The Guilt of Nations? [Excerpt]
Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 17.2 (Fall 2003)
September 30, 2003
. . . In contrast to the Mitscherlichs, Sebald is thus very much a man of his times, free of the older orthodoxies of the West German memory wars. For decades, the politics of memory in West Germany was divided between those who feared “too much” memory and those, like Jung and the Mitscherlichs, who believed Germans needed to work through their (collective) guilt if they were to overcome the symptoms of repression. Sebald does indeed pose a strong ethical and political-cultural imperative to remember, but his lecture was controversial because the lost memory it laments is that of German suffering, which heretofore has been the rallying cry of the extreme right. In this regard, Sebald is only one example of a surprising recent interest in the memory of German suffering from the left. . . . How legitimate is this new interest in German suffering, previously associated with nationalist revanchism and discreditable positions? The answer depends on the purpose. . . .”
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