Dr. Kirsten Grimstad, faculty member and Co-Chair of the Undergraduate Studies Department, has an essay “Still Struggling with German History: W.G. Sebald, Gunter Demnig, and Activist Memory Workers in Berlin Today” published in Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History. The essay explores the ways in which contemporary Germans engage in diverse artistic and social forms of Holocaust memory work today that repudiate the ethos of silence and forgetting that dominated the post-war decades.
Grimstad became inspired by the grassroots efforts of Berlin citizens to acknowledge, commemorate, and come to terms with the past. The essay touches upon a dynamic and living process that is unfolding in the present as postwar, post-Holocaust generations of Germans continue to process the burdens of responsibility handed down to them by their ancestors in ever-new, daring, and creative ways.
“The desire to remember really began with the third post-war generation,” Grimstad says.
The examples considered include W.G. Sebald’s hybrid novel Austerlitz, Gunter Demnig’s ‘stumbling stones’ action art project, and the installation ‘We Were Neighbors’ in the Berlin-Schöneberg town hall. These examples employ narrative as a way of opening up channels for the belated process of mourning; they engage their work through ‘Spurensuche’, that is, the process of searching for the traces of evidence of National Socialist crimes that were covered up and forgotten; and they confront critically the repression of memory of the National Socialist crimes in the post-war years.