Not in My Family: German Memory and Responsibility After the Holocaust, by Roger Frie, Oxford University Press, New York, 2017, 312pp.
The Holocaust, like all instances of genocide, constitutes a unique and total breach in human relatedness. Perpetrators do not relate to victims as human beings, viewing them instead as vermin, rats, lice, or even inanimate objects—“pieces,” or Stücke, as Germans would call the dead bodies of gassed Jews. Only in such a context, in which human communication had broken down completely, could the mass murder be carried out. The perpetrators did not imagine the feelings—terror, pain, and loss—of their victims, and therefore allowed for no empathy in themselves. Or perhaps they didexperience a glimpse of such feelings, yet immediately cut it off. In the aftermath they felt no guilt and had no regrets; indeed, they often even obliterated their knowledge that the murders had taken place. Such an obliteration constitutes a further breakdown of communication—in this instance, an internal breakdown, between the perpetrators and themselves. The latter phenomenon was manifested in perpetrators’...
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