«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 ...»
128. Martin Walser, “Deutsche Sorgen II” (1993), in Werke, 11:999–1000. In this essay Walser reprises his discomfort with the media, intellectuals’ justiﬁcation of German division, and their hostility to national feeling.
78 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust political correctness that makes free speech a mortal [halsbrecherischen] risk.” Intellectuals engaged in the “public testing” of others’ consciences, a practice manifesting the “banality of good.”129 Prescription regarding how to think and feel about dictatorial pasts in the manner of a catechism, even being hounded to make public statements of contrition as was Christa Wolf, undermined the delicate process of reﬂection about guilt that takes place in the individual conscience. The non-German German “cultivation of taboos in the name of enlightenment” was demoralizing the uniﬁed Germany.130 These were the themes that Walser expressed in distilled form in his controversial 1998 Paulskirche speech upon winning the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. The sense of stigmatization was especially prevalent in his disgust that only Germans were considered a people of whom it could be said that they still harbored genocidal fantasies. The intellectuals were the agents of this defamation. They “want to hurt us, because they think we deserve it.” They also continually instrumentalized Auschwitz, ﬁrst to justify the division of Germany and now to bully writers into thematizing Holocaust issues in their work. And they who felt responsible for the consciences of others—he appeared to be referring to Habermas and Grass—were the ones who wanted to erect a “monumentalization of our disgrace” in the form of the Berlin Holocaust memorial.131 Walser’s subsequent face-to-face discussion with the German Jewish leaders Ignatz Bubis and Salomon Korn, organized and published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, was even more revelatory of his resentments. Here the emotional interjection of rapid exchanges uncovered Walser’s own unconscious fantasies more clearly than the guarded phrases he had used in his carefully prepared speeches. He began by reporting that he had received over a thousand letters supporting his speech, which he interpreted as a “singular consciousness raising” and “liberation of the conscience.” The people’s voice had been heard ﬁnally, and they complained about stigma: that “one feels as a German in a state of being accused” (Beschuldigtenzustand) and that they feel “treated like a criminal on probation who has to constantly demonstrate his resocialization because one does not otherwise believe him.” In fact, he continued, “Germans have to prove that they are human, because otherwise they are not.”132 Walser, too, complained about stigma, rejecting
129. Martin Walser, “Über Freie und unfreie Rede” (1994), in Werke, 11:1051–53.
130. Ibid., 11:1059.
131. Walser, Erfahungen beim Verfassen einer Sonntagsrede, 17–20.
132. Walser, “Wovon zeugt die Schande wenn nicht von Verbrechen,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 28, 1998, rpt. in The Walser-Bubis Debatte: Eine Dokumentation, ed. Frank Schirrmacher (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1999), 446, 451, 462.
A. Dirk Moses 79 the entreaty of moderation by the Israeli ambassador to Germany, Avi Primor, in view of “the stain on the dress,” by which Primor meant Germany’s criminal past. Where is that stain on me, asked Walser? Why do others say contemporary Germans are tainted?133 The media (i.e., non-German Germans) were his principal object of scorn. The incessant public representation of the Holocaust was effectively a declaration that Germans were under accusation of criminality (Beschuldigung). The aim of public Holocaust memory was not education but “the domestication of conscience and manipulation of conscience.” Jews were to blame, too, for the persistence of German stigma. Thus Walser took Bubis to task for appearing at the site of the arson attack against German Turks in Rostock in August 1993 because his presence linked current issues to the Nazi past. Affecting to speak for the people, Walser informed his interlocutors that they “can’t bear that [link] any longer, and they don’t want to hear it any longer, and they have a right to that, because they have nothing more to do with that nightmarish spook [Spuk: the Nazis].” Plainly, any public expression of opinion on current affairs by a Jewish leader in Germany would have highlighted the stigmatized past. For that reason, he told Bubis and Korn that, because Jews had not been subject to the same temptations as Germans under Hitler, they were in no position to judge Germans. Jews ought to be silent and respect the sensitivities of the perpetrator collective.134 Klaus von Dohnanyi, who had similarly questioned Bubis’s right to criticize Walser because Jews may not have behaved any differently from other Germans toward non-Jewish victims of Nazis had they not been persecuted, asked for Jewish restraint, because “we [Germans] are all vulnerable.”135 The German German’s solidarity was with other German Germans, not with the victims of his or her ancestors.
This loyalty to one’s own was evident in Walser’s defense of the letters he received. Their writers were not anti-Semites, he insisted against the suspicion of Bubis and Korn, who were alarmed by the rhetoric of “liberation,” which they took to mean the collapse of the taboo on public anti-Semitism.
In fact, there was no real anti-Semitism in the country, Walser retorted. The right-wing political parties were carried by protest voters, and besides, rightwing parties existed in other countries as well. What about objections to the
133. Avi Primor, “Der Fleck auf dem Rock: Keine Frage der Schuld, sondern der Verantwortung— Meine Antwort an Walser,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 9, 1998.
134. Walser, “Wovon zeugt die Schande,” 454, 452.
135. Klaus von Dohnanyi, “Wie sind alle Verletzbar,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 17, 1998.
80 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust proposed Berlin memorial that it would be defaced, Bubis responded? Was
there not in fact a dangerous minority? Walser’s reply was a stunning revelation of his views about the innocence of the people and corruption of elites:
“If a memorial is constructed that provokes the people to deﬁle it...”136 Non-German Germans and Jews, he was saying, were to blame for any stigmatized behavior by Germans.137 His unconscious historical large-group fantasy is that Jews and non-German Germans would cease trying to stigmatize the German people. Or that they disappear altogether.
Walser was not alone in these sorts of criticisms. Another articulation of the German German sensibility was evident in the ﬁgure of Hermann Lübbe (b. 1926), the “neoconservative” philosopher who in the 1980s attacked the Mitscherlich thesis about the “inability to mourn” with the observation that discretion about the Nazi past in the 1950s was functionally necessary to integrate a population of former Nazis. “It is bizarre,” Lübbe wrote, “to regard one’s own crimes as memorializable.” As with Walser, with whom he sympathized, the problem lay with those Germans’ disordered relationship to nation and memory. “We are touched with embarrassment and feel pushed around by the arrogance with which the converted [i.e., the non-German German] puffs himself up into the ideal of moral certainty.” In their hands, the Berlin memorial became a weapon with which they could manipulate their countrymen— and women. “The memorial serves as the opportunity to accuse others about their moral shortcomings in their relationship to the past. One’s own idea of the memorial represents the better conscience for which the others ought to strive.” And like Walser, Lübbe reiterated that a memorial to the victims was not for the perpetrators to erect, that it represented a “pride in sin” (Sündenstolz), an inverted hypernationalism.138 Rival Political Theologies: Anamnestic Memory and Amnesiac Memory The culture wars in the Federal Republic have been based on the struggle between non-German Germans who advocated transforming the national culture and German Germans who resisted such a transformation. These rival
136. Walser, “Wovon zeugt die Schande,” 463.
137. Social scientists call this reaction “secondary anti-Semitism,” but Walser is so anxious about the threat that the stigmatized past presents to the survival of the German nation that he is blind to his own resentments: Werner Bergmann and Rainer Erb, Anti-Semitism in Germany: The
Post-Nazi Epoch since 1945, trans. Belinda Cooper and Allison Brown (New Brunswick, NJ:
138. Hermann Lübbe, Aufklärung anlaßhalber: Philosophische Essays zu Politik, Religion und Moral (Gräfelﬁng: Resch, 2001), 241–44.
A. Dirk Moses 81 projects were as much theological as political. On the one hand, non-German Germans advocated an anamnestic memory culture determined to abandon national identity; on the other, German Germans urged an amnesiac one devoted to its defense. The former was based on the political theology of Metz, who is in turn inﬂuenced by Walter Benjamin, Adorno, Ernst Bloch, and Habermas, his contemporary and friend. Writing in 1972, for instance, Metz urged Christians to adopt a theology of solidarity with the poor and oppressed based on what he called the “dangerous memory of freedom” of Christ’s sacriﬁce.
The memory of undeserved suffering, he argued, subverted a purely afﬁrmative attitude to the past and, therefore, to the present. As with Habermas, the Holocaust was not then the focus of such an antihistoricism. The perceived problem was an industrial society run by technocrats not subject to effective democratic control. The enemy was the past conceived in terms of historicism, empty time gradually ﬁlled with progress, a theodicy that justiﬁed the suffering of past victims in the name of the greater good of contemporary society.
History written from the victors’ standpoint, then, is amnesiac. It attributed normative status to the present: what was past was past—above all, the suffering of the innocent—so let not memory of them disturb the present.
The only motivation to cast off slavery in such a system, Metz thought, was the memorial passionis of the sacriﬁced Lord. “The imagination of future freedom is nourished from the memory of suffering, and freedom degenerates wherever those who suffer are treated more or less as a cliché and degraded to a faceless mass. Hence the Christian memoria becomes ‘subversive remembrance,’ which shocks us out of ever becoming prematurely reconciled to the ‘facts’ and ‘trends’ of our technological society.”139 By contrast, history written from the standpoint of the victims, or that expresses solidarity with them, is anamnestic.140 Such a perspectival memory was not simply a memorial of resignation or apolitical remembrance. Standing with the victims of “progress” affected how we comported ourselves in the present and future political
139. Johann Baptist Metz, “The Future in the Memory of Suffering,” Concilium 6, no. 8 (1972):
19; Metz, Faith in History and Society: Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, trans. David Smith (London: Seabury, 1980), 88–89. The link between Metz and Benjamin is lucidly discussed in Steven T. Ostovich, “Epilogue: Dangerous Memories,” in The Work of Memory: New Directions
in the Study of German Society and Culture, ed. Alon Conﬁno and Peter A. Fritzsche (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 2002), 239–56. See also Ostovich, “Dangerous Memories and Reason in History,” KronoScope 5, no. 1 (2005): 41–57.
140. Steven T. Ostovich, “Epilogue: Dangerous Memories,” in Conﬁno and Fritzsche, Work of Memory, 241–42. For background on anamnestic culture in Greek philosophy, especially with Aristotle, see Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting, trans. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).
82 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust community. A redeemed community was one so conscious of the crimes committed in its history that henceforth it was resolved to ensuring that its progress occasioned no further suffering of the innocent: “Resurrection mediated by way of the memory of suffering means: The dead, those already vanquished and forgotten, have a meaning which is as yet unrealized. The potential meaning of our history does not depend only on the survivors, the successful and those who make it.”141 By the 1990s the Holocaust had become the foundational event of suffering for Metz: “For me Auschwitz signaled a horror that transcends all familiar theologies, a horror that makes every noncontextual talk about God appear empty and blind.” The question of theodicy was now framed in terms of the genocide of the Jews: “For an anamnestic reason, being attentive to God means hearing the silence of those who have disappeared.”142 The Holocaust had profound implications for Christianity. It was “the catastrophe of our history, out of which we can ﬁnd a way only through a radical change of direction achieved via new standards of action.” The question of Auschwitz entailed reevaluating its roots and emphasizing Christianity’s Hebraic rather than Greek origins. And this rethinking meant that the “apocalypticmessianic wisdom of Judaism” ought be appropriated by Christianity, because this wisdom “continually suspends all reconciliations from entering our history,” that is, it resisted premature accommodation with extant reality in the name of an unfulﬁlled future, a conservative temptation he believed was all too apparent in Christianity.143 A religiopolitical sensibility based on an eschatology in which God would raise the dead and dispense justice reﬂected a messianic theory of experience: anamnestic memory anticipated redemption at the end of time.144 It was one thing for Metz to advocate a new start for Christians based on the rupture he thought the Holocaust entailed for the Church; it was quite
141. Metz, “Future in the Memory of Suffering,” 20.
142. Johann Baptist Metz, “Suffering unto God,” Critical Inquiry 20 (1994): 611, 615.
143. Johann Baptist Metz, “Christians and Jews after Auschwitz,” in Bitburg and Beyond: