And people who are guilty are punished, if not here and now then in another place. My turn is sure to come. Not a word. What they did will remain a secret. No one will find out. Their deeds, or rather, their misdeeds, shall not be mentioned anywhere. Not a single word, except the guilt now rests on my shoulders.
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But they left me behind. Born in guilt, 14 left behind in guilt. Und wer schuldig ist, wird auch bestraft.
The Wounded Self: Writing Illness in Twenty-First-Century German Literature
Wenn nicht hier und jetzt, dann zu einer anderen Zeit an einem anderen Ort. Mich wird sie auch noch erreichen. Ich entkomme ihr nicht. Aber erfahren werden Sie nichts von mir. Nichts, kein Wort. Was sie getan haben, bleibt ein Geheimnis, niemand soll es erfahren. Kein Wort. Nur, auf mir liegt heute die Schuld. Cain, guilty of the crime of fratricide for murdering Abel, is condemned by God to wander the earth as a fugitive Genesis — Cain is thus doubly marked — as both perpetrator and as the protected charge of the Lord.
At the same time, however, by virtue of this very mark, he is able to evade punishment for his misdeed. He lives in a suspended state, for his crime is neither overlooked nor absolved; nor is he able to do penance, be forgiven, and carry on with his life. Stigmatized in this way, the criminal thus signifies a guilt that cannot be resolved and a criminal past that is perpetually present, neither entirely forgotten nor forgiven.
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Thus, like the children of survivors, the children of perpetrators carry a mark that finds no referent in personal experience. The children are thus tied to the Holocaust by virtue of their very blood. This line must come to an end with me. What should I tell the little ones about Grandpa? I lived with my parents too long, who knows what evil I carry within me? Moreover, he figures his body as a repository of the genetic material of evil that he fears might be passed on to subsequent generations, and he is therefore determined to end the family line, vowing to never have children.
Es soll nicht weitergegeben werden. Aus, vorbei ist es mit dem stolzen Adel. Karpf, for example, marks herself as both perpetrator and victim not only in her self-mutilating ritual of scratching, but also in relation to her parents, with whom she interchangeably takes on both roles. As she points out, she feels equally marked by both sides of the dichotomy: I had two recurring fantasies.
The jelly mold seemed to embody the rigid, prescriptive side of me — the unyielding bully who kept me in check, myself as Nazi. The other fantasy was of being in a vast, dark vat, on to whose sides I was clinging for dear life. If I let go, I would surely drown. Yet, at the same time, she marks herself as a victim who, barely able to survive her precarious existence, continues to suffer the aftereffects of the Holocaust. Her tortuous practice of scratching becomes a ritual in which she simultaneously performs both roles and thus attempts to resolve her ambivalent relationship to her parents and their past.
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The children of perpetrators also access tropes of marking from the other side of the radical divide of Holocaust experience, that of victimization. Father, Mother, Grandmother — all of them conspired to perpetuate the terror in the family. And I was their target. They just wanted to make me suffer, like tearing the wings off a fly and watching it writhe in agony, trying to escape [.
When their world collapsed in ruin and ashes, the heroes of the Third Reich staked out another battleground — the family [. I think of myself as being in the other camp, someone who is suffering under him just as all those others during the Third Reich. Und mich hatten sie im Auge. Ich war damals nicht auf der Welt und habe auch nichts damit zu tun. The trope of marking thus operates in second-generation writing in a variety of complex ways, utilizing various iconographic symbols and discourses relating to the Holocaust in order to confront and possibly resolve the crisis of signification.
Part 1 investigates five second-generation texts by Jewish writers from various national backgrounds that thematize the vicarious experience of the Holocaust from the perspective of survival. Part 2 analyzes narratives by four German writers that focus on the legacy of perpetration in the postwar German family. Part 1 begins with an examination of Elijah Visible, a collection of short stories by Thane Rosenbaum, the son of Holocaust survivors.
With the publication of his later novels Second Hand Smoke and The Golems of Gotham , he has emerged as one of the most prominent American writers of the second generation. However, as the reader eventually comes to learn, the similarity among the stories ends with the name Adam Posner and his second-generation identity, for in each story, he is a manifestly different person of a different age, with a different profession, even with different parents.
As I demonstrate, the polyidentity of the protagonist in each story is an expression of dissociation and repetition compulsion, traumatic symptoms he has inherited as a part of his Holocaust legacy.
These traumatic symptoms in turn become disorders within the narrative itself, where they are manifested as a narrative paralysis, causing the text to fail in its project of narrative renewal. Since the publication of the first volume in and the second in which won, among other prizes, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize , Maus has become one of the most celebrated and widely read literary works about the Holocaust and without question the most prominent text to emerge from the second generation.
Maus has come to represent the position and problems of the children of survivors in general, and for this reason it is often regarded as the second-generation novel par excellence. Although Schindel writes squarely from the perspective of the second generation, he is himself a child survivor. Born in in Austria to parents who were active in the communist resistance movement, Schindel was placed in a Viennese orphanage run by the National Socialists when his parents were captured and deported to Auschwitz.
Schindel is best known in Austria for his lyric poetry and, more recently, as a public intellectual who speaks openly about the often fraught relationship between Jewish and non-Jewish Austrians. As I discuss in that chapter, this theme of oppositional legacies makes itself known in the heterogeneous narrativity of the novel, which is organized according to provisional dualities that I term counterparts. My reading of the narrative pair reveals the problematic split between living and writing in the second generation, which results in a narrative crisis that resounds throughout the novel.
Behrens, a prominent contemporary German-Jewish writer, was born in Berlin in , and from to she was hidden, along with her mother and grandmother, in Austria. Like Robert Schindel, she thus survived the Nazi plan of extermination; however, as with Schindel, she writes not from the position of the survivor, but from the mediated perspective of the second generation. Modiano is also the child of a parent who escaped the fate intended by the Nazis; his father, an Egyptian Jew, lived in occupied Paris illegally as a black marketeer and continually evaded police attempts to capture him.
Modiano attempts to document the life of a young Jewish girl who ran away from a convent and lived precariously in the streets of Nazioccupied Paris in What results in the case of both writers is a type of writing that combines both literary and encyclopedic genres in an attempt to textualize the absence of the Holocaust in contemporary European life.
In chapter 5, I discuss the development of the genre, examining in particular the dominant critical perspective that accepts only texts that are self-evidently autobiographical and that moreover displays hostility toward fictional attempts to work through the past. Schneider, one of the most prolific writers in contemporary Germany, is one of the two authors in this study the other is Bernhard Schlink whose biography does not tie them directly that is, through the immediate family to the legacy of perpetration.
Niklas Frank, a well-known journalist who wrote for the German magazine Stern, is the son of Hans Frank, a high-ranking member of the Nazi party and the General Governor of occupied Poland, who was hanged at Nuremburg. At the age of eighteen, his brother volunteered for the Waffen SS and died in battle on the eastern front in , leaving behind a diary and letters in which he recorded his impressions of the war.
At the same time, Timm avoids the bitter reckoning with the parents found in conventional father texts and concentrates instead on the ways in which the violent and euphemistic language of the Nazi period was employed in the German postwar family to maintain narratives of victimization and suffering. Der Vorleser has achieved enormous international success and garnered considerable attention from its status as a rare literary treatment of the Holocaust that focuses intensively on the private life of a perpetrator.
I choose these texts for three reasons.