mardi 5 mars 2019

Holocaust: Europeans remember and commemorate a crime that still lies beyond understanding

Mary Fulbrook, Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice, Oxford

Christopher Hale is a non-fiction author and documentary producer. He is currently working on Deception, a new book about the German occupation of Hungary:
"There is a huge literature on the Third Reich and the explosion of state violence it provoked, first in Germany and then across Europe. The destruction of tens of millions of people culled from ethnic groups, above all European Jewry but also Slavs, Roma and Sinti and gay men and women, as well as members of political organisations considered enemies of the Nazi state, has come to define the historical narrative of the Second World War.

Just as pervasively, the collective memory of this paroxysm of state-sponsored mass murder shapes the moral universe of modern Europeans. Above all, the destruction of more than five and a half million Jews by the political agents of a modern European state has evolved into an ethical pivot that is consecrated in numerous state-sponsored and grassroots memorials, as well as by scores of new ‘Holocaust Museums’. To what end and why?

The many different acts of remembering and memorialising the Holocaust, inspired by the moral axiom of ‘Never Again’, have not prevented genocides unfolding in the Balkans, Africa and South-east Asia. To remember and memorialise seems tantamount to acting and thinking without effect or impact. Mary Fulbrook’s monumental book Reckonings makes a case for challenging the modern cult of memory and situates the rituals of memorialising in the context of the catastrophic failure of the postwar quest for justice in the successor states of the Third Reich. […]
The shabby history of postwar trials in the successor states of the Third Reich is not an unfamiliar story, but one of the most impressive achievements of Reckonings is to weave together a forensic account that exposes what was essentially a kind of legalised clemency which integrated most former Nazis into society while scapegoating just a few. As Fulbrook points out, the more efficient and murderous the persecution the less likely the success of prosecuting perpetrators, since so few witnesses survived. She concludes that the ‘Auschwitz’ and other trials held in both Germanies in the 1960s drew public attention to the Nazi system ‘but what they did not do was bring the vast majority of those who were guilty of mass murder and collective violence to any sort of justice’. And yet, in the aftermath of these deeply flawed trials, West Germany found ways to promote the fiction that the nation of perpetrators was ‘facing the Nazi past’ to secure a better international reputation. 
After unification, the leaders of the new Germany discovered that erecting much lauded and expensive gestures of memorialisation, such as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, built in the heart of the new capital Berlin, could shape how the past of the nation of perpetrators is represented – and occlude the abject failure to enact justice. Reputational success, she insists, was at odds with the actual record of the courts. Fulbrook returns frequently to the most infamous and, in some ways, misunderstood site of the German genocide, the Auschwitz concentration camp. Today it is a crowded pilgrimage site. Why do so many come here? By demanding that we confront these troubling questions, she demonstrates that ‘reckoning’ remains a stubbornly incomplete and compromised task. This masterly book challenges the ways, seven decades after the end of the war, that Europeans remember and commemorate a crime that still lies beyond understanding."
Lire l'article complet @ History Today

Lire également:
Union européenne: un passé qui empeste (Ivan Rioufol et Philippe de Villiers)
Bruno Maçães: On continue de sous-estimer ce que fut Auschwitz

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