Shifting Memories explores the contours and genealogies of non-Jewish Germans' public memories of the Nazi past in the Federal Republic of Germany, asking how the crimes committed by Nazi Germany are reflected in the present. The study illuminates particular aspects of public remembering by focusing on case studies, telling a number of stories which at times appear parallel and at times intersect.
The case studies address, for example, the legacy of the so-called Celler Hasenjagd (the hunting down of concentration camp prisoners who survived an Allied air raid in April 1945 in a town in Lower Saxony); efforts by the City of Hildesheim to memorialize the Kristallnacht pogrom; attempts by Italian, Jewish, and Sinti survivors to commemorate their suffering in two West German towns; the posthumous reputation of a German communist imprisoned in Buchenwald and credited with having saved the lives of 159 Jewish children; and the public memories of the Ravensbrück and Buchenwald concentration camps in East Germany.
Directed at an audience curious about contemporary Germany, this book will appeal to those interested in issues of public and social memory, and in the legacy of Auschwitz.
Klaus Neumann is a historian who has taught in universities in Germany and Australia and written about social memories in the Pacific Islands, Australia, and Germany. Previous books include Not the Way It Really Was and Rabaul Yu Swit Moa Yet. He lives in Richmond, Australia.
"An intriguing account of Germany's continuing attempts to come to terms with its past."
---M. Deshmukh, Choice, October 2001
"Shifting Memories is both a book about history and about the formation of historical consciousness. Above all, it is a personal journey, occasionally even an Odyssey, an opportunity for Neumann to explore the recent history of various places in Germany--Salzgitter, Celle, Weimar, Hamburg, and possibly most important for the author, Heldesheim, the town in which Neumann grew up. . . . Reminiscent of the haunting portrayal of the death marches in Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners Neumann depicts the hideous nature of crimes committed in the last stages of the war, with particular reference to events in Celle. He clearly shows the contrast between attitudes towards the Nazi past adopted by many Germans in the first decades of the Federal Republic and more recent developments. . . . Neumann makes it clear that attitudes prevailing in the 1950s did not suddenly die out in the 1980s."
--Christian Leitz, History Now, February 2003
"Klaus Neumann's book appears in the wide-ranging series 'Social History, Popular Culture, and Politics in Germany'. It is, however, mandatory reading far beyond this cluster of disciplines. . . . This book does a remarkable job in tracking the historically shifting memories of what, as a historical necessity, must remain both in collective and personal memory."
---Roger Hillman, Australian National University, Cultural Studies Review, May 2003
"His overall project is an attempt to refute the attitude that Germany should be encouraged to return to 'normal,' even after more than fifty years. As he sees it, Germany will likely never be done with the past, nor should Germans wish to be."
---Brad Prager, University of Missouri, Columbia, Seminar, Fall 2003
"An important contribution to the University of Michigan Press' series in Social History, Popular Culture, and Politics in Germany. . . .Rather than imposing a comprehensive German collective or public memory on his readers, Neumann persistently emphasizes that German efforts to master, to commemorate, or even to discuss the Nazi past are diverse, usually local, and always rooted in individual memories, however much these may reflect broader social discourses about the past."
---German Studies Review