Wednesday, 6 July 2016
Religion and Cultural Memory (tr. Rodney Livingstone),
Jan Assmann, Stanford University Press, 2006, page 22-23
While ruminating on what effects cultural memory has today, particularly in his immediate context as a German writing in Germany, Assmann turns to the issue of how and why the Holocaust is remembered.
Initially, he reports suggestions by another German writer, Martin Walser, and the debate that ensued after the latter make a plea that the time had come to dawa line under the past and exclude the memory of Auschwitz from public discourse where, he claimed, it is routinely used and abused to beat people up on a range of different moral issues. After touching on a memorial in Paris to the unknown Jewish martyr, which repeats the words of the Torah, "Remember what Amalek did to you" (Deut 25:17-19), he asks:
Are we not taken aback by these words? What good can come from keeping one's hatred alive at any price? ... The situation in Germany, however, is quite different. Hrer we are looking at the mass murder of innocent people. There can be no question of negotiating a common history of suffering; the suffering is all on the other side. It is incumbent on us, therefore, to incorporate the suffering we have caused into the collective political bonding memory of Germany, and that can only be done in the form of public pronouncements and recognition.