What Exactly is Vergangenheitsbewältigung? Narrative and Its Insufficiency in Postwar Germany

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One year after Stalingrad, Victor Klemperer imagined how the war would be represented once it had ended. He transcribed into his diary the story of Horst-Siegfried Weigmann, whose death had been announced in the local paper on 19 January 1944, with a swastika inside the Iron Cross at the side of the notice. The announcement read: “Ordained by fate, my only dear son, student of chemistry, Lance Corporal Horst-Siegfried Weigmann, volunteer, holder of the Iron Cross, Second Class, participant in the Polish and French campaigns, was suddenly and unexpectedly taken from this life in the midst of his studies at only twenty-four years of age.” The death notice is signed “in deep sorrow” by his father, Bruno Weigmann, a musician from Munich. Klemperer continues in his diary to explain that some of Klemperer's friends knew the family and recalled that the mother was divorced from the father, and was Jewish. She had been among the Jews arrested in what Klemperer refers to as Dresden's “letzter Aktion” (last action). The son found out, posed as a Gestapo officer, and managed to speak to his mother in order to smuggle her out of prison and into hiding. Klemperer adds that there are said to be many Jews in hiding, particularly in Berlin. At the entrance of the prison, however, mother and son ran into a Gestapo officer who knew Weigmann and thus discovered the ruse. The mother was sent to Theresienstadt, and the son hanged himself in his prison cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGerman Memory Contests
Subtitle of host publicationThe Quest for Identity in Literature, Film, and Discourse since 1990
EditorsAnne Fuchs, Mary Cosgrove, Georg Grote
PublisherBoydell and Brewer Ltd
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781571136763
ISBN (Print)9781571133243
StatePublished - 2006

Publication series

NameStudies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture


  • Nazism
  • narratives
  • Jewish peoples
  • Holocaust
  • World wars
  • Sons
  • Complicity
  • Mothers
  • German history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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