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Legacies of Dachau
The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp, 1933–2001

$47.99 (G)

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  • Date Published: June 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521064484

$ 47.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • Dachau was the first among Nazi camps, and it served as a model for the others. Situated in West Germany after World War II, it was the one former concentration camp most subject to the push and pull of the many groups wishing to eradicate, ignore, preserve and present it. Thus its postwar history is an illuminating case study of the contested process by which past events are propagated into the present, both as part of the historical record, and within the collectively shared memories of different social groups. How has Dachau been used--and abused--to serve the present? What effects have those uses had on the contemporary world? Drawing on a wide array of sources, from government documents and published histories to newspaper reports and interviews with visitors, Legacies of Dachau offers answers to these questions. It is one of the first books to develop an overarching interpretation of West German history since 1945. Harold Marcuse examines the myth of victimization, ignorance, and resistance and offers a model with which the cultural trajectories of other post-genocidal societies can be compared. With its exacting research, attention to nuance, and cogent argumentation, Legacies of Dachau raises the bar for future studies of the complex relationship between history and memory. Harold Marcuse is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he teaches modern German history. The grandson of German emigré philosopher Herbert Marcuse, Harold Marcuse returned to Germany in 1977 to rediscover family roots. After several years, he became interested in West Germany's relationship to its Nazi past. In 1985, shortly before Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl visited Bitburg, he organized and coproduced an exhibition "Stones of Contention" about monuments and memorials commemorating the Nazi era. That exhibition, which marks the beginning of Marcuse's involvement in German memory debates, toured nearly thirty German cities, including Dachau. This is his first book.

    • Shows by using the example of the horrific Dachau concentration camp how experience of the past affects the present
    • Offers an overview of the history of West Germany, 1945 to the present day, through the changing perceptions of the Nazi atrocities
    • Includes a rich array of photographs and maps of the Dachau concentration camp memorial site
    Read more


    • Winner of the Hans Rosenberg Book Prize 2001

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Four hundred pages of text, 160 pages of endnotes, and 88 well-chosen, carefully explained illustrations compose the definitive history of Dachau... Clearly and sensitively written, the book is accessible to a broad audience. It belongs in every library." Choice

    "Legacies of Dachau is an important addition to the bibliography of the manner in which Germans have chosen to remember and commemorate the Nazi past. And for those interested in or involved with public history, Marcuse's book is a 'must-read' as it shows the problems and paradoxes that shape the stewardship of any historically significant site...[This book] analyzes one of the most important of these public places, and his insights are therefore important for our understanding of the shape of the current public domain." The Public Historian

    "A new and important book that sheds light on the means by which the Nazis eliminated dissent in Germany." Jewish Post & Opinion, Indianapolis, IN

    "This massive study is a crucial and definitive account of one important aspect of the Holocaust." Booklist

    "Marcuse's book is meticulously documented. It is clearly the result of painstaking careful research, as demonstrated by its more than a hundred and thirty pages of footnotes. And yet, it is more than just a work of academic scholarship. It is a cry from the heart that Dachau remain--in the consciousness of Germany and in that of all humanity--not just as a memorial, but as a warning of how thin the veneer of human sanity can be and how fragile goodness is." South Florida Jewish Journal

    "What is most striking about Marcuse's complex analysis is his innovative look at history through a culture's act of memorialization." Publishers Weekly

    "This is a very learned book, but a book likely to be appreciated primarily by the very informed and the very patient." The New Republic

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521064484
    • length: 664 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 37 mm
    • weight: 0.96kg
    • contains: 84 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Dachau: past, present, future
    Part I. Dachau 1890–1945: A Town, A Camp, A Symbol of Genocide:
    1. Dachau: a town and a camp
    2. Dachau: a symbol of genocide
    Part II. Dachau 1945–55: Three Myths and Three Inversions:
    3. 'Good' Nazis
    4. 'Bad' inmates
    5. 'Clean' camps
    Part III. Dachau 1955–70: Groups and Their Memories:
    6. The first representations of Dachau, 1945–52
    7. Rising public interest, 1955–65
    8. Catholics celebrate at Dachau
    9. The survivors negotiate a memorial site
    10. Jews represent the Holocaust at Dachau
    11. Protestants make amends at Dachau
    12. The 1968 generation: new legacies of old myths
    Part IV. Dachau 1970–2000: New Age Cohorts Challenge Mythic Legacies:
    13. Redefining the three myths and ending ignorance: the 1970s
    14. The 1980s: relinquishing victimisation
    15. The 1990s: resistance vs. education.

  • Author

    Harold Marcuse, University of California, Santa Barbara
    Harold Marcuse received an MA from Hamburg University and a PhD from the University of Michigan, and lived and studied in Germany from the 1970s to the 1990s. He has been teaching German and Public History at the University of California since 1992. His research focuses on the reception of historical events, in particular events in twentieth-century German history.


    • Winner of the Hans Rosenberg Book Prize 2001

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