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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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Encounters in American, German, and Jewish History, ed. Ilya Levkov (New York: Shapolsky, 1987), 513–14, 510; Metz, Faith in History and Society (New York: Burns and Oates, 1979). Cf.

Bruce T. Morrill, Anamnesis as Dangerous Memory: Political and Liturgical Theology in Dialogue (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2000); Ekkehard Schuster and Reinhold Bochert-Kimmis, Hope against Hope: Johann Baptist Metz and Elie Wiesel Speak Out on the Holocaust (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1999).

144. Jürgen Habermas, “Consciousness-Raising of Redemptive Criticism—the Contemporaneity of Walter Benjamin,” New German Critique, no. 17 (1979): 51; Christian Lenhardt, “Anamnestic Solidarity: The Proletariat and Its Manes,” Telos, no. 25 (1975): 131–54; Helmut Peukert, Science, Action, and Fundamental Theology: Toward a Theology of Communicative Action, trans.

James Bohman (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984), 206–44.

A. Dirk Moses 83 another for these ideas to be secularized and addressed to Germans as a whole.

That is precisely what non-German Germans entreated. The theological dimension of Habermas’s political project was effectively admitted when he explicitly invoked anamnestic memory as the only defensible orientation for postwar Germans.

There is the obligation incumbent upon us in Germany... to keep alive, without distortion and not only in an intellectual form, the memory of the suffering of those who were murdered by German hands. It is especially those dead who have a claim to the weak anamnestic power of a solidarity that later generations can continue to practice only in the medium of a remembrance that is repeatedly renewed, often desperate, and continually on one’s mind. If we were to brush aside this Benjaminian legacy, our fellow Jewish citizens and the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of all those who were murdered would feel themselves unable to breathe in our country.145 As might be expected, Metz expressed sympathy with Habermas in the Historikerstreit of the mid-1980s. He wondered whether our coming to terms with the catastrophe of Auschwitz is so uncertain and discordant because we lack the spirit that was to have been irrevocably extinguished in Auschwitz; because we lack the anamnestically constituted Spirit necessary to perceive adequately what happened to us in this catastrophe— and to what we call “Spirit” and “Reason”; in a word: because we lack a culture of anamnestic Spirit. In place of remembrance, there is an evolutionarily colored history that presupposes that what is past is past and that no longer considers it a challenge to reason every time a part of our past is successfully historicized, it is also forgotten in a sense.146 Habermas also perceived parallels between Metz’s theologically grounded eschatology and the “countertradition” in German thought on which he set so much store: what “stretches from Jakob Böhme and Franz Baader, via Schelling and Hegel, to Bloch and Adorno, [and] transforms the experience of the

145. Habermas, “Historical Consciousness and Post-traditional Identity,” 233. Metz himself observes that anamnestic reason was foundational of Habermas’s notion of communicative reason, namely, the preparedness to listen to the other and not use language as an instrument of domination (“Suffering unto God”); Habermas expounds on the centrality of anamnestic consciousness to his social theory in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), 14–16.

146. Johann Baptist Metz, “Anamnestic Reason: A Theologian’s Remarks on the Crisis of the Geisteswissenschaften,” in Cultural-Political Interventions in the Unfinished Project of Enlightenment, ed. Alex Honneth et al., trans. Barbara Fultner (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 191.

84 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust negativity of the present into the driving force of dialectical reflection. Such reflection is intended to break the power of the past over what is to come.”147 The German Jewish professor of pedagogy Micha Brumlik, who invoked Metz’s notion of an “anamnestic culture,”148 likewise situated his advocacy of the Berlin memorial in terms of Jewish religious themes. He was wont to quote Adorno: “The only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in the face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption.”149 Behind this notion lay the Hassidic and kabbalistic theology of redemption, Brumlik told German newspaper readers, which taught that God’s and one’s own exile would be ended, and the world healed, when the reasons for the exile were remembered. Referring to Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” he wrote that a “weak messianic power” could be granted to previous generations by remembering their suffering. Because such formulations were too metaphysical for political operationalization, he entreated a profane version in which the dead were accepted into one’s moral community by paying public respect to one’s victims.150 In its secular, Western version, anamnestic memory made the Holocaust the normative standard that guided policy, an effective implementation of Adorno’s injunction that the new categorical imperative ought to be preventing a future Auschwitz.151 “Never again” was the expression of this temporal-moral sensibility, and it affected grand strategy, as Fischer’s justification of German military participation in the NATO Kosovo campaign demonstrated.152 By





147. Jürgen Habermas, “Israel or Athens: Where Does Anamnestic Reason Belong? Johann Baptist Metz on Unity amidst Multicultural Plurality,” in The Liberating Power of Symbols: Philosophical Essays (Cambridge: Polity, 2001), 78–89; Habermas, Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, 14. Expressing skepticism about Habermas’s invocation of this concept is Max Pensky, “On the Use and Abuse of Memory: Habermas, ‘Anamnestic Solidarity,’ and the Historikerstreit,” Philosophy and Social Criticism 15 (1989): 351–81.

148. Micha Brumlik, “Jedes Mahnmal muß an der Nichtdarstellbarkeit des Holocaust scheitern,” Die Tageszeitung, April 1, 1995, in Heimrod, Schlusche, and Seferens, Der Denkmalstreit, 1193–94, 510–11.

149. Micha Brumlik, “Messianischer Blick oder Wille zum Glück: Kryptotheologie der WalserBubis-Debatte,” in Umkämpftes Vergessen: Walser-Debatte, Holocaust-Mahnmal und neuere deutsche Geschichtspolitik, by Micha Brumlik, Hajo Funke, Lars Rensmann (Berlin: Schiller, 2000), 130. The Adorno quotation is taken from Minima Moralia: Reflections from a Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: Verso, 1978), 247.

150. Micha Brumlik, “Das Geheimnis der Erlösung: Der Erinnerungs-Funktion des Berliner Mahnmals,” Frankfurter Rundschau, December 19, 1998, in Heimrod, Schlusche, and Seferens, Der Denkmalstreit, 1193–94.

151. Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), 365; Jeffrey C. Alexander, “On the Social Construction of Moral Universals: The ‘Holocaust’ from War Crime to Trauma Drama,” European Journal of Social Theory 5 (2002): 5–85.

152. Jeffrey Lantis, “The Moral Imperative of Force: The Evolution of German Strategic Culture in Kosovo,” Comparative Strategy 21 (2001–2): 21–46.

A. Dirk Moses 85 2000 the minister for culture, Michael Naumann, could proclaim that the anamnestic spirit was now government policy. The planned Berlin memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe would incarnate it.

If a memorial could bestow “honor” on Germany, Brumlik continued, it would not lead to collective German happiness.153 Indeed, he went to great lengths to stress that an anamnestic culture entailed deferring a comfortable accommodation with reality. “Perspectives must be fashioned that displace and estrange the world, reveal it to be, with its rifts and crevices, as indigent and distorted as it will appear one day in messianic light.” Such a culture reflected a “sad but unreconciled perspective on history and its victims” in contrast to an amnesiac one based on reconciliation, forgiveness, and a belief in the beauty of the world as it was.154 The identity advocated by the Left was thus a “torn and unhappy consciousness,” which it felt was the only honest and authentic comportment to the German past.155 It is worth asking why non-German Germans thought that such a melancholy nonidentity should find many takers in the German population. Germans were not offered much in return other than vague, theological-sounding assurances about the benefits of “coming clean with oneself” (mit sich selbst ins Reine Kommen). Not for nothing did non-German Germans sometimes sound like Christian preachers, calling down damnation on those who did not follow their high road. “The Germans cannot walk away from this past... without abandoning themselves or drifting off into some dreamland. The denial of historical thinking does not do away with the past—but it is injurious to the present.”156 Brumlik’s belief that nonethnic German citizens of the country would eventually take on this “hypothesis of the German past” seemed like a vain hope.157 Why would anyone want to accept German history as their own?158 The contrast with Walser’s evocation of a viable Germanness could not be starker. That his apotheosis of the nation was as much a political theology

153. Brumlik, “Das Geheimnis der Erlösung,” 1194.

154. Brumlik, “Messianischer Blick oder Wille zum Glück,” 133.

155. Funke and Neuhaus, “Einleitung,” 7.

156. Michael Geyer, “The Place of the Second World War in German Memory and History,” New German Critique, no. 71 (1997): 12. For a good example of the non-German German path to redemption see Michael Geyer and Miriam Hansen, “German-Jewish Memory and National Consciousness,” in Holocaust Remembrance: The Shapes of Memory, ed. Geoffrey H. Hartman (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994), 175–90.

157. Micha Brumlik, “Gewissen, Gedenken und anamnetische Solidarität,” Universitas 53 (1998): 1143–53.

158. Friederike Eigler, “Memory, Moralism, and Coming to Terms with the Present: Martin Walser and Zafer Senocak,” in Memory Traces: 1989 and the Question of German Cultural Identity, ed. Silke Arnold-de-Simone (Oxford: Lang, 2005); Leslie Adelson, “The Turkish Turn in Contemporary German Literature and Memory Work,” Germanic Review 77 (2002): 326–38.

86 Dilemmas of Identity after the Holocaust as his critics’ was evident in a little-noted passage he wrote in 1979 in which he expressed his yearning for the “bliss of trust” (Vertrauensseligkeit) and “connectedness” (Verbindlichkeit) that he felt was impossible in Germany because of its division, because of Auschwitz, and because of the banning of innocence.

To cure the spiritual sickness caused by its excessive egoism, Germany required cooperation, social engagement, and solidarity, which he saw in entities that transcended the self, like “the people,” “the nation,” and “God.” He had no problem with poetry after Auschwitz.159 Whereas Americans and Russians could enjoy their nationality, he complained, foreigners and domestic intellectuals forbade Germans this pleasure. Indeed, German intellectuals prevented Germans from rediscovering a viable history by blaming the century’s catastrophes on the Volk and especially its lower middle class (Kleinbürgertum). In fact, the German people had been “humiliated and plundered” in World War I, for which it was no more guilty than other nations. Feudal-capitalist elites continued this pattern between the wars and exploited the suffering of the people in order to enlist them in a terrible conflict, yet afterward the intellectuals perversely held the Kleinbürger responsible for the war and the Holocaust.160 The theme of popular innocence was also a feature of Walser’s speech on Victor Klemperer’s famous wartime diaries. What Walser liked about them was their clean distinction between the people and the regime, the latter of which was responsible for the campaign of racial hatred.161 Klemperer was also a model German for another reason: he would not let the Nazis dictate to him whether he should feel German. “From Victor Klemperer one can learn how to treat one’s own conscience rather than watch over that of others.”162 The parallel Walser wished Germans to entertain was between the imposition of alien norms on the people by the Nazis and that on the people in the Federal Republic by its intellectuals. In both cases, ordinary people had to learn a sort of foreign language to master the public sphere.163 Brumlik, for one, did not miss the apologetic intent in Walser’s arguments. They were not only nationalist in orientation, he observed, but also a securalized form of Protestant existentialism with anti-Semitic overtones. For

159. For a lucid discussion of this famous phrase of Adorno see Michael Rothberg, “After Adorno: Culture in the Wake of Catastrophe,” New German Critique, no. 72 (1997): 45–81.

160. Martin Walser, “Händedruck mit Gespenstern,” in Stichworte zur “Geistige Situation der Zeit,” ed. Jürgen Habermas, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1979), 1:47–49.

161. Martin Walser, “Das Prinzip Genauigkeit: Über Victor Klemperer,” in Werke, 12:804.

162. Ibid., 803.

163. Stuart Taberner, “A Manifesto for Germany’s ‘New Right’? Martin Walser, the Past, Transcendence, Aesthetics, and Ein springende Brunnen,” German Life and Letters 53 (2000): 140.



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