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Lookup NU author(s): Professor Beate Muller
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In 1946, Nuremberg's schools inspector Otto Barthel had local school children write essays about their wartime experiences; he also asked them to fill in questionnaires which contained explicitly political questions. About 3,000 pupils submitted their work, totalling some 7,000 individual items. These texts provide highly interesting insights into the hearts and minds of early postwar German youths. Born around 1930, these adolescents had grown up under National Socialism and in the war. Both the ideological and the traumatic legacy of the Nazi regime, but also the postwar crisis of consciousness, the material deprivations as well as the worries about the future are mirrored in the pupils' submissions. In Nuremberg, Hitler's 'favourite city', the venue of the annual Nazi party rallies, the place that gave its name to the infamous Nuremberg race laws, the site chosen by the Allies for the Nuremberg Trials, the confrontation of the population with the persecution of the Jews and with genocidal politics was omnipresent. This begs the question whether and how the local adolescents engaged with these issues in their writings. It turns out that the essays contrast with the questionnaires in that the essays tell stories of pre-war idylls, Hitler Youth, evacuation, air raids, personal losses and the shock of the collapse of the regime whilst eclipsing the persecution of the Jews, and yet the questionnaires clearly identify said persecution as wrong. How can the silence about the persecution of the Jews in the essays be explained? I read this striking lacuna as the adolescents' inability to integrate racial hatred and genocide into their own life stories. Instead of what I call 'communities of responsibility', victim communities are forged. The discursive patterns emerging in the pupils' work already illustrate feelings of guilt and resultant repression mechanisms which were to shape German discourses of 'coming to terms with the past' for decades to come.
Author(s): Muller B
Editor(s): Francesca Weil, André Postert and Alfons Kenkmann
Publication type: Book Chapter
Publication status: Published
Book Title: Kindheiten im Zweiten Weltkrieg
Print publication date: 01/02/2018
Acceptance date: 27/06/2017
Publisher: Mitteldeutscher Verlag
Place Published: Halle
Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item