When you think of the city of Klagenfurt, illustrious names of German language literary and popular culture come to mind. Robert Musil, Ingeborg Bachmann or Udo Jürgens. You will find the house where Musil was born right in front of the train station, while a sculpture of Bachmann is in one of the many parks which form a green belt around the history-laden old city centre. What brought me here, though, was a more notorious side of the city’s past or, to be more precise, that of a number of its former residents.
In summer 2018, the Zaglembie World Organization organized a tour of the Zaglembie (Zagłębie Dąbrowskie) region of southwestern Poland for Holocaust survivors and their descendants – those whose families had lived in this area and so many of whom had been murdered in the Nazi machinery of ghettoization, starvation, slave labour, and the gas chambers of nearby Auschwitz.
Jonathan Littell’s novel The Kindly Ones depicts many scenes of graphic violence
In Imre Kertész’s novel Fiasco, Köves describes his experience of being called up to do military duty under the Hungarian regime of János Kádár (1956-1988). He was asked to sign a piece of paper committing him to become a prison guard in the central military prison. Despite not wishing to assume this role, he signed.
Elisabeth Langgässer (1899-1950) was a writer. The story ‘Start of the Season’ was published in 1947 in her collection of short stories, The Torso.
Hans Baumgartner, one of the former shooters involved in mass killings in Libau between July and December 1941, was interrogated by the Stasi in the GDR 1969-1970. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.
Daniel Lerner, Chief editor of the Allied Psychological Warfare Division, reported after travelling through occupied Germany in the first two weeks of April 1945
US Marine Corps Reserve Captain P. Dickson interrogated German civilians in the Rhineland in March 1945
Report of an interrogation by Saul Padover and Lewis Gittler, Psychological Warfare Division, 12th Army Group US Army, with Arthur Koenig, 19 November 1944
Extracts from the Diary of Berlin journalist, Ruth Andreas-Friedrich
Letters sent to his wife by Walter Mattner
Reports for the Social Democratic Party in Exile (Sopade)
A young woman’s experiences of life in 1930s Germany
For my doctoral thesis, I examined exhibitions at memorial sites and documentation centres in Germany and Austria. The question of my research was how these exhibitions represented the NS-perpetrators. I was interested in the explanations and interpretations they provided for the perpetrators and what statements, possibly unintended ones, the exhibition design had created. But beyond the exhibitions, I am concerned with contemporary approaches to National Socialist crimes and their perpetrators.
“Dear Mutti, everything is as crazy as you would imagine during a tour. We have been on the train continuously since Monday 7 am, everywhere we have 6 to 10 hours delays, and at the moment we are sitting in a Red Cross wooden barrack and have not been able to wash ourselves for days. We received rations behind Warsaw and have to wait until afternoon (now 6 o’clock in the morning, about minus 15 degrees) for the connecting train to Minsk, which we were not allowed to use this evening due to danger.”
From 14 to 17 July 1943, eleven Soviet citizens stood trial in Krasnodar, a city in southwestern Russia. During the German occupation of the town from August 1942 to February 1943, all but one of the defendants had worked for the SS, primarily in auxiliary functions. Accused of having committed crimes under German rule, a Soviet military tribunal sentenced eight of the defendants to death, and three to long prison sentences.
A little while ago, I happened to be working through a seemingly innocuous file from the German Interior Ministry during the mid-1930s, collated by one Hans Pfundtner, who was a Staatssekretär (a very high-ranking civil servant) in the Ministry. It contains a series of letters to (and about) Pfundtner’s son Reinhard, who has just been sent to a Napola, one of the Nazi elite-schools which I’ve been researching for the last few years.
The novelist David Mitchell has suggested there are three ‘themes hardwired into all novels: identity, memory and time.’ With narrative comes time; with time, memory; with memory, identity. In the six years it took me to write my debut novel, Testament, I was grappling with Joseph Silk, a protagonist who reorders time, denies memory, and […]
On 8th August 2018, the first exhibition on the so-called “Polenaktion” in Berlin opened at the Centrum Judaicum in Berlin. The exhibition tells the stories of the Berlin families who were the first to fall victim to a mass action which bore a resemblance not only to earlier expulsions, but also to forthcoming deportations. It was the first time that Jews, based on their citizenship, were arrested and transported “to the East”, which was at that time the still sovereign state of Poland.
On 28th June 2018, the ‘Compromised Identities’ project held its first annual workshop, which considered the different ways in which we can understand perpetration and complicity, including comparative perspectives.
On 21st March 2018, we were delighted to welcome Dr Tobias Becker to the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies for the first talk in our seminar series.