Remembrance as Legitimation Problem: A Review of Jeffrey Olick’s The Sins of the Fathers: Germany, Memory, Method

9780226386492.jpgThere is no state that has been and continues to be as haunted by the specters of a criminal past as is Germany. What happens when State leaders cannot tell a positive story about the nation’s past? A damaged national identity is, of course, not unique to Germany. For German leaders, however, the task at hand was, and continues to be, the mastering of a past that has become the symbol of ultimate evil. Jeffrey Olick’s The sins of the fathers: Germany, memory, method examines, with an impressive wealth of documentation and meticulous attention to detail, the process by which the Federal Republic of Germany (1949–1990) confronted the burden of the Nazi crimes and dealt with its political costs.

Germany’s ‘legitimation profiles’

Jeffrey Olick argues that ‘much of the state-sponsored memory in the Federal Republic of Germany has been organized as an effort to deny collective guilt’ (p. 29). The book is structured around the presentation of three succeeding ‘legitimation profiles’ – each confronting the problem of collective guilt in singular ways.

The first one, the ‘reliable nation’, which was centered on institutional reform, rather than symbolic gesture, aimed to prove that the newfound German state was a trustworthy and responsible member of the international community. During this time, the country’ s leaders draw a clear line separating the criminal Nazi leadership from the general German population. The Nazis had committed crimes ‘in the name of the German people’, as chancellor Adenauer put it in the1950s.

Continue reading “Remembrance as Legitimation Problem: A Review of Jeffrey Olick’s The Sins of the Fathers: Germany, Memory, Method”

Making Genocide “Family-Friendly”: Preservation of Memory in El Salvador

The recent “Truth, Trials and Memory Conference” at the University of Minnesota revealed an often overlooked concern in the field of Transitional Justice, namely that of the family, and its place and function for a forward-looking memory that is passed on from one generation to another. The panel on Memory in El Salvador took on a sentimental tone centered on the ideals and utopias held by one generation, as well as memories of political violence and victimhood experienced addressing how the next generation engages with them.

Continue reading “Making Genocide “Family-Friendly”: Preservation of Memory in El Salvador”

“Reconciliation means that the root causes of the tragedies of human rights violations are understood, assessed and transformed”: Interview with Human Rights Expert Professor Juan Méndez (Part 1)

Professor Méndez participated this month in the International Conference Truth, Trials and Memory. An Accounting of Transitional Justice in El Salvador and Guatemala at the University of Minnesota. After his panel on “Truth-seeking Lessons from the Guatemala Experience”, he shared more insights with Michael Soto (UMN Graduate Student, Sociology). Below, is the first part of their exchange on peace processes.

Juan E. Méndez, a native of Argentina, is a Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence at the American University – Washington College of Law, where he is Faculty Director of the Anti-Torture Initiative. In February 2017, he was named a member of the Selection Committee to appoint magistrates of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and members of the Truth Commission set up as part of the Colombian Peace Accords. He has previously held positions as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and the Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the Prevention of Genocide.

  Continue reading ““Reconciliation means that the root causes of the tragedies of human rights violations are understood, assessed and transformed”: Interview with Human Rights Expert Professor Juan Méndez (Part 1)”

“A daily plebiscite:” On Remembering Kurdistan

On Sept. 25th, 2017, the electorate of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (henceforth called ‘Başûr,’ the Kurdish name for Iraqi, or Southern, Kurdistan) participated in a historic referendum for independent statehood. Kurds in Iraq carried the decision to an overwhelming 93% vote in favor of secession, with 72% of all eligible voters participating. Having had de facto autonomy in most of Başûr since 1991—which today includes its own sitting president, international diplomacy missions, a military wing (Peshmerga), and foreign trade negotiations independent from Baghdad—the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) now appears intent on honoring the results of the referendum and striving toward full independence.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 10.46.23 AM.png
Kurds Gather at Pro-Independence Rally (PC: Ivor Prickett for The New York Times)

Continue reading ““A daily plebiscite:” On Remembering Kurdistan”

Holocaust Memory in Europe: An Interview with Professor Timothy Snyder

On April 6-8, 2017, CHGS held a symposium in celebration of its 20th anniversary titled, “Comparative Genocide Studies and the Holocaust: Conflict and Convergence”. Timothy Snyder, a professor of History at Yale University gave the keynote on “The Politics of Mass Killing: Past and Present”. Joe Eggers was able to sit down and talk with him.

timothy_snyder.jpg
Dr. Timothy Snyder

Continue reading “Holocaust Memory in Europe: An Interview with Professor Timothy Snyder”

Inheriting a Parent’s Story of Surviving the Holocaust

What follows is a statement given by CHGS Outreach Coordinator, Demetrios Vital at the 2017 Twin Cities Jewish Community Yom HaShoah Commemoration, coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council, and hosted at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park.

Demetrios spoke as a son of a survivor on the process of transferring memory across generations. Following his statements, he read the text of his father’s testimony as published in the 25th anniversary edition of Witnesses to the Holocaust, a book containing the testimony of Minnesota Holocaust survivors and liberators produced by the JCRC. That text is included below.

*****

I am deeply honored to be here with you all tonight. Thank you for having me and my father here.

I am the youngest son of Victor Vital. I am one of three children along with Rachel Vital Davis and Joseph Vital, and stand generationally between Victor and three grandchildren.

Victor Vital survived the Holocaust.

I’m one of many here who are children of survivors, or have family who survived, or who didn’t, and indeed even if we’re not directly related to those who experienced the Holocaust, we might all find access to stories and truly feel the impact of this history.

Continue reading “Inheriting a Parent’s Story of Surviving the Holocaust”