Jeffrey Herf

in The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211869
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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This article examines the Holocaust's impact on postwar German politics, identity, and international conduct. It shows that a distinctive form of memory of the Holocaust arose in Germany following World War II as a byproduct of total military defeat, Allied occupation, and the restoration of previously suppressed German political traditions. In East Germany, the memory of the suffering and triumph of the Soviet Union loomed far larger in ‘anti-fascist’ political culture than the fate of Europe's Jews. The limits of justice and memory in the two Germanys after 1945 are striking in view of the enormity of the crime of the Holocaust. However, compared with the amnesia and paucity of justice that often have followed other criminal dictatorships, the West German and then unified German confrontation with the crimes of the Nazi era have yielded a distinctive mixture of some truth telling, some judicial reckoning, some excellent historical scholarship, and some compassion for the survivors of the Holocaust.

Keywords: military defeats; postwar Germany; political culture; political traditions; East Germany; West Germany

Article.  6642 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Judaism and Jewish Studies

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