Circling the Abyss: Eastern European Space and the Limits of German Holocaust Memory

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Although German cultural production has been preoccupied with the events of the Holocaust for many decades, the ongoing ‘discussion’ of this history is variable in its intensity or depth. Looking at literary representations, this paper considers several of these mnemonic ‘shallows’ – aspects of Holocaust history that have remained relatively unexplored – and the longer patterns of representation that might contribute to their continued marginalisation. Holocaust-era mass shootings prove resistant to representation in German literature both because they entail behaviour that is especially challenging to German identity, and because their location in the imagined ‘East’ places them out of bounds. Drawing on historical representations of Eastern Europe as vast, dangerous and unknowable, I will discuss how the figure of the ‘abyss’ or ‘dark continent’ play out in depictions of the Eastern Front and of mass killing during the Holocaust. This boundary reasserts itself even as post-2010 historiography and literary texts seek to bring the history of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe to Western audiences.
Period24 Jun 202126 Jun 2021
Held atWomen in German Studies, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational