Hist 33D, L 16: Literature/Fiction and the Holocaust

by Prof. Harold Marcuse, Nov. 19, 2002

Last Lecture: Dachau, 1945-2002

Question: How did Germans "deal with" the Nazi past after 1945?

Answer: Depends on when, and on who.

The demise of the 3 myths

1970s: end of ignorance

1980s: end of victimization

1990s & ongoing: trying to end mythic resistance (resisting the distortion)

"Dialectic of Mythic Resistance"

1968er generation (born 1937-53); in Dachau, Sept. '68

slides in previous lecture

1990s: Differentiation

Punchline: Owning Up

Bonn Friesdorf memorial with grafitti
Marcuse at Friesdorf memorial, ca. 1986

Prof's favorite memorial grafitti


Today's Questions

Physical remains, art and architecture are one way of representing the Holocaust.
Words are another.

How is the Holocaust represented in works of literature, such as histories and memoirs?

What about works of fiction?
Can writers "use" Holocaust imagery to better reach their audiences and highlight certain aspects and themes?


Doessekker/Wilkomirski and his birth motherBinjamin Wilkomirski

The claim that this purported memoir is actually a work of fiction first appeared on August 27, 1998 in the Swiss weeklyWeltwoche, in an article written by author Daniel Ganzfried, who researched Wilkomirski's background. Although the author claims to have been born in Latvia in 1939, and to have arrived in Switzerland in 1947 or 1948, Swiss legal records show that he was actually born in Switzerland on February 12, 1941, the son of Yvette Grosjean, who was not married at that time. Her son was adopted and raised by the Doessekkers, a middle-class Zurich couple. The story was later reported in The Times  of London (Sept. 8, 1998), and The New York Times  (Nov. 3, 1998). On October 14, 1999 the NY Times reported that the German publisher, Suhrkamp Verlag, withdrew from stores all hardcover copies. Schocken Books suspended publication of the English edition on November 1, 1999.
Today Doessekker is a very successful classical musician in Switzerland.
For more information, see:

Raschke and Blatt on Sobibor

page created 11/20/02 by H. Marcuse, Friesdorf added 10/28/03; back to top