The Search for Normality in Postwar West Germany: A Study in Oral History

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The Search for Normality in Postwar West Germany: A Study in Oral History
Uchdorf, Barbara
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Subjects / Keywords:
Collective memory ( jstor )
Fathers ( jstor )
Gender roles ( jstor )
Marriage ( jstor )
Memory ( jstor )
Mothers ( jstor )
Narratives ( jstor )
Nazism ( jstor )
War ( jstor )
World wars ( jstor )
Collective memory
Germany (West)
Social conflict
Undergraduate Honors Thesis


The central question of this paper is: How did the tensions between individual, collective, and official memory affect the individual process of reaching normality in postwar West Germany? Using oral history interviews conducted in Berlin with Viktoria in the summer of 2012, I look to analyze this tension. The search for "normality" after the war was a central concern at alll levels of society and represents an appropriate space for this analysis. Vikrtoria is an individual whose life was defined by the tension between the collective narrative and her individual memory, which was embodied primarily in the constant search for, and inability to realize, a state of normality, hindered by the continuation of a Nazi sense of normailty in her father. The competiting narratives not only impact the way she understands the war and postwar periods, but also herself, and the people around her. The study of this tension is therefore an essential point in the undertstanding of the importance of history. ( en )
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Awarded Bachelor of Arts; Graduated May 7, 2013 cum laude. Major: Political Science
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Advisor(s): Anna Mueller
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College/School: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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University of Florida
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Copyright Barbara Uchdorf. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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The Search For Normality in Postwar West Germany: A Study in Oral History Barbara Uchdorf Prof. Anna Mueller Department of History April 2013


2 Table of Contents Introduction Historiography and Basic Assumptions A Note on Methodology: Conducting Oral History Interviews Chapter I : Before Birth .. Chapter II : The War Years 1942 1946 Chapter III : The Postwar Years: .. Afterward : Concluding Remarks on Family F. Conclusion


1 Germany, Pale Mother (1980). Lene gives birth to her only daughter during an air r aid. The camera cuts from Lene to documentary footage of a German city being bombed, juxtaposing the beginning and ending of life while connecting them through sound, destruction serving as the soundtrack to a new life. Germany, Pale Mother a film by Helm a Sanders Brahms, represents an attempt by a member of known as Vterliteratur the second generation sought, not to excuse, but to understand their volvement in the Nazi state. 1 Germany, Pale Mother is but one example of the relationship between collective narrative and private memory. Sanders and immediately after the war, but she does so kno wing that the characters portrayed must fit closely with how the war narrative is understood in German society. That is, she covers the rape of German women, the status of displacement, the return of husbands from the front, strained marriages, and attempt ed suicides, all themes generally linked to the narrative of German he stability during and after the war, and the inability for families to restructure themselves in the post war ideal. The film begins with the voice of Third Reich, and is a critique of Germany in 1933. Germany is personified as a mother who is a 1 Anton Kaes, From Hitler to Heimat : The Return of History as Film (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 140 141.


2 threat while als o being misused and taken advantage of. Lene, who embodies the quintessential figure of German suffering, is abused and yet an accomplice to the Holocaust, the establishment of a totalitarian regime, and the Second World War. The poem ends in a hopeless to ne. Germany is no longer a figure of strength, but rather something its people can take advantage of or of two generations, who for decades had irreconcilable differences. In this 1980 film then we see the development of a new understanding of the first generation by the second. The generations are no longer strictly delineated along perpetrator revolutionary lines, and yet they remain separate. The final scen e of Sander She turns the gas on, trying to commit suicide, only coming out after very long minutes of her but also between the first and second generations more generally. The film is an attempt to cross the threshold, to enter the realm of understanding rat her than blame. Still, as Sander Brahms states at the end of the film, as an adult she lives as though Lene was still behind the bathroom door. Germany, Pale Mother is in effect a dialogue between two generations, and not simply between one child and her parents. Although representative of an 1980 film itself represents a transition in the way the 1968er generation viewed their parents. In focusing on German displacement, the close relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the depression and stress of the immediate postwar years, Sanders post memory as one that includes the discussion of German suffering. In this way, th e film


3 participates in the process of Vergangenheitsbewltigung or the mastering of the past, both in the collective space as a cultural influence and in the individual space as a way for the filmmaker to confront the past. The filmmaker and any person who tries to make sense of the relationship between collective and individual memory through the recollection of lived experiences also works to reshape the collective memory. Here then we make a shift from exploring the collective memory that shape s individuals, as in the making of Germany, Pale Mother to studying an individual who is affected by this collective memory. In focusing on a microhistory, we are able to reconstruct the contex t for the collective narrative. In the summer of 2012, I condu cted a series of interviews to study microhistories of World War II. However, most of the interviews, especially those with Viktoria, lent themselves to much more than simple descriptions of how their experiences do not fit exactly with the official narrat ive. Rather, I was presented with an individual whose life was defined by the tension between the collective narrative and her individual memory, which was embodied primarily in the constant search for and inability to realize a state of normality. The im neither in its uniqueness nor in how representative it is but rather in its demonstration of the constant tension s between official, collec tive and individual memories, resulting in an understanding of the self that is in a constant state of flux For Viktoria, this tension served both as the cause and effect for the inability of her family to reach a state of postwar normality. This concept serves as central to the question of this p aper: how did the tension s between individual, collective and official memory affect the individual process of reaching normality in postwar West Germany? Following a discussion of the historiography surrounding the study of memory,


4 and the official postw as well as a few remarks on methodology, thereby contextualizing what the collective narrative influenc e s I will finally turn to an an alysis of how the collective memory framework affects her understanding of this time Historiography and Basic Assumptions The relationship between collective and individual memory requires further elaboration. 2 According psychological realm can never be completely deduced from social experience, but stands in a polar relation to it 3 Both Passerini and other historians like central work On Collective Memory as collective memory and social framework for memory; it is to the degree that our individual thought places itself in these fr ameworks and participates in this memory that it is capable of the 4 Thus, a lived experience cannot be thought of in isolation from the society the individual exists in. Individuals remember through the lens of the various social grou ps they shaped by each of these pasts. 5 Both Susan Crane and Alon Confino have further expanded how collective memory relates to the individual, who is a membe r of multiple collectives and therefore influenced by a 2 The American Historical Review 102, no. 5 (Dec 1997): 1377. 3 Luisa Passerini, Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968 (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1996), xi. 4 Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memo ry trans. Lewis A. Coser (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1992), 38. 5 Crane, 1376.


5 unites a social group, be it a family or a nation, whose members nonetheless have different interests and 6 7 The tension between collective and individual experience comes when the collective representation of the experience, which is not only accepted by others but also by the 8 that the historian must separate themselves from their own collective memory when recording memory. 9 An excellent example of the use of personal narrative in the writing of history is Autobiography of a Generation in which she places herself withi n the process of research, both as a historian and as a member of the 1968 er generation in Ita ly volume The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany 1949 1968 is equally influential as each featured historian is also a member o f the 1968er generation. Paraphrasing Eric Hobsbawn, Schissler specifies two central issues to the writing of a time that also belongs to change over the course of our own life span and how we can escape or keep at bay in our 10 In accepting the usefulness of collective pasts that affect every individual, Crane, Passerini and Schissler shift the concern of history from the preservation of an official narrative to the shaping of how a lived 6 The American Historical Review 102, no. 5 (Dec 1997): 1390. 7 Crane, 1381. 8 Ibid. 1375. 9 Ibid. 1382. 10 The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949 1968 ed. Hanna Schissler (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 6.


6 experience is remembered. This concept can be further extended to grant importance not only to historians affected by various collective memories bu t also to those individuals without professional historical training. If we are to accept as a foundation the historicity of subjectivity, the analysis of the ind ividual collective tension should not remain a solely elite experience. The reshaping of coll ective memory in West Germany is a unique process because of the making arena did not simply formu 11 The collective narrative and the official narrative imposed from above overlapped. This becomes problematic when the individual cannot carry out the set of practices prescribed by the official narrati ve. The individual family, meaning that a redefinition of gender norms was a primary concern. While some scholars like Hanna Schissler attribute this importance to the West German gove modern industrial society, in which separate gender spheres would be essential, others, like Robert Moeller, point to the political and cultural centrality of rebuilding the family. Regardless, ideal family structure. 12 What this discussion implies is 11 ublic Policy, and Memory: Waiting Wives and War Widows in the Postwar The Work of Memory: New Directions in the Study of German Society and Culture ed. Alon Confino and Peter Fritzsche (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 216. 12 The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949 1968 ed. Hanna Schissler (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 361.


7 that problems arose because the individuals could not fit into the West German norm of the housewife marriage. While this is certainly true, it seems incomplete as it ignores the very recent past t hat these new norms were reacting against. The persistence of off hand comments Unter Hitler hat das nicht gegeben 13 reflects a continuing mentality of the Hitlerzeit This concept has been developed by Theodor Adorno in his criticism of Verg a n genheitsbewltigung mastering the past, and Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit working through the past. Both terms imply a leaving behind of the past, essentially a conscious and unconscious forgetting of history. T hese processes, which Adorno maintains distract and 14 This dichotomy of forget Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit as described by Adorno, is a prerequisite for participating in normalization. Difficulty surrounding normalization was related to how individuals were able to adjust to the new gender norms of postwar West Germany. This relationship is clear. However, t he connection between adjustability and the extent to which the defeated Nazi mentality remained in the individual or family is less so. Here, we are presented with the tangled web of conflicting official, collective, and individual memories that are in constant flux. This web is essential to t helps to see the effect that history has on the individual. A Note on Methodology: Conducting Oral History Interviews 13 11. 14 Can One Live After Auschwitz: A Philosophical Reader ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 3.


8 I met Viktoria three days after her stepfather had been hospitalized. Herr F. 89 at the time, was a very active member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) after the war and was instrumental in the establishment of relations between Israel and West Germany. He and I had a meeting scheduled for June 2. On June 4, I decided to vi sit who I assumed to be his daughter, and whose information I also had been given by an acquaintance of mine. She owned a small kiosk bakery in Kleinmachnow, a suburb right outside southwest Berlin, and because the weather was relatively nice, I decided to take a bike ride out to visit her for a short while, mostly to see how Herr Franke was doing. Upon entering the caf, I saw two women sitting at a table: one small and frail, with translucent hair and pale eyes, and the o ther younger, brighter, with a pr esence that was all at once comforting and intimidating. I asked if they knew who or where Frau B. was and the younger of the two looked up, her eyes sharp and asked what I wanted. I did not know what to do other than introduce myself, and I could feel my heart sink as I braced myself for yet another discussion full of skepticism and coldness. However, as soon as I said my name, her faced changed entirely, and she leapt up to give me a hug. She asked if I wanted a coffee no, not a coffee, a cappuccino perha ps and insisted that I join her and the elderly woman at the table. Viktoria seemed to be giving her advice about how to spend her time, especially after her Urlaub vac The elderly woman left soon after I arrived. I asked Viktoria how her father was doing, but made the mistake of using the informal du rather than the formal Sie. Correcting myself immediately, Viktoria told me not to be so polite, and that I could use du This immediately removed a barrier between her and me that had not been broken down even with some of my


9 family members. I had no intention of staying for longer than half an hour, but Viktoria had other plans for me. She assumed h er story was of just as much interview perhaps as an accessory to his narrative, there was no way I could stop her from telling her story. The fact that I showed the slightest interest in World War II was reason enough to keep me hostage for three hours. Those three hours redefined my understanding of second generation post memory serves as the central case study in this paper. The act of remembering in oral history is a social process and depends on the level of trust betwe en the interviewer and the individual. The relationship that developed between Viktoria and me mimicked one of teacher and student, grandmother and granddaughter. In me, ps my life is Even the space where we conducted interviews was somewhat odd Although most people I interviewed preferred conducting the interviews in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, I never interviewed Viktoria at her home. Her home was where she would go to rest after our sessions; it was a space removed from the st ress of having to recount the past. Her caf was the space she already associated with conversation. It was also a space physically separate from Herr not const antly filled with people, the interviews were interrupted, sometimes at crucial moments, because she needed to help a customer. At times though, this would allow for both her and me to recollect our thoughts and frame any further questions.


10 Much of the f speaking too quickly and too freely and after returning from helping a customer, I had already turned on the recorder and, despite everything I had learned, did not tell her until she asked if I was really going to remember everything she was telling me. At that point, I thought she might stop the interview, but she continued. I, however, had such a feeling of shame that it grew difficult for me to concentrate on her story and not on the redn ess flooding my cheeks. She spoke for another hour until she grew tired and needed to close up the caf for the evening. I apologized once more for having disregarded one of the basic ethical rules of conducting interviews. She simply laughed and gave me a you way she viewed me, both as a young woman and someone interested in her story. She often told me I approache comfortable enough to share her secrets. My mistakes also allowed for the veil of scholarship that often shrouds research to be taken away very quickly. To Viktoria, I was as imperfe ct as she, and it is for this reason that she decided to continue telling her story. After the first meeting, she and I had already experienced betrayal, apology, and forgiveness, and all within the context of ence. On the basis of forgiveness, understanding, and the learning of openness, we conducted our interviews. of non specialization, reciprocity of roles, thematic instab 15 For someone who has never been interviewed, organizing determining what is relevant, wh at is irrelevant but nonetheless interesting, and wh at is relevant but should remain 15 Kultur und Gedchtnis eds. Jan Assmann and Tonio Hlscher (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1988), 126.


11 hidden can be overwhelming Although I would always make a list of questions to ask Viktoria, I did not provide her with them prior to the interviews, and this allowed for the conversation to flow more organically. I wanted to avoid pre scripted answers. However, this did have its negative sid es as well, especially at first. The first interview is spotted with sections of dialogue where, although she still offers some information, are completely disorganized. The following excerpt took place during a tangent to a question I asked her regarding her reaction to the Berlin Wall being built: let me explain it to you in a somewhat different way. I like to go to churches. Churches y modern churches because, let me decades and sometimes centuries in these churches and they have my respect and I never visited Russia, well my sister one of my sisters was in Russia still during the East times and she was ever in America, but from what I hear now from the east (of course those in the former east could not travel to the west), they can confirm what I just said about the freedom feeling ( Freiheitsgefhl) So when I went to America, that is, when I think of it, I realize they could never understand such a feeling and I would story of the building of the wall ( Mauerbau ). 16 Although this excerpt does still contain valuable information, especially regarding the difficult relationship with her sister, an d her religiosity, which developed while living in a Catholic understood along with the next interviews. The more I stopped by her caf, the more organized her th ought process became in part because she had clearly been thinking more about what she wanted to tell me, and in part because we were both learning to listen. After Viktoria had entrusted me with enough open ended secrets regarding her family, I asked he r if she would grant me permission to do further research in the archives on her father. 16 Interview s with Viktoria, June August


12 She agreed, although reminded me that she remembers him burning documents when she was about eight years old, so she was not sure if there would be much to find. There was not much at all: three documents, one from the Dienststelle (WASt) in Berlin, and the other two from the Bundesarchiv. Viktoria was always very anxious for the interviews following my archive visits. She made copies of whatever documents I was able to copy or print out and put them in a file to keep with any other information she had collected on her own about her father. It was essentially a file that she used to justify her negative feelings toward him. The documents would trigger memories and would lead her either to explain the documents further to me. However, often times she would learn new information about her father, like his date of deployment to the in her knowing very little about him. Information that was new to me was also often times new to her. A final factor affecting the interview process with V iktoria was the tension that still existed within her family. The question of maintaining contact with her father after the divorce led to a split, especially among her siblings. In fact her relationships with her sisters, especially C., her youngest sist er who had become a psychologist and had interviewed her father, are quite strained. Despite my expressed desire to interview C., or any other sisters really, Viktoria would est would be ignored entirely if I proposed using email rather than in person interviews. This was also true experience during the war. Viktoria felt a deep res ponsibility for controlling how her parents were presented her mother in a positive light and her father in a negative one. The fact that I


13 would be writing her story down both flattered and frightened her; it represented the transformation of her opinion into an official narrative because of its perceived permanence as text.


14 Chapter I : Before Birth In order to properly grasp the impact a collective memory that focuses on the family may have on an individual it i s essential to contextualize that individual within their family. The first steps in doing so however, involve focusing on the time when the family itself was being created, before the first child, in this case Viktoria, was born. It would be difficult and perhaps birth father, in is olation from the history that surrounded it. Its volatility would not have been of the same character had the political situation in Europe been different. However, because of the after World War I, during the rise of the N azi party, before World War II and in space Central Europe we are able to ascertain certain cultural and social trends that worked to add tension to the already difficult relationship. M., was born in Ratibor in Upper Silesia, where she met Dr. F. who wa s a doctor at the time. Located between Polish, German, Austrian, and Russian territory, Upper Silesia was a disputed area after World War I. According to a pamphlet used by English diplomats in west p arts of the Kreise of Ratibor and Leobschtz also have a certain Czech population, which has spread across the frontier from 17 According to the 1910 Prussian census, the Polish ethnic group made up sixty percent of the Oder Kreise where Ratibor was located. Ratibor itself seems to have been predominantly Czecho Slovak, with sixty percent of its population being Czecho Slovak. At the same time, however, there was a high degree of mixing, and the ethic groups were only truly divided in term s of difference in language. 18 The ethnically diverse town of Ratibor seems to 17 Great Britain Foreign Historical Office, Historical Se ction, Upper Silesia (London: H.M. Stationary Office, 1920), 4. 18 Great Britain Foreign Historical Office, Upper Silesia 7.


15 have had a lasting effect on M., who Viktoria describes as being very open minded and independent. Dr. F. finished his studies to become a doctor in 1922. Further research re veals that his professional life was supported by an article found when she Googled his name. She had never thought to look further in archives, both because the p rocess was not something that she was the sorts of questions I was allowed to ask Herr Franke during his interview. The document she found online, an issue of a Social Democratic newspaper published on October 11, 1930, briefly discusses a lawsuit being brought against Dr. F. for allegedly performing Scheinoperatione n Scheinoperationen can used be in placebo experiments, swindle money out of numerous insurance companies. He was char ged along with another doctor on multiple counts. 19 Further documents found in the Bundesarchiv reveal that, at least for a time, Dr. F. was not in the NSDAP, let alone the SS like Viktoria believed. A response to an April 16, 1934 inquiry sent on May 14 1934 explained that Dr. F. was not in the NSDAP because of the Scheinoperation Being barred from the Party was part of his punishment. He was also restricted to limited memb ership in the Kassenrztlichen Vereinigung Deutschlands (KVD) (Association of Insurance Physicians of Germany) from February 1936 to February 1937. 19 Sozialdemokratischer Pressedienst 11. October 1930.


16 It is possible that because of this accusation and his bad reputation, he moved temporarily to Upper Siles ia, where he met M. Further documents show that he started practicing again in Berlin on February 17, 1936. He was acquitted officially on June 14, 1939 by a doctoral tribunal ( rztlichiche Bezirksgericht ). However, the case was not entirely settled, and f urther concerns were directed to a separate doctoral tribunal in Munich in September 1939. There is no further information regarding the result of this second tribunal, but it is known that it did not affect his practice, as he continued practicing while t he proceedings continued. Although Viktoria had introduced me to the newspaper article concerning the accusation brought against Dr. F., she was unaware of the initial acquittal, and she was entirely oblivious to the length of time it took to reach a dec ision. Her limited knowledge further enforced her overwhelmingly negative view of him, and linked him to the Nazi doctor persona. It is unclear from the documentation as to whether or not he joined the NSDAP after his acquittal in 1939. S S official, which may also explain his relatively late deployment to the front. His heightened interest in National Socialism existed well before the war and its overwhelming popularity in Germany. Here, we cannot simply view him as someone who may have wa nted to join the party and anti Semitic slurs may have proved a good fit for the party early on. kein g uter Mensch Doch er war Nazi, aber war ein guter Mensch


17 throughout other interviews. The effect of s uch sentences is similar to the repetition of the word Vergangenheitsbewltigung which often led to little self reflection. It is used as a way to get on with things, and to help those gute Menschen move on as well. That very negative characteristics were attributed to Dr. F., rightly or wrongly, allowed for those making such accusations to link a type of person with the Schuld guilt and debt, for World War II and the Holocaust. Because they excuse themselves of some guilt. Dr. F. and M. moved to Berlin some time before 1936. Dr. F. was about twenty five years older than M., who was only nineteen years of age when she gave birth to her first child. Viktoria speculates that the F. Family was of much higher standing than M., especially since she grew up in the countryside. Such a relationship resulted in tensions early on, as M. longed for a freedom e completely approved of the marriage. Differences also existed in their allegiance to the NSDAP and the Nazi way of life. The gender roles under the Nazi regime continued the traditional notion of separate spheres with the husband in the public space, whe ther in politics or on the battle field, and the wife at home. Early on, the NSDAP, the party that was so attractive to Dr. F. in 1933, was, as described in the Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte as far as the political st ruggle is concerned. It regards women in parliament as a depressing sign to the masculine principle of National Socialism; for only then will she reemerge as a whol e 20 The party would eventually have to allow women into political roles, but accepted still limited to the procreation of the Aryan race. 21 The central feat ure of Nazism remained a 20 Matthew Stibbe, Women in the Third Reich, (Lond on: Oxford University Press, 2003), 16. 21 Ibid., 4.


18 militarism linked to masculinity and authority in the family and society as a whole. Although questionable if Dr. F. saw M. as simply a vessel for the growth of the German population, the patriarchal nature of Nazism in the family was embraced.


19 Chapter II : The War Year s 1942 1946 Though the 1939 German invasion of Poland marks the beginning of the war in the until her father was deployed in 1942. In a similar vein, 1945 did not mark the end to the wartime way of life which was defined for Viktoria by the two person family Rather, the return of Dr. F. in 1946 altered the family structure dramatically and beg an a new war, but this time within the household. Dr. F. was called to serve on the eastern front as Heer a part of the basic Wehrmacht, on February 9, 1942, relatively late in the war. Viktoria therefore was born into a family that consisted only of her mother and a father figure that she could barely imagine. During the war, M. found shelter in a Brandenburg at a Behilfsheim a temporary housing area. Soon, however, nostalgia for a simpler time that stands in contrast to the complicated family life that she grew to s her strength, independence, and love for justice [ Gerechitgkeitsliebe two individuals who lived outside of the accepted Nazi family structure of a father, mother, and as many children as possibl Volk, 22 The two were unable to participate in the Nazi ideal of a family not only because of the absence of a father figure, but al so because of the absence of a home. The physical space between the two and the home they left mimicked the distance experienced by them and Dr. F., as well as between them and the Nazi system. Viktoria and her mother were impacted by Nazi policies, but on ly insofar as they had led to their displacement. Rather than being at the mercy of 22 Stibbe, 2.


20 the Nazi government, their fate often rested in the hands of farmers that dotted the German countryside. This particular redistribution of power was possible because of the ir racial status as Aryans, and their ability to carry luggage with them. Viktoria was unsure as to what the luggage contained she only remembers sitting on it to rest but silver may very well have been stored in it as well as other valuables which could h We were at that time on the run [ auf der Flucht means of transportation anymore and in the beginning the people tried to save something, lugged a luggage around with them, and everything like that. From what she [M.] told me, I must have been very young still as we found ourselves walking along in the countryside somewhere and then she would stop for a moment and then the small Viktoria would quickly sit on the luggage. And then we w alked on. Their relationship only grew stronger when Viktoria was able to attribute further meaning to the sacrifices her mother made during the war. It is remarkable that Viktoria does not remember hunger or cold. The assumption made by the West German government after the war that women worked to keep the family together by staying within the traditional female sphere is raising a child who had been forced to gr ow up too soon. Many other mothers did the same. ge along and work, really intensely and horribly. And gathering hay! I still remember the way she would tell it: there were these huge balls of hay fairytales, well I still know them for real so that hay is tied toget her, or formed into hay balls or heaped onto the wagon all the way to the top, and when you reached the top then there was a threshing surface, so a type of roof floor from the et it to the top but the more they went through the pile, the lower they would be and the more they would need to work to schlep the hay up. It must have been damn hard work. So that is what she told me. But then again through that I never knew hunger [ nie Hunger kennengelernt ]. I cannot remember being hungry. I spoke


21 of these Russian stories but all of th at I cannot even grasp because I only read it and did not experience it for myself. So. She worked for the farmers. What else did she do? Things like that. Something was always done so that we would not need to starve. She did not simply sit down and wait for someone to come help. So there she was extremely hard working ( tatkrftig ), something I certainly inherited. The lack of suffering that Viktoria remembers sets her personal experience in opposition to the collective narrative of the 1950s which made s ure to popularize stories of German suffering. That is not to say she does not believe them. Rather, knowing that her experience was Important to note is the discussion that is still taking pla ce among those who survived the that was universalized to rep female. 23 Also a bit older than Viktoria, Frau G. holds a sort of authority on the war years that s tories her mother told her. This is all the more significant not only because of the control her She never spoke with her father about the war, giving her room to imagine the worst. Her reasoning for this is that when about it, after which she was beaten. Being aware of her own experience as being somewhat exceptional, she is able to associate what her father did on the front, regardless of if he was a member of the SS, as exceptional, but not necessarily in the best way. 23 The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949 1968 ed. H anna Schissler (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 22.


22 The immediate postwar years saw the continuation of women as the center of the family. Many of the men had either perished in battle or were still being held as POWs, and even in 24 Meager food rations a nd supplies were insufficient for the existing population in the cities, let 25 Again, Viktoria cannot remember the cold. M., much like Lene in Germany, Pale Mother used fairytales to distract Viktoria from what she was truly experiencing, building a world around her that was transitory and that they would live through. s though enchanted. Just as important as distraction from suffering, however, is the form of justice that Viktoria developed during this time, which she attributes both to the fairytales her mother told her and the experiences from playing in the rubble wi th other children. evil always lost There were always very awful things, but in the end the witch was burned, the evil stepmother needed to dance on hot coals. The implementation of this logic a t times proved problematic and often landed her in undesirable situations. I was always a person who loved justice, always very free, very open e went up [the hill] with my siblings and there was a playground with swings on top I still love going on the when a pair of Poleten word but you know furious because of the injustice I mean we c ould have easily shared. That then they lef 24 25 Ibid., 33


23 Because Vi ktoria believed so much in her justice system, which had been developed with her mother, conflicts with her father often escalated to blows, and, as she grew older, to disowning. By that point, however, the collective experience of the 1968er generation ha d further distanced her from her father.


24 Chapter III : The Postwar Years from the front often times moved the war from the battlefield into the gender norms and postwar social reality, the inability for individuals to fulfill the norms prescribed by the government and accepted by society reflected the continuation of the authoritarian personality that Theodor Adorno links to the cause of Nazism. This final chapter will focus on the tension and relationship between competing forms narratives and memory in postwar West Ge rmany: the defeated Nazi official narrative, the unofficial or collective narrative during the war the new West German official narrative, the new West German collective narrative, and the individual experience. e lived in W. and he had some sort of practice there. And then one right after the other came my two sisters [Her third sister was born in 1953] And yes, that was really an awful time. I mean essentially she [M.] should have well she was simply too young then! And at Ages! And you just think about it for a moment. This is the time into which I was born. For many German women, 1945 did not represent an end to the hardships of the war years. victories in the east and extensive Allied bombing of Germ 26 A shift occurred rather when the male figure returned from the front or POW camp, but not necessarily for the better. Difficulties associated with reunion are a common element in the collective narrative of postwar Germany. Divorce rates increased dramatically, from 8.9 divorces per 10,000 residents 26 Robert Moeller, Protecting Motherhood: Women and the Family in the Politics of Postwar War Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 11.


25 in 1939 to 18.7 in 1948. 27 Even from 1946 to 1948, divorce rates increased eighty percent. 28 Reasons for divorce varied, but rested primarily on the incongruity between burden of re sponsibility in the family between women and men. family lives only b ecame more difficult with the return of the husband, who often suffered from depression, or simply did not creased sense of independence also contributed to tensions, which can be seen in where responsibility was placed for divorce. Increasingly, women were held solely or primarily responsible for the dissolution of the marriage. By 1948, 23.9 percent of cases fit this description (versus 15.5 percent in 1939), and in 33 percent of divorce cases both the husband and wife shared responsibility (26.8 percent in 1939). 29 The failure of marriages is additionally linked to the unrealistic normative family structure i e in the establishment of normality: forget some of their most painful memories. It would bridge the rift between men and women after the devastating experience of war and after the struggle for survival in the postwar period. It would steer a course beyond the kind of massive would modernize the social fabric of gender relations to comply with the dema nds of a highly industrialized society. 30 top down active reconstruction of German society. A central feature of this effort was sewing 27 Frank Biess, Homecomings: Returning POWs and the Legacies of Defeat in Postwar Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 121. 28 Moeller, Protecting Motherhood 29. 29 Ibid., 29 30. 30


26 back together the lives of men and women, whose collective wartime experiences had not only been very different, but were experienced separate from one another. The form of normality constructed by the West German government was one that worked and reproduction, and the establishment of organized clear and separate spheres for men and society 31 Equally important to the future of West Germany was the rebuilding of the family, which had all but collapsed during the war. Post war politicians, ranging from the SPD to the CDU/CSU coalition, brought the family to the center of politics. 32 A discussi on of normality must therefore include gender redefinitions as well as their effect on the central societal structure of the family. Without rebuilding the family, a modern industrial society was not possible. The hin the family and marriage would be of great husband in the sphere of e mployment and the wife in the sphere of the home, separate from labor (or at most only working part time). 33 Harmonious inequality was institutionalized through its inclusion in the 1957 Basic Law as the Law on the Equality of Men and Women: The woman is r esponsible for running the household. She is authorized to work, as long as it is compatible with her duties in marriage and to the family. Every spouse is obligated to work in the career or store of the other spouse, in so far as that such a practice is f itting to the life of the pair. 34 31 Ibid., 364. 32 Moeller, Protecting Motherhood, 3. 33 34 ihnren Pflichten in Ehe und Familie vereinbar ist. Jeder Ehegatte ist verpflichtet, im Beruf oder Geschft des Grundgesetz Section 1356 (Haushaltsfhrung).


27 Despite placing men and women in different spheres, the Basic Law did consider men and women equal under law. This was only after intense debate, however. Equality under the law Gl eiches gleich, Verschiedenes jedoch nach seiner Eigenart zu behandeln 35 The logic used in justifying equality was the essential role that women played in German society. This, however, was status especially during the war and in the immediate postwar period. 36 The role women played in keeping the family together did not allow for them to step outside the feminine space, or so it was perceived; their place was in the home, especially after having shown how fundamental the mother was to the fabric of society. Fr anz Josef Wrmeling, the Minister of Family Affairs, demonstrates this concept and the balance between equality and separate spheres in a 1959 speech: employment outsi de of the home, which is presented to her in a variety of ways, with the correct internal and external moderation. Neither society nor the state is authorized to determine the personal decision of a woman as the whether she wishes to earn or not or indeed to pronounce judgment on such a decision, which is certainly often difficult for her. State and society do, however, have the responsibility to make as easy as possible the decision of a woman and a mother against activity that is alien to the family ( Fami lienfremd ). This they do first for the sake of the family, but also because of the actions of housewives and mothers in the family are of unparalleled greater importance for the common good than is the economic usefulness of factory or office work. 37 Accor percent of those questioned favored legally forbidding mothers with children under the age of ten 35 36 37 Ibid., 364.


28 from working outside the home. In the same year, 90 percent of all women whethe r they pursued paid employment or not, whether they were mothers or not believed that mothers 38 redefining gender roles of a modern industrial society. This took p lace against the backdrop of incredible loss, with many wives left without husbands and children left without fathers. Simply put, the housewife marriage ideal was impossible for all families because of the demographic reality at the time, with seven milli on more women than men living in occupied Germany in October 1946. 39 T he redefined gender norms broke not only with the hyper masculine Na zi male and the good Nazi wife ( the defeated official narrative ), but also with the unofficial collective understandin g of gender norms during the war with women at the center of the family and men absent A masculinity that rested on the militarization of the male population transformed into one that focused on the family, and therefore the roles of father and husband. 40 This Frank Biess however, their earlier destructive 41 Redefining masculin ity 42 Normality, which was natural to seek after the war, then included accepting a lifestyle which had not been familiar since 1933, or at the very least since the husband was sent to the front. 38 Ibid., 366 39 40 West Germany, 1945 The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949 1968 ed. Hanna Schissler (Princeton: Princ eton University Press, 2001), 72. 41 Ibid., 73. 42 Ibid.


29 The reintegration of men within the family as fathers and husbands was meant to and restoring morality to the German family. 43 the 1950s and, at least in theory, fostered the re 44 The tension resulted then from the question of who hel d authority in the family. Trying to h old on to their position in society men often exaggerated their authority, creating a hostile, paternal, and authoritarian environment in the family. 45 on the character of a defeated Nazi who still wanted to instill Nazi ideology in his children. Beatings, both of M. and of the children, were frequent, and only created further distance between him, and Viktoria and M. Anti Semitic slurs continued even six a reality that was difficult for Viktoria to express even now: I will now tell you something awful and you can use it as a fact but I would beg that you just tell you. The F., the doctor, he told me while I was still a very young girl [eight years old] that the Jews [a customer enters the caf ] Hello! Yes, good day! that the Jews eat Christian babies. That is what they told these people! And he was an aca demic and tried to bring me up that way too! understand what people are told to incite them to rage. Here Viktoria associates her father with an entirely different set of norms, ones that step past the usual criticism by 1968ers that their parents did nothing to prevent the rise of totalitarianism and the Holocaust Viktoria links him not simpl y with the collective experience of being a bystander but with that of being a perpetrator. 43 Ibid., 70 71. 44 Ibid., 71. 45


30 Even less anti Semitic statements would reflect a persistence of the qualities that brought about Nation al Socialism in German society, an issue brought up in Theo In this lecture, Adorno Vergangenheitsbewltigung mastering (or coming to terms with) the past, and Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit working through the past. Bernhard Schlink, the author of The Reader also emphasized in a lecture series at Oxford University i he longer we live with the idea that the past is something we can and must come to terms with, the more paradoxica l this proves to be. Bewltigen to work on it, and finally it is finished and mastered. Then we are done 46 Both Adorno thinking about the past they wish the move forward from. pirit of the in th e forgetting of h istory required the same diminished ego, political immaturity, and inability for self reflection that allowed for National Socialism to flourish. 47 It must be defined in terms of character tr aits such as a thinking oriented along the dimensions of power and powerless ness, a rigidity and an inability to react, conventionality, the lack of self reflection, and ultimately an overall inability to experience. Authoritarian personalities identify th emselves with real, existing power per se, prior to any particular contents. Basically, they possess weak egos and therefore require the compensation of identifying themselves with, and finding security in great collectives. 48 The authoritarian personality persists in the forgetting of National Socialism; it is both the cause 46 Bernhard Schlink, Guilt About the Past, (London: Beautiful Books Limited, 2009), 35. 47 Adorno, 6. 48 Ibid., 9.


31 fac 49 If the fundamental cause of the authoritarian personality is the weak ego, the question then is how the ego is to be strengthened. Any efforts on the part of Germa n society or the West German rather than the resolution of the authoritarian personality. Nationalism under National Socialism anti Semitism to take hold. 50 says Adorno, not in the Nazi party or in Hitler, but in German society, and in the postwar system imposed on the German state. 51 imposed requires the total submission of the German people in order for it to be effective. For this reason 52 The weak ego, also equated with political immaturity does not become stronger with the de mocratic system being forced upon a people. fold: pedagogy that encourages enlightenment, and psychoanalysis, whose purpose is critical self awareness. 53 What prevents another slip into totalitarianism is only possible if the past is remembered, not mastered or worked through, but worked upon. Still, one gets the sense that the Germans Adorno writes about and Dr. F. are still quite different. Dr. F. does not seem to desire forgetting of the past at all, and also does not seem to feel any sense of shame or even feigned guilt regarding the atrocities the German V olk are being accused of. Indeed, there seems to be an entire moral and social disconnect. 49 Ibid., 10. 50 Ibid., 12 13. 51 Ibid., 13. 52 Ibid. 53 Ibid., 15.


32 Even on the front of finding some sort of stability, a basic routine, Dr. F. made life difficult. nstantly moving. After living in W. until fourth grade or so, the family moved to Berlin in 1951, her and her sisters lived Catholic and raised my children Catholic a by 1952 and after being reunited again with her mother, she was forced to switch schools eight or nine different times: Everything after the war was totally unstructured and completely chaotic and well it does have a bit to do with drug abuse 54 an d because of that one parent out that eventually we could have a permanent place to live, I can on ly speculate, We would just end up [somewhere] somehow and then we would just live there. From T. we moved to S. and then lived on H. St. [all places in Berlin], and so on. And changing schools always wen t along with it. From the elementary school I should have gone into a high school [ Gymnasium the school in the countryside [in W.], so I needed to go back to an elementary school, so that was already th ree schools and then from there into high school point quite asocial because well I turned out to be such a decent person is a mystery to me. Viktoria was unable to find stability in going to school and interacting with other children. These were not simply children, however, but other members of the 1968er generation to which she bel ongs. Abitur and attend the university certainly prevented her from exposure to a more radical frame of thinking. Guilt for the war and the Holocaust was shoved entirely onto her father because of his extremism and harshnes s. He r loyalty to her mother came before fitting into the generational attitude of discontent. In fact, Viktoria was disillusioned with the 1968ers quite early on: 54 as to whether or not M. had told him about this time period and her illness, and judging from interviews I had with him, his knowledge on the subject is very limited.


33 for me when existentialism or something highly political, communism and really with from the Russians and maybe that feeling stuck and then I asked something and I left and that was that: my time as an existentialist and a 68er. Although this can certainly be attributed to a simple arrogance on the part of that one particular a deeper desire to remain apolitical. In her mind, politics and Nazism were u ndoubtedly linked, and the horror of the two lived on through her father. one, she decided very quickly to flee from the environment of the broken household and travel. While the rest of her generation was organizing protests and fighting against the Fascists that were still in power, Viktoria sought an education through travel. She had already rebelled, in her mind at least, against the element in her family that could be blamed for the war a nd the hardships in the postwar era. In the complete severance of the father from her life, was she able to begin reaching stability, but not necessarily time i n the United States and in Jamaica, smoking too many cigarettes (up to eighty a day) and living a life without responsibility, something entirely new for a young woman who had either taken care of her siblings or her mother much of her life. The desire to be free ( Freiheitswillen ), which she picked up in her travels through the United States took on a different form once she stopped smoking cigarettes, which, she insists had prevented her from becoming pregnant until then. The birth of her first child en ded her life as a floater with very little real responsibility and focused her energies into being a mother, but not necessarily a wife. Viktoria had two


34 children from two different husbands. The first marriage lasted just over a year, and the second just over two years, including the period of separation. After the birth of her second son, the she started to see a likeness between her husband and Dr. F. She says sh e time of patriarchy, which she has subverted by raising two children on her own. Afterward : Concluding Remark s on Family F. Viktoria did not experience the divorce first hand because of her travels. However, in the meantime M. had taken classes to become a secretary, a position which Viktoria always thought never matched her potential, and met Herr F., an aspir ing politician in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), by working in his office, organizing political meetings and helping him write speeches. This was, according to both Viktoria and to Herr F. the time when politicians truly wanted to work together. I wanted to be part of the rebuilding of this country, I had to so that we could live normal lives finally. 55 SPD: ge in their form of liberalism. Herr F. had risen through the ranks in the Kriegsmarine and had thought that he was a ja tion asking if he had been part of the NSDAP. A few weeks later, the American commander he worked for as a 55 Inte rview with Herr F., July


35 translator called him, saying that Herr F. was the only German he knew that would admit to being a member of the party without actually having been. should decide on something lik e that as a grown man. ern with rebuilding Germany flooded over into building good relations Wiedergutmachung with M. to Israel many times, and Viktoria made it a point that I understood how closely their family became to the Jewish community in Berlin because of Herr F. Discussions with Jewish friends about the Holocaust and the Second World War were frank and honest, and Herr F. accepted guilt but focused on his responsibility to move forward. M. became not simply his wife, discovered M. was finally able to reach some state of stabi


36 Conclusion The web of memory that completely untangled. Once one thread comes free, another knot is formed, the web becoming more and more complex with the passing of time, creating for itself a history with its own webs and knots. Its study, however, is essential for the understanding of the individ ual and how she is affected by this larger history, itself vague and incomprehensible: World War II, the Nazi period, the Holocaust, the twentieth century. It is a movement toward understanding the self. The themes of history do not exist in isolation and their discussion affect s how individuals understand their place in society and in history I have focused on the concept of normality in postwar West Germany to demonstrate the push and pull between official, collective, and individual memory. The individu al, by nature of their living in a social environment, is at least implicitly aware of all three. Normality after trauma serves as a space of possibility, waiting to be filled by various narratives; it is in a sense a blank slate but one with a history. T he new narratives, essentially new forms of representing and understanding the past, react against thos e whose worldview has been defeated. between what of ficials i.e. the West German government, expect ed and what wa s possible for her, considerin g the collective narratives influenc ing her These include the wartime collective experience of women and children, and the collective memory of the war by Kriegskinder war children, of the 1968er generation. However, each of these narratives is complicated by her individual experiences. She is additionally shaped by the collective memories affecting her parents. The responsibility for atta ining a state of normality reste d on the war generation, on M. and Dr. F. The complete failure of the family to come close to achieving the state of normality as defined by the West German government places them in an obvious tension with the official


37 postwar narrative. However, because of the overlapping between West German official and collective narratives, a greater tension also exists with the collective narrative This becomes problematic when the lack of normality is accompanied by instability Although many families had difficulti es with fitting into postwar gender norms, they were norms nonetheless, accepted from below although imposed from above. The way the collective understood the project of normalization changed especially in the 1960s. No longer was normalization desirable i f it came at the expense of self reflection. Thus, the collective and official narratives were once again at the space of normality, this tension took on a dif ferent character for Viktoria, who then Collective memory narratives also affect the way individuals explain the behavior of others. There is a blatant blanketing and simplicity asso ciated with how Viktoria portrays Dr. F. worst of the Nazi narrative draws up certain characteristics that may or may not be warranted. In the end, Dr. F. may simply have been an awful parent. What is striking, however, is that Viktoria uses how various collective memories are viewed through the current official and collective lens es in order to select the narrative to attach to Dr. F. Because of the negative s the Nazi past, she defines Dr. F. as a Nazi. She could have done something similar in describing Herr F., but instead ignores his initial desire to join the NSDAP and focuses on his positive relationship with Jews and Israel after the war. In pushing of f guilt for the Nazi period on to Dr. F., Viktoria is able to move past the war, but not necessarily in the self image, Viktoria has tried to master a past. Her purpose however, is not a s imple forgetting like


38 the type criticized in Adorn the Nazi system, Viktoria is able to, in her mind, maintain her suspicion of anything that would lead to another war, another totalita rian state, another mindless and obedient populace. The tangible negative of her father works to freeze her negative feelings of the Nazi system and has a direct impact o n the way she leads her life. Her caf is the result of her finally, sixty years after on rectifying a gender imbalance and building a modern industrial state but instead unify around the central idea that the Nazi system was wrong and cannot be repeated memory and competing narratives, we see then, at this moment, a peaceful intersection between individual, collective, and official layers


39 Bibliography Primary Sources Sozialdemokratischer Pressedienst 11. October 1930. Great Britain Foreign Historical Office, Historical Section, Upper Silesia London: H.M. Stationary Office, 1920 Herr F. Interview Set, July 2012. Viktoria Interview Set, June 2012. Viktoria Interview Set, July 2012. Viktoria Interview Set, August 2012. Secondary Sources Adorno, Theodor. Can One Live After Auschwitz: A Philosophical Reader ed. Rolf Tiedemann Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003. Assmann, Jan Kultur und Gedchtnis eds. Jan Assmann and Tonio Hlscher Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1988. Biess, Frank. Homecomings: Returning POWs and the Legacies of Defeat in Postwar Germany Princeton: Princeton Univ ersity Press, 2006. Confino, Alon. The American Historical Review 102, no. 5 (Dec 1997): 1386 1403 Crane, Susan. The American Historical Review 102, no. 5 (Dec 1997): 1372 1385 Halbwachs, Maurice On Collective Memory trans. Lewis A. Coser. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1992. Heineman, Elizabeth The Work of Memory: New Directions in the Study of German Society and Culture ed. Al on Confino and Peter Fritzsche. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002.


40 Heineman, Elizabeth The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949 1968 ed. Hanna Schissler. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001 Kaes, Anton From Hitler to Heimat : The Return of History as Film Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992 Moeller, Robert Protecting Motherhood: Women and the Family in the Politics of Postwar War Germany Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Passerini, Luisa. Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1 968 trans. Lisa Erdberg. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1996. Schissler, Hanna. The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949 1968 ed. Hanna Schissler. Princeton: Princeton Uni versity Press, 2001 Schissler Hanna. The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949 1968 ed. Hanna Schissler. Princeton: Prince ton University Press, 2001 Stibbe, Matthew. Women in the Third Reich London: Oxford University Press, 2003