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Air Wars, Memory Wars

  • Mary Nolan (a1)
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The German preoccupation with the Nazi past, with issues of guilt, responsibility, and victimization “… doesn't end. Never will it end,” to quote the resigned note on which Günter Grass concluded his latest novel, Crabwalk. It manifests itself in ever new forms, as different parts of the past, which may or may not have been repressed, come to the fore and are painfully reconstructed, tentatively probed, and reluctantly and often only partially accepted. Each new perspective on the past reorders, sometimes even shatters, the previous mosaic. Recall the impact of the film Holocaust or of the Wehrmacht exhibition. A similar phenomenon is now occurring—or so some hope and others fear. Since 2002 German suffering, rather than German guilt, has become the principal theme in discourses about the past. The firebombing of Hamburg and Dresden, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, “moral bombing,” mass rape, and ethnic cleansing dominate historical and literary production and public debate as the Eastern Front, war crimes, and the pervasive knowledge of the Holocaust did in the mid- and late-1990s, and the uniqueness of the Holocaust and its central place within the Third Reich did a decade before that.

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References
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1. Grass, Günter, Crabwalk, trans. Winston, Krisha, (New York: Harcourt, 2002). The German original Im Krebsgang was published in 2002.

2. Sebald, W. G., On the Natural History of Destruction, trans. Bell, Anthea (New York: Random House, 2003). All references in the text are to this version. Friedrich, Jörg, Der Brand: Deutschland im Bombenkrieg, 1940–1945 (Munich: Propyläen Verlag, 2002).

3. Although Heinz Schön's historical research and the Frank Wiesbar 1959 film Nacht fiel über Gotenhafen had explored the sinking of the Gustloff, neither captured the popular imagination in the way Grass's novel did. Coetzee, J. M., “Victims,” New York Review of Books, 06 12, 2003, 26.

4. Grass, , Crabwalk, 122.

5. Kettenacker, Lothar, ed., Ein Volk von Opfern? Die neue Debatte um den Bombenkrieg, 1940–1945 (Berlin: Rowohlt, 2003).

6. Hage, Volker, Zeugen der Zerstörung: Die Literaten und der Luftkrieg (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 2003).

7. Hage, Volker, Hamburg 1943: Literarische Zeugnisse zum Feuersturm (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 2003).

8. Forte, Dieter, Schweigen oder sprechen (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 2002).

9. For a scathing review of Die Brandstätten, which concluded by suggesting the book should be thrown into the waste basket, see Raulff, Ulrich, “Von Bombenhammer erschlagen,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10 18, 2003.

10. For an overview of the Historians' Debate, see Reworking the Past: Hitler, The Holocaust, and the Historians' Debate, ed. Baldwin, Peter (Boston: Beacon, 1990).

11. Ibid.

12. Nolte, Ernst, “Die Vergangenheit die nicht vergehen will,” Historikerstreit: Die Dokumentation der Kontroverse um die Einzigartigkeit der nationalsozialistischen Judenvernichtung (Munich: Piper, 1987).

13. Nolan, Mary, “The Historikerstreit and Social History,” in Baldwin, , ed., Reworking the Past, 224–48.

14. For a discussion of these controversies, see Bartov, Omer, Grossmann, Atina, and Nolan, Mary, eds., Crimes of War: Guilt and Denial in the Twentieth Century, ed. (New York: New Press, 2002).

15. Jenseits des Krieges, a film by Ruth Beckermann made at the Wehrmacht exhibit during its showing in Vienna. See also Besucher einer Ausstellung: Die Ausstellung “Vernichtungskrieg: Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941–1944” Interview and Gespräch, ed. Ulrich, Bernd (Hamburg: Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, 1998).

16. Klemperer, Victor, I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, vol. 1, 1933–39, vol. 2, 1942–1945, trans. Chalmers, Martin (New York: Random House, 1998, 1999).

17. For an overview of these debates, see Nolan, Mary, “The Politics of Memory in the Berlin Republic,” Radical History Review 81 (Fall 2001), 113–32. For a longer analysis, see Niven, Bill, Facing the Nazi Past: United Germany and the Legacy of the Third Reich (London and New York: Routledge, 2002).

18. Ladd, Brian, The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 218.

19. Niven, , Facing the Nazi Past, 200.

20. Naumann, Klaus, Der Krieg als Text: Das Jahr 1945 im kulturellen Gedächtnis der Presse (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1998), 318, cited in Langenbacher, Eric, “Changing Memory Regimes in Contemporary Germany,” German Politics and Society (Summer 2003), 59.

21. Langenbacher, , “Changing Memory Regimes in Contemporary Germany,” 59.

22. Niven, , Facing the Nazi Past, 114. Some, such as Hans Apel and the FDP signatories, later withdrew their signatures. 116.

23. “Die Jungen denken anders: Umfrage über Einsichten und Ansichten der Deutschen um Ende des zweiten Weltkriegs,” Der Spiegel, 19 (1995), 77.

24. For a virtual tour of the new exhibit, go to http://www.his-online.de/english.htm#.

25. The term is from Charles Maier, “WWII Bombing,” H-German http://www.hnet.org/~german/discuss/WWII_bombing/WWII-bombing_index.htm. “Bombenkrieg, Einlei-tung,” Historicum.net, 1. 1. http://www.bombenkrieg.historicum.net/einleitung.html.

26. Coetzee in his review of Grass wrongly repeats the myth that German suffering was only part of the former and not the latter. Coetzee, , “Victims,” 26.

27. Neumann, Thomas W., “Der Bombenkrieg: Zur ungeschriebenen Geschichte einer kollek-tiven Verletzung,” in Nachkrieg in Deutschland, ed. Naumann, Klaus (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition HIS Verlag, 2002), 330–1, 336–41.

28. Bodemann, Y. Michal, Forward, 10 8, 2003.

29. Langenbacher, , “Changing Memory Regimes in Contemporary Germany,” 5152. Behrenbeck, Sabine, “Between Pain and Silence: Remembering the Victims of Violence in Germany after 1949,” in Bessel, Richard and Schumann, Dirk, eds., Life After Death: Approaches to a Cultural and Social History of Europe During the 1940s and 1950s (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 5659. For the best discussion of the public debate about and collective memories of the expellees, see Moeller, Robert G., War Stories: The Search for a Usable Past in the Federal Republic of Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).

30. Moeller, , War Stories, 45.

31. Bollmann, Ralph, “Im Dickicht der Aufrechnung,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 147–48.

32. Langenbacher, , “Changing Memory Regimes in Contemporary Germany,” 52.

33. Markovitz, Andrei, Forward, 10 8, 2003.

34. Huyssen, Andreas, “Rewritings and New Beginnings: W. G. Sebald and the Literature on the Air War,” in Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 147–48.

35. Hage, , Zeugen der Zerstörung, 118122.

36. Sebald, , On the Natural History of Destruction, 10, 4.

37. Hage, , Zeugen der Zerstörung, 123.

38. Ibid., 128–30.

39. Carole Anne Constabile-Heming, Review of Luftkrieg und Literatur, H-German, http://www.h-net.org/~german/discuss/WWII_bombing/WWII-bombing_index.htm.

40. Groehler, Olaf, Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1990); Boog, Horst, Krebs, Gerhard, and Vogel, Detlef, Das deutsche Reich in der Defensive. Strategischer Luftkrieg in Europa, Krieg im Westen und in Ostasien 1943–1944/45 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2001).

41. Sebald, , On the Natural History of Destruction, 11.

42. For a full discussion of these divergent memories, see Herf, Jeffrey, Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

43. Maron, Monika, “Der Fisch und die Bomben,” in Hage, Zeugen, 215.

44. Margalit, Gilad, “Der Luftangriff auf Dresden, Seine Bedeutung für die Erinnerungspolitik der DDR und für die Herauskristallisierung einer historischen Kriegsermnerung im Westen,” in Narrative der Shoah. Repräsentationen der Vergangenheit in Historiographic, Kunst und Politik, ed. Düwell, Susanne and Schmidt, Matthais (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2002), 191, 194–99. See also Margalit, Gilad, “Dresden und die Erinnerungspolitik der DDR,” http://www.bombenkneg.historicum.net/themen/ddr.html.

45. Moeller, , War Stories, 25.

46. Moeller, , War Stories. Grossmann, Atina, “A Question of Silence: The Rape of German Women by Occupation Soldiers,” in Moeller, Robert G., ed., West Germany Under Construction: Politics, Society and Culture in the Adenauer Era (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 3352. Stargardt, Nicholas, “Opfer der Bomben und der Vergeltung,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 57.

47. Langenbacher, , “Changing Memory Regimes in Contemporary Germany,” 55. When condemning the war in Vietnam, German students accused Americans of acting like Nazi criminals. They did not compare the bombing of North Vietnam to that of Germany during the World War II. Greiner, Bernd, “Deutsche Amerikabilder im Umbruch der 60er Jahre,” Mittelweg 36, 12: 4 (08/09 2003), 2645.

48. Moeller, , War Stories. Hans-Ulrich Wehler, who worked on the documentation about the expellees in 1950, insisted, contrary to Moeller, that no one paid attention then or later to the issue. See interview with Wehler, , “Die Debatte wirkt befreiend,” Der Spiegel 13 (03 25, 2002).

49. Grossmann, , “A Question of Silence.” Frank Biess, “Survivors of Totalitarianism: Returning POWs and the Reconstruction of Masculine Citizenship in West Germany, 1945–1955,” in Schissler, Hanna, ed., The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949–1968 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 5782. Biess, Frank, “Between Amnesty and Anti-Communism: The West German Kameradenschinder Trials, 1948–1960,” in Grossmann, Bartov, and Nolan, , eds., Crimes of War: Guilt and Denial in the Twentieth Century (New York: The New Press, 2002), 138160.

50. Sebald suggested this is one reason for silence; On the Natural History of Destruction, 45.

51. Forte, , Schweigen oder sprechen, 53.

52. Jarausch, Konrad and Geyer, Michael, Shattered Past: Reconstructing German History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 326–27. For an American discussion of air wars and a similar blurring, see Robert McNamara in Errol Morris' film Fog of War.

53. Welzer, Harald, Moller, Sabine, Tschuggnall, Karoline, “Opa war kein Nazi”: National-sozialismus und Holocaust in Familiengedächtnis (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2002), 10, 123, 15–16, 82–7.

54. Niven, , Facing the Nazi Past, 67.

55. Grass quoted in Klein, Julia, “Germans as Victims of World War II,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 04 18, 2003.

56. Schütze, Christian, “On That Terrible Night…,” London Review of Book, 08 21, 2003, 28. “Der Luftkrieg über Europa,” Der Spiegel Special 1(2003), 10.

57. Sebald, , On the Natural History of Destruction, viii. Schütze claims such a sense of national humiliation was only felt by diehard Nazis, ; “On That Terrible Night…,” 28.

58. Sebald, , On the Natural History of Destruction, 13.

59. Langenbacher, , “Changing Memory Regimes in Contemporary Germany,” 63.

60. The phrase is from Naumann, Klaus, “Bombenkrieg—Totaler Krieg—Massaker: Jörg Freidrichs Buch Der Brand in der Diskussion,” Mittelweg 36 12: 4 (08/09 2003), 4960.

61. Schneider, Peter, “Deutsche als Opfer,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 163–5. Quote 165. Published in English as “The Germans Are Breaking an Old Taboo,” New York Times, 01 18, 2003.

62. Naumann, , “Bombenkrieg,” 51–2, 5960. Quote 60.

63. Such antimilitarism was framed in terms of lessons to be learned from the crimes of Nazism. It does not seem to have invoked the experience of bombing in the way post-1989 German antiwar sentiment has.

64. Douglas Peifer, Review of Friedrich, H-German, http://www.h-net.org/~german/discuss/WWII_bombing/WWII-bombing_index.htm.

65. Markovits, Andrei S. and Gorski, Philip S., The German Left: Red, Green and Beyond (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 23.

66. Moeller, Robert, “Sinking Ships, the Lost Heimat and Broken Taboos: Günter Grass and the Politics of Memory in Contemporary Germany,” Contemporary European History, 12:2 (2003), 171–72. Langenbacher, , “Changing Memory Regimes in Contemporary Germany,” 62. Noack, Hans-Jaochim, “Die Deutschen als Opfer,” Der Spiegel, 03 25, 2002, 3940.

67. Huyssen, Andreas, “Air War Legacies: From Dresden to Baghdad,” New German Critique 90 (Fall 2003), 163–76, 165.

68. Forward, 10 8, 2003.

69. Interview with Grass, , New York Times, 04 8, 2003.

70. Mommsen, Hans, “Moralisch, Strategisch, Zerstörerisch,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 150.

71. Johnson, Daniel, “Breaking the Silence,” TLS, 04 25, 2003, 78.

72. Huyssen, , “Air War Legacies: From Dresden to Baghdad,” 164–5, 171–2.

73. Grossmann, Atina, “War Burnout,” paper delivered at Goethe Institute New York panel on “German Civilians as Victims? The Evolution of a Perception.” 10 29, 2003.

74. Scott Denham, Review of Nossak and Rhen, H-German, http://www.h-net.org/~german/discuss/WWII_bombing/WWII-bombing_index.htm.

75. Johnson, , “Breaking the Silence,” 8.

76. Nolan, Mary, “What difference does a Cold War Make? Reflections on the German-American Relationship,” in Janssens, Ruud and Kroes, Rob, eds., in Post-Cold War Europe, Post-Cold War America (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2004), 3044 and idem in Ross, Andrew and Ross, Kristen, eds., trans. “Anti-Americanism in Germany,” Anti-Americanism (New York: New York University Press, 2004).

77. Johnson, , “Breaking the Silence,” 8.

78. Schütze, , “On That Terrible Night…,” 29.

79. Huyssen, , “Air War Legacies: From Dresden to Baghdad;” italics in original, 167.

80. Maier, , “WWII Bombing;” Kettenacher, in Ein Volk von Opfern? Die neue Debatre um den Bombenkrieg, 1940–1945, forward, 14.

81. Friedman, Max Paul, “The Hohmann Affair Revisited: Unspeakable Traditions in German Political Thought?” H-German, 02 25, 2004. http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-german&month=0402&week=d&msg=EhGlL/5ikaZbFA52xL%2bjDA&user=&pw=.

82. Neue Züricher Zeitung, cited in Noack, , 40.

83. Wehler, Hans-Ulrich, “Wer Wind sät, wird Sturm ernten,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 143–4.

84. Peifer, Review of Friedrich.

85. Arnold, Jörg, “A Narrative of Loss,” H-German, http://www.h-net.org/~german/dis-cuss/WWII_bombing/WWII-bombing_index.htm.

86. Schütze, , “On That Terrible Night…,” 28.

87. Boog, Horst, “Kolossalgemälde des Schreckens,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 136.

88. Johnson, , “Breaking the Silence,” 7.

89. Maier, , “WWII Bombing.”

90. Stephan, Cora, “Wie man eine Stadt anzündet,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 95102. Quotes 102, 98, 97.

91. Walser, Martin, “Bombenkrieg als Epos,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 127–30.

92. Arnold, , “A Narrative of Loss.”

93. Stargardt, , “Opfer der Bomben und der Vergeltung,” 63.

94. Winkler, Willi, “Nun singen sie wieder,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 106, 108.

95. Arnold, , “A Narrative of Loss.”

96. Giordano, Ralph, “Ein Volk von Opfern?” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 168. Taylor, Frederick, Dresden, Tuesday, February 13, 1945 (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), 6.

97. Huyssen, Andreas, “Present Pasts: Media, Politics, Amnesia,” in idem, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 16.

98. Stargardt, , “Opfer der Bomben und der Vergeltung,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 61.

99. Ibid., 62–3.

100. Dreyfus, Jean Marc, “WWII Bombing” in H-German, http://www.h-net.org/~german/discuss/WWII_bombing/WWII-bombing_index.htm. “Wir haben ja nichts mehr,” Der Spiegel Special: Als Feuer vom Himmel fiel (1/2003), 9495. Stargardt, , “Opfer der Bomben und der Vergeltung,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 65.

101. Der Spiegel Special, 95.

102. “Witze über den Führer,” Der Spiegel Special, 86.

103. Grossmann, , “War Burnout,” 6.

104. Torrie, Julia, Review of Gert Ledig, Payback. H-German, http://www.h-net.org/~german/discuss/WWII_bombing/WWII-bombing_index.htm.

105. Stargardt, , “Opfer der Bomben und der Vergeltung,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 62–6.

106. Herbert, Ulrich, Hitler's Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labor in Germany under the Third Reich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 359–63.

107. Stargardt, , “Opfer der Bomben und der Vergeltung,” in Ein volk von Opfern?, 66.

108. Herbert, , Hitler's Foreign Workers, 363–64, 372.

109. Giordano, , “Ein Volk von Opfern?” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 166.

110. Klemperer, , I Witt Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, vol. 2, 415–16.

111. Taylor, , Dresden, Tuesday, February 13, 1945, 306–8.

112. Kaplan, Marion, Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 209–11.

113. For the most comprehensive and provocative survey of twentieth-century bombing, see Lindqvist, Sven, A History of Bombing (New York: The New Press, 2001).

114. Trenkner, Joachim, “Wieluń 1. September 1939: ‘Keine besondere Feindbeobachtung,’” Ein Volk von Ogfern?, 1523. “Wir werden sie ausradieren,” Der Spiegel Special2627.

115. Kettenacher, , Ein Volk von Opfern?, 52.

116. Boog, , “Kolossalgemälde des Schreckens,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 134.

117. Friedrich, , Der Brand, 63.

118. Taylor, , Dresden, Tuesday, February 13, 1945, 411.

119. Lagrou, Pieter, “The Nationalization of Victimhood: Selective Violence and National Grief in Western Europe, 1940–1960,” in Life After Death, 246.

120. “‘Wir werden sie ausradieren,’” Der Spiegel Special, 27. Asian statistics from American Airpower Heritage Museum, http://www.airpowermuseum.org/trafter.html. The GDR never equated Dresden with Hiroshima, but in the wake of David Irving's 1960 book on Dresden, which mistakenly gave the death toll as 130,000 instead of 35,000, many West Germans did. Margalit, , “Der Luftangriff auf Dresden, Seine Bedeutung für die Erinnerungspolitik der DDR und für die Herauskristallisierung einer historischen Kriegserinnerung im Westen,” 204.

121. Life after Death begins to explore these issues for Western Europe.

122. Overy, Richard, Why the Allies Won (New York: Norton, 1995), 127–28, 343, footnote 65.

123. Taylor, , Dresden, Tuesday, February 13, 1945, 355–56, 416–17.

124. Overy, , Why the Allies Won, 20, 124–5, 129–31. Quote 131.

125. Ibid., 20, 113.

126. Bajohr, Frank, Talk on the air war, delivered at Goethe Institute New York panel on “German Civilians as Victims? The Evolution of a Perception,” 10 29, 2003.

127. “Wir haben ja nichts mehr,” Der Spiegel Special, 95.

128. Stargardt, , “Opfer der Bomben und der Vergeltung,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 69.

129. Overy, Richard, “Barbarisch, aber sinnvoll,” in Ein Volk von Opfern?, 183.

130. Johnson, , “Breaking the Silence,” 7.

131. Interview of Grass, , New York Times, 04 8, 2003.

132. “Luftkrieg iiber Europa,” Der Spiegel Special, 20.

133. Langenbacher, Eric, “The Allies in World War Two: The Anglo-American Bombardment of German Cities,” 19 http://www.georgetown.edu/departments/governrnent/faculty/langenbe/BombardmentofGermany.pdf.

134. Kettenacher, , Ein Volk von Opfern?, 55.

135. Ibid., forward, 13.

136. Mommsen, , “Moralisch, Strategisch, Zerstörerisch,” 150–51. Quote 151.

137. Maier, , “WWII Bombing.”

138. Arnold, , “A Narrative of Loss.”

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