Skirting the abyss: Eastern European space and the limits of German Holocaust memory

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This article discusses some of the ambivalences that arise in Western efforts to represent Eastern Europe in the context of Holocaust memory. Focusing on German-language literature, I examine how tropes of boundlessness, violence and contamination derived from the pre-WWI colonialist vision of 'the East' reassert themselves in various eras of representation, including recent works inspired by contemporary historiography. While the embrace of 'discoveries' about the history of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe signals an appetite among the German-speaking public to do away with historical ignorance, these discursive continuities suggest that the appetite for alterity is undiminished. The adoption of the term “Bloodlands” from Timothy Snyder's book of the same name is a case study in how fresh perspectives on Holocaust history can be decontextualized and co-opted, contributing to an imaginary landscape that is remarkably unchanged in the German context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalHolocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History'
Early online date1 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2022


  • German literature
  • memory
  • colonial
  • landscape
  • popular culture


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