Shame and Blame: Second Generation Memories of Nazi Germany

Author: Barbara Brown

Brown, Barbara, 2014 Shame and Blame: Second Generation Memories of Nazi Germany, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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Shame and Blame: Second-Generation Memories of Nazi Germany. Thesis Abstract: Through creative and critical writing my thesis investigates the ways in which second-generation Germans may inherit their parents' traumatic memories. I explore the role that creative projects may play in liberating people from a painful past. This venture began when I met a Jewish man whose family died in the camps; at this moment, feelings of shame threatened to overwhelm me. My mother lived in Germany during World War II. Anxiety about my heritage had always been difficult to manage. Consequently, my thesis became a pilgrimage of reconciliation as I tried to heal this shameful legacy. This move towards healing stemmed from the belief that my burden of shame was out of place three generations after the war. My acknowledgement encouraged me to explore a variety of creative techniques used by others who had grappled with trauma. How did other creative artists devise narratives which facilitate healing? I chose to reconcile my burden of shame by creating my mother's story. Because she rarely spoke about her past, I employed imagination, historical research and reconstruction to produce a narrative out of silence. During this undertaking, her story became mine, as I explored my second-generation response to her life. Conjuring up memories of my mother also shed light on my own identity, enabling me to leave behind a childhood denial of my German heritage. By accepting that I belonged to a nation capable of committing terrible atrocities, my auto/biography became a healing act of witness, for my mother and myself. My act of witness culminated in a practice-led narrative and an academic inquiry, constructed in response to the encouragement of literary theorists who believe that painful pasts could be repaired by engaging with them via the narrative act. My exegetical response to my narrative was devised to enable the reader to situate my story within a wider historical and cultural perspective of second-generation German shame. The thesis then critically reflected on my creative composition, particularly in relation to the ethics of constructing my mother's voice for my own benefit. Finally, I investigated the concept of healing via the act of creation, for individuals and a nation, as they endeavour to construct an identity that reconciles people with a painful past. My conclusion highlights the importance of engaging imaginatively with trauma-providing strategies for addressing traumas.

Keywords: shame,memory,trauma,legacy,forgiveness,healing,second-generation,Holocaust,Germans,creativity

Subject: English thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2014
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Kate Douglas