The Lived Space of Recollection: How Holocaust Memorials Are Conceived Differently Today

  • Jörg H. Gleiter
Part of the Mass Dictatorship in the 20th Century book series (MASSD)


Since the mid-1980s Germany has witnessed a change in the conception of memorials against the crimes of National Socialism. In contrast to previous concepts the new memorials renounce any kind of pathos irrespective of whether generated by a technique of mimetic imagery or geometric abstraction. While earlier memorials were recognised as works of art through their exposed position in public space, the new memorials pursue an opposing strategy of dissimulation in everyday life, at times even culminating in their complete disappearance, as in the case of Jochen Gerz’s ‘Memorial against Fascism, War and Violence’ in Hamburg- Harburg. Over the period of seven years and under the watchful eyes of the population, the memorial was slowly lowered into the ground until it was no longer visible, leaving as a reminder nothing more than a simple commemorative plate. Through techniques of dissimulation in everyday life the new memorials dispense with their recognition as art, which was thought to be essential for empathetic expression, but was always an obstacle for critical reflection. Forty years after the end of the war, as witnesses gradually died off, the conception of the Holocaust memorial started to change. As the recollection of the Nazi regime and its atrocities moved on from ‘communicative memory’ — as Jan Assmann terms the recollection of authentic experience1 — to cultural, mediatic memory, the new memorials began to liberate admonitory commemoration from artistic-aesthetic formalism and to carry it back to where National Socialist terror started: the context of everyday life.


Everyday Life Jewish Population Railway Wagon Aesthetic Judgment Spatial Strategy 
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    Graf Karlfried von Dürckheim, ‘Untersuchungen zum gelebten Raum: Erlebniswirklichkeit und ihr Verständnis. Systematische Untersuchungen II’, in Volker Albrecht et al. (eds.), Natur. Raum. Gesellschaft vol. 4 (Frankfurt/M.: Selbstverlag 2005), p. 16.Google Scholar

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© Jörg H. Gleiter 2014

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  • Jörg H. Gleiter

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