Ruin and Recovery: The German forest in literary depictions of the Second World War

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Forests feature prominently in German literary depictions of the Second World War as symbols of the German nation and its demise. In various literary representations of the Eastern Front since 1945, the forest comes to resemble a jungle, an alien space in which German bodies and lives are threatened with destruction and obliteration by the environment. Familiar tree species take on the guise of predators and accomplices in the death of soldiers, reflecting the perception of Eastern Europe as a quasi-colonial dark continent. This connection between death and the forest is mirrored in recent (post-2000) literary works on the history of the Holocaust, in which Nazi atrocities are juxtaposed with the German forest idyll. In the latter texts, the forest emerges as a space contaminated by genocide and the idealisation of the German landscape is called into question. This paper considers the differences and overlaps between these symbolic deployments of the forest, ultimately demonstrating how they might have more in common than may first appear.
Period15 Oct 202116 Oct 2021
Event titleThe German Forest : Cultural History, Mythology, Ecology
Event typeConference
LocationGalway, Ireland
Degree of RecognitionInternational