'From Perpetrators to Victims ? Constructions and Representations of ‘German Wartime Suffering’'
CONFERENCE, University of Leeds, 29 June – 1 July 2007
It has been maintained in recent years that there had been a general silence about ‘German suffering’ during World War II, a silence that is considered to have resulted from a taboo. This argument has been put forward in very different forms in diverse texts ranging from W.G. Sebald’s Zürich Lectures to Jörg Friedrich’s notorious Der Brand, and it is the basis for numerous representations of Germans as victims in literature and, increasingly, in film, and in debates such as the one about the planned ‘Centre against Expulsions’ in Berlin. However, one can argue that the revived debate, for instance, about the Allied air raids on German cities is essentially not an unearthing of something allegedly forgotten but rather expresses the forgetting of a remembering.
Setting out from the premise that recent representations and constructions of Germans as victims are not part of a new discourse but were rather implicitly present in a variety of West and East German debates in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, a 3-year research project is currently underway at the University of Leeds with the aim of analysing discourses of ‘German wartime suffering.’ However, just as important as interrogating specific debates in this context is the discussion within the project about the foundations and thus the political and moral implications of such research.
The project wants to open up these questions for discussion and invites papers interrogating the construction and representations of ‘German wartime suffering’ and of ‘Germans as victims’ in all areas concerned: from visual arts and literature to political and social debates in Germany from 1945 to the present. We also invite contributions dealing with the reception of the German discourse in other countries, such as in the United States, Britain, Israel, France, Poland, Italy, Japan and the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Publications of the conference proceedings are planned within thematically structured volumes.
We will consider contributions discussing literary representations, filmic representations, across-media representations and papers focusing on political and public debates, the question of ‘public’ and ‘private’ memory, as well as discourse analysis.
Please send abstracts of not more than 500 words by 16 January 2007.
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