Cover image for From monuments to traces : artifacts of German memory, 1870-1990
From monuments to traces : artifacts of German memory, 1870-1990
Koshar, Rudy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 352 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1580 Lexile.
Format :


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Material Type
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DD222 .K67 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Rudy Koshar constructs a powerful framework in which to examine the subject of German collective memory, which for more than a half century has been shaped by the experience of Nazism, World War II, and the Holocaust. Finding the assumptions of many writers and scholars shortsighted, Koshar surveys the evidence of postwar German memory in the context of previous traditions. From Monuments to Traces follows the evolution of German "memory landscapes" all the way from national unification in 1870-71 through the world wars and political division to reunification in 1990.

The memory landscapes of any society may incorporate monuments, historical buildings, memorials and cemeteries, battlefields, streets, or natural environments that foster shared memories of important events or personalities. They may also be designed to divert public attention from embarrassing or traumatic histories. Koshar argues that in Germany, memory landscapes have taken shape according to four separate paradigms--the national monument, the ruin, the reconstruction, and the trace--which he analyzes in relation to the changing political agendas that have guided them over time. Despite the massive ruptures of Germany's history, we see that significant continuities have served to counterbalance the traumas of the German past.

Author Notes

Rudy Koshar , DAAD Professor of German and European Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is the author of Germany's Transient Pasts (1998) and two other books.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Koshar provides an interpretive synthesis of Germany's "memory landscape"--monuments, memorials, buildings, streets, sites of Nazi atrocities. His central thesis is that German memory is marked by recurring themes and symbols derived from folklore, medieval imagery, Christian belief, and national iconology. Departing from scholarly orthodoxies of "construction" and "invention," Koshar proposes that cultural memory is performative through the repetition of commemorations, demonstrations, and other ritual activities. Also, memory is grounded in physical forms that are loaded with historical symbolism and that provide interpretive paths through "shared framing strategies and devices." The analysis, sustained by three powerful chapters on monuments, ruins, and reconstructions, recognizes three periods: Imperial Germany (1871-1918), when rational monuments were directed to creating a national imagination; a Germany of conflict and destruction (1919-45), where ruins were the metaphors for a collective memory; and a reconstructed and reunified Germany (1945-90), when a new memory landscape was intended to underpin meanings for a new Germany. An insightful conclusion engages the implications of the continuity of recurrent forms and symbols in Germany's memory-landscape. Copiously footnoted and referenced, efficiently and appropriately indexed, this title enhances Koshar's reputation as one of the leading thinkers of European cultural identities. All levels. B. Osborne; Queen's University at Kingston

Table of Contents

Figuresp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Monumentsp. 15
Chapter 2 Ruinsp. 80
Chapter 3 Reconstructionsp. 143
Chapter 4 Tracesp. 226
Conclusionp. 286
Notesp. 303
Works Citedp. 323
Indexp. 345