The aggressive nationalism and anti-Semitism of the National Socialists were not solely the products of Hitler's fanaticism. Rather, themes of national redemption and the elimination of the Jews are present throughout recent German history and have their origins in the Bible as well as in the earliest German patriotic writings of the twelfth century. By tracking these ideas back through their various sources, James places the Holocaust squarely within its historical and cultural context.
In Germany, the reemergence of memories of wartime suffering is being met with intense public debate. In the United States, the recent translation and publication of Crabwalk by GÃ1⁄4nter Grass and The Natural History of Destruction by W. G. Sebald offer evidence that these submerged memories are surfacing.
Taking account of these developments, Barnouw examines this debate about the validity and importance of German memories of war and the events that have occasioned it. Steering her path between the notions of "victim" and "perpetrator," Barnouw seeks a place where acknowledgment of both the horror of Auschwitz and the suffering of the non-Jewish Germans can, together, create a more complete historical remembrance for postwar generations.