Memorializing Persecuted Jews in Dachau and Other West German Concentration Camp Memorial Sites

  • Harold Marcuse


Even a cursory look at memorials dedicated to the same historical event reveals that they reflect the needs and goals of their makers far more than the events to which they are dedicated. This observation has several important implications. First, it is crucial to look carefully at the individuals and groups who initiate memorial projects, as well as at those who see them through to completion, and perhaps even at those who then use them for commemorative purposes. Second, there is a dialectical relationship between the political and cultural context in which a given memorial is created, and the memorial itself. While all memorials reflect the context of their establishment in some ways, most memorials are also designed to affect that context. This suggests, third, that it will be revealing to examine all those memorials in a given political entity, such as West Germany, that were established to commemorate a similar event, such as the persecution and murder of Jews in concentration camps. Such an analysis can reveal much about how West German understandings of the Jewish genocide developed over time and what purposes its commemoration was intended to serve. This chapter examines West German memorials to Jews murdered in concentration camps as reflections of evolving understandings of the Holocaust on the one hand, and as instruments to change commemoration on the other. It begins with a survey of the isolated initiatives to preserve memories of Jewish persecution in the first years after the Second World War, then moves to the emergence of West German nationwide practices of commemoration of Jewish life and death in Nazi Germany in the 1950s and 1960s.


Mass Grave Concentration Camp Jewish Life Memorial Site Memorial Competition 
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© Harold Marcuse 2010

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  • Harold Marcuse

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