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Reading: For Whom Does One Remember?: Autobiographical Perspectives on Fascism in German Literature.


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For Whom Does One Remember?: Autobiographical Perspectives on Fascism in German Literature.


Joanne Sayner

University of Cardiff, GB
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Joanne Sayner’s paper deals with texts by three women writing about their autobiographical experiences of German fascism and the Second World War. Questions of gender, memory and reception are central to Sayner’s examination of the ways in which a former member of the Hitler Youth, a resister and a Jewish survivor have positioned themselves in relation to ongoing debates over guilt, responsibility and collective identity in the aftermath of the Nazi era. Sayner, firstly, addresses Melita Maschmann’s Taking Stock: No Attempt at Justification (1963). She points to the narrative focus on collective identities and the narrator’s and protagonist’s construction of an elite German generation of youth leaders based on clear national and racial lines. Such a universalising tendency, highlighting tropes of victimhood, contradicts precisely the text’s subtitle ‘no attempt at justification’ and Sayner argues persuasively for an ‘exonerating effect’ in a textual fascination with fascism. Alongside this text produced in the then West Germany is Greta Kuckhoff’s From the Rosary to the Red Orchestra (1972). Kuckhoff’s text too is explored in the light of the specific historical context of the 1960s and 1970s but this time from the perspective of an East German writer who was an antifascist resister during the Nazi era. Sayner shows how Kuckhoff is concerned to present a more diverse image of antifascism than was commonly portrayed in East Germany at the time but that this comes into conflict with a ‘unifying political teleology’, characteristic of the politics of the Cold War period. Finally, Sayner turns to the case of Hilde Huppert’s autobiographical work, variously titled but in its most recent 1997 incarnation called Hand in Hand with Tommy: an Autobiographical Report 1939-1945. The changing uses and re-constructions of Huppert’s memories as a Jewish survivor are charted through the complex publishing history of the text and the different addressees intended for succeeding editions of the memoirs. In conclusion, Sayner discusses how the three texts, in different ways, demonstrate the debates in Germany and elsewhere over the memory of the Nazi era and who is allowed to speak on behalf of whom. Sayner’s concentration on the intended addressees of her texts and the books’ publishing histories opens up a space to reconsider the gender politics of a predominantly male canon of autobiographical writing and the war years in German-language writing.
How to Cite: Sayner, J. “For Whom Does One Remember?: Autobiographical Perspectives on Fascism in German Literature.”. New Readings, vol. 6, 2000, pp. [5–20]. DOI:
Published on 01 Jul 2000.
Peer Reviewed


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