First Advisor

Timm Menke

Date of Publication

Winter 2-9-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in German


World Languages and Literatures




Grandchildren of Holocaust survivors -- Attitudes, Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), and the arts, Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Influence, Jewish families --- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 104 pages)


Processing the Holocaust and its disruption to society has emerged as a significant preoccupation, both privately and publicly, since the war ended almost seventy years ago. By taking up the topic, contemporary artists, often called the "third generation," die Enkel or die Dritten in German, argue that grappling with the past is a process that cannot yet be laid to rest. The cultural production of some of these artists is the focus of this study.

Some, like German literary scholar Ernestine Schlant, have argued that past efforts to process history have been lacking. Her review of West German, post-war literature, The Language of Silence, is surveyed for the purpose of understanding how previous generations tackled the topic and how success in confronting the issues could be measured.

Four artists represent their views on the burden of history in works produced in the first decade of the new century. In Schweigen die Täter, reden die Enkel, Claudia Brunner describes her efforts to recognize and deal with the feelings of Phantomschmerzen as a result of being a descendent of a Nazi perpetrator. Himmelskörper, by Tanja Dückers, portrays a new mother trying to discover the secrets her grandmother harbors; Uwe von Seltmann wrestles with the legacy of unpunished crimes in Karlebachs Vermächtnis; and, denial takes center stage as Jens Schanze documents his family's attempts to end the silence about a Nazi grandfather in the film Winterkinder.

Lest it be thought contemporary artists saw no importance in the legacy of the Holocaust or were not inclined to tackle political issues, this study contends that modern artists are not only capable of confronting the past, but that they find the confrontation still necessary. Given their temporal distance to the era, they have an advantage over previous generations to approach the issues with more objectivity and composure. They do this work in service to others who seek to understand the pain and guilt they feel; to those who sense secrets in their family's history that remain buried and harmful; to those who were wronged; to those who suffer from long-suppressed conflict; and, to those who care deeply, also from afar, that German society successfully digest, but not forget, the history.


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