Review of Susanne Rohr, Von Grauen und Glamour: Repräsentationen des Holocaust in den USA und Deutschland
Much has already been written on the Holocaust and its history, but the question of how we can cope with it, how we can live with what we know about it, or how we can imagine what has been called “unimaginable” has been haunting several generations of those who collectively inherited either a history of pain and suffering or a history of collective crime. In view of such moral complexities, Susanne Rohr’s study of representations of the Holocaust in the United States and Germany is a remarkable scholarly achievement. It deals with seventy years of artistic and literary documents—memoirs, autobiographies, fictions, films, graphic novels—written by subsequent generations of artists (survivors, the children and grandchildren of survivors, or the children and grandchildren of the perpetrators)—i.e., texts in at least two languages and in the changing historical contexts of at least two cultures and societies. (In addition to American and German documents Rohr occasionally includes Israeli sources.) She is also aware of the changing theoretical frame surrounding these documents—the problems inherent in the concept of a “generation,” of “collective memory,” of “trauma” and the possibility of its generational transmission; of the postmodern or poststructuralist rejection of even the possibility of representation. The questions raised by this book and its author concern the status of the Holocaust in the memory of those who did not experience it, for whom, therefore, it will always be a mediated event—mediated through historiography, literature, and, increasingly, through genres of popular culture (i.e., by films, TV-shows, comic books and graphic novels).
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