Foreign Languages & Literatures ETDs

Publication Date

7-9-2009

Abstract

The public and private discourse about Germany's past under Hitler has recently undergone a significant shift. Instead of focusing on Germans as perpetrators, the last two decades have been dominated by discussions about Germans as innocent civilians victimized by the victorious Allies during the last years of WWII. Against the backdrop of this shift in German memory politics, this thesis examines literary negotiations of the current 'victim debate', using Hans-Ulrich Treichel's prose text Der Verlorene (1998) as a primary example. Der Verlorene dramatizes a childhood dominated by an irrevocable loss. The parents of the child narrator have been traumatized by the loss of their home and their first-born son in 1945. Treichel's text documents how the trauma, guilt and shame experienced by the first generation has deeply affected the post-war identity of the second generation. The author articulates the legacy of war-time trauma as a series of psychosomatic symptoms afflicting the second generation, offering a glimpse of a schizophrenic Adenauer generation caught between guilt and victimhood. While Der Verlorene could be read as symptomatic of a broader change in contemporary discourses about WWII, it is foremost a personalized attempt to re-address the past. Treichel's text challenges a trend of the current memory culture in Germany, which is marked by the desire to generalize and sentimentalize the suffering of ethnic Germans driven from the eastern territories. Ultimately, this text refuses any notion of closure and releases the reader into an ongoing struggle with Germany's catastrophic past and its legacy.

Keywords

German, Literature

Document Type

Thesis

Language

English

Degree Name

German Studies

Level of Degree

Masters

Department Name

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Baackmann, Susanne

First Committee Member (Chair)

Pugach, Noel

Second Committee Member

Schröter, Katja

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