overcoming the “ideals of the Nazi regime” was to cultivate a radical sense of guilt by internalizing the trauma of its victims: “We Germans should extend our introspection so that we can at least recognize ourselves in such scenes as that of the German officer in the Danish café, and those appalling occasions when one hundred, five hundred, or one thousand bodies lay in front of us, bodies of people we had killed.” They continued that “this would imply a compassionate and poignant acknowledgement of the victims long after the time of horror.”95 In fact, it implied the annihilation of the German group self.

For if the Holocaust was the unprecedented evil and trauma the non-German German claimed, how could it be bearable, let alone compatible with the continuity of the German self deemed responsible for its commission?96 That is a question that Habermas neither posed nor answered. Instead, he wrote that Germans should say “‘never again’ to ourselves” and embrace the Holocaust as an “element of a broken national identity” that is “branded [eingebrannt] as a persistent disturbance and warning.”97 This notion was taken a step further by Habermas’s younger colleagues Hajo Funke and Dietrich Neuhaus, who went so far as to say that “a German identity after ‘Auschwitz’ can only be a NON-IDENTITY.”98 Martin Walser: A German German The persistence of the German German is not difficult to fathom. They do not wish to endure a nonidentity. Most people are not intellectuals or educators for whom daily reflection on the meaning of the Nazi past constitutes

94. Mitscherlich and Mitscherlich, Inability to Mourn, 65–66.

95. Ibid., 67.

96. The centrality of the uniqueness of the Holocaust for anamnestic memory is especially prominent in Jürgen Manemann, “Towards an Anamnestic Culture: A Contribution to a Theology after Auschwitz and the Gulag Archipelago from a Political Theological Perspective,” JewishChristian Relations, www.jcrelations.net/en/?item=763 (accessed April 17, 2006). First published in Theology after Auschwitz and Its Correlation with Theology after the Gulag: Consequences and Conclusions; Proceedings of the Second International Conference, ed. Natalia Pecherskaya (St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy, 1998).

97. Jürgen Habermas, “Der Zeigefinger: Die Deutschen und ihr Denkmal,” Die Zeit, March 31, 1999.





98. Hajo Funke and Dietrich Neuhaus, “Einleitung: Nationalismus, Antisemitismus, Demokratie— Beobachtungen zu einem gespannten Dreieckverhältnis,” in Auf dem Weg zur Nation? Über deutsche Identität nach Auschwitz, ed. Hajo Funke and Dietrich Neuhaus (Frankfurt am Main: Haag und Herchen, 1989), 8.

70 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust part of their habitus. Moreover, populist journalists and politicians defend the population’s intuitive national identity against non-German German efforts to promote the national stigma and consequent transformative culture of contrition. Until the 1980s they still could denounce those who dredged up the past as Nestbeschmutzer (foulers of the nest), those who defecate on and thereby pollute the family and nation.99 More subtle strategies to obviate stigma included ascribing the causes of the disaster to another source, whether to Hitler’s charisma, plebeian democracy, or to the communist threat; German history before the war was not a one-way street to 1933 or 1945, and a thousand years of German history cannot be canceled by twelve dark ones. Such strategies permitted Germans to feel good, or at least not crippled, about their national identity despite the insistence that it was stigmatized.

These strategies were not, and are not, the preserve of the political Right.

The German group self affects every member of the nation. Nationally based arguments have a long tradition in the political Left. For many, its integrity during the Nazi period was evidence that the group self was not irredeemably polluted. As one young man admitted, his communist grandfather was “a symbol for me, proof that the ‘other’ Germany had always existed as well.”100 In the immediate postwar years, leftists were as averse to the nascent rhetoric of collective guilt as other Germans.101 After all, the old elites were responsible for fascism, not the workers. The Roman Catholic writer Eugen Kogon spoke for many when he worried that Germany would become a pariah nation like the Jews had been and insisted that the guilt could only be personal, never collective.102 The tone for Social Democrats was set by their leader, Kurt Schumacher, who possessed impeccable anti-Nazi credentials. Like most Europeans at the time, he was also an ardent patriot. It was natural for nations to pursue their own interests, he insisted, and so a free Europe should comprise nationstates of equal status—without American or Soviet domination. Nor ought Germany be subservient to its neighbors. Indeed, a democratic socialist Germany should act as a third force between the warring fronts of the Cold War.

Schumacher appealed to Germans by claiming that only the Social Democrats (SPD) were real patriots, because the Christian Democrats (CDU) had sold out

99. Ira Brenner, “On Confronting Truth about the Third Reich,” Mind and Human Interaction 2 (1991): 97.

100. Peter Sichrovksy, Born Guilty: Children of Nazi Families, trans. Jean Steinberg (London:

Tauris, 1988), 158.

101. Frank M. Buscher, “Kurt Schumacher, German Social Democracy, and the Punishment of Nazi Crimes,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 5 (1990): 261–73.

102. Jeffrey K. Olick, In the House of the Hangman: The Agonies of German Defeat, 1943–1949 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 185.

A. Dirk Moses 71 to the occupation forces of the West by accepting the country’s division; they had become “patriots of other states.” Moreover, as the party of property and the Roman Catholic Church, the CDU represented the antidemocratic forces that relied on foreign support to exploit German workers. In the tradition of socialist internationalism, he argued that Germany required democratic (and therefore national) self-determination, and it was the SPD’s role to create “a new spirit of national self-confidence” in the defeated Germans so that they could play their new, important role.103 The anti-atomic protest movement of the late 1950s also linked humanist ideals to national self-determination—the end of German division.104 Concerned that the defense minister Franz-Josef Strauss was seeking nuclear weapons for the Federal Republic, Martin Walser (b. 1927), a young writer, organized his generation of oppositional intellectuals in a much-cited book of protest called Die Alternative oder brauchen wir eine neue Regierung?105 Walser is important to raise in relation to the tradition of progressive patriotism because he is now usually considered a renegade leftist, a non-German German even, who in the 1990s moved to the right by embracing the national cause and attacking Holocaust memory. Critics saw his notorious 1998 Paulskirche speech, with its rhetoric of intellectuals wielding the Holocaust as a “moral cudgel” to intimidate Germans, as part of a trend that culminated in his supposedly anti-Semitic novel Tod eines Kritikers (Death of a Critic) four years later.106 On closer inspection, a consistent theme of national identification is evident in his many reflections on the subject since the 1960s.

Walser was always a “German German,” as were many leftists of his generation. The group self had not been polluted by the Nazi deeds, nor ought it be stigmatized, they effectively insisted. Unlike Habermas, Walser thought the nation was redeemable, indeed, that it warranted basic trust. An examination of his relevant writings reveals the development of his efforts to rescue the national ideal in relation to the changing status of Holocaust commemoration and discourse in the Federal Republic.

103. Lewis J. Edinger, Kurt Schumacher: A Study in Personality and Political Behavior (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965), 150–51.

104. Martin Wengeler, “Die Deutschen Fragen: Leitvokabeln der Deutschlandpolitik,” in Politische Leitvokabeln in der Adenauer-Ära, by Karin Böke, Frank Liedtke, and Martin Wengeler (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1996), 325–77; Peter Brandt and Herbert Ammon, ed., Die Linke und die nationale Frage: Dokumente zur deutschen Einheit seit 1945 (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1981).

105. Martin Walser, ed., Die Alternative oder brauchen wir eine neue Regierung? (Reinbek:

Rowohlt, 1961).

106. Elke Schmitter, “Der Ewige Flakhelfer,” Der Spiegel, September 5, 2005, service.spiegel.de/digas/find?DID=41682527. On the novel see Bill Niven, “Martin Walser’s Tod eines Kritikers and the Issue of Anti-Semitism,” German Life and Letters 59 (2003): 299–311.

72 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust Walser has always seen himself as speaking on behalf of the silent majority of compatriots, the provincial nonelites looked down on by the powerful, the fashionable, and the worldly.107 This orientation was in keeping with his analysis of National Socialism, which was close to that of the writer Peter Weiss, who shared his proximity to the German Communist Party in the 1970s. Weiss’s controversial play about the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, Die Ermittlung (The Investigation), which linked the Holocaust to capitalism rather than to anti-Semitism, mirrored Walser’s 1960 novel, Halbzeit (Half-Time), in which a company executive, a former senior officer of the Nazi security service, engaged in marketing with the same rhetoric of aggression and efficiency of the Nazi regime.108 Influenced by Bertolt Brecht, Weiss and Walser held the population less criminally culpable than misled and betrayed by corrupt elites.109 For these and other intellectuals, the contemporary problem was that the technocratic and capitalist system that had wrought Auschwitz persisted into the Federal Republic.

Three years later, Walser continued this critical tradition in the article “Our Auschwitz,” a scathing commentary on the media coverage of the trial of Auschwitz guards in Frankfurt between 1963 and 1965.110 The enduring themes of his essays on the Holocaust and national identity are all on display: a leftist critique of bourgeois society, especially its egoism and hegemonic media; a subtle defense of national solidarity; and the emotional abyss separating the Holocaust’s victims and perpetrators and their descendants. Thus he rejected a moralistic interpretation of the Nazi past that led to affirming the status quo. “If the concentration camp trials... are to be proof that we don’t shy back from ‘mastering’ our past, then they have to have some kind of political effect.”111 He was pessimistic of such enlightenment, however, given the

107. Jan-Werner Müller, Another Country: German Intellectuals, Unification, and National Identity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 152.

108. Robert Cohen, “The Political Aesthetics of Holocaust Literature: Peter Weiss’s The Investigation and Its Critics,” History and Memory 10, no. 2 (1998): 43–67; Martin Walser, Halbzeit (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1960).

109. Hellmuth Karasek, “Der Ewige Antisemit?” Die Welt, July 30, 2005.

110. Martin Walser, “Unser Auschwitz,” in Bewegung in der Republik, 1965 bis 1984, ed.



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