Conflict, Violence and Memory TFDC 1.17
Jul 06, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230706T1100 20230706T1230 Europe/London 6.5. The Axis Powers in Cultural Memory: Transnational Tropes and (Un)Critical Storytelling about World War II

The panel seeks to explore the construction of the memory of World War II in former Axis Power states by focusing on postwar cultural production. While the history of the Axis Powers was a transnational history of international cooperation among states that aimed to create an anti-democratic world order, the national memories that were developed in the postwar era tended to conceal past complicities and collective responsibilities. Focusing on literary and cinematic mediation, the speakers of this panel will consider the role that cultural products played in articulating a memory of World War II and the Holocaust in former Axis Powers states. Through the exploration of varied national cultures, considering cases studies drawn from Italy, Austria, Japan, Romania, Hungary, and Croatia, the panel aims to discuss and identify the main cultural tropes that have sustained the representation of World War II in national discourses of states that had been associated with the Axis. The panel will try to assess whether the tropes that were developed in the postwar era had transnational relevance, or if the complied instead with national specificities. While interrogating national and transnational tensions in cultural memory, the panel will also question whether the considered cultural products critically engaged with the past and fostered awareness of Axis crimes, or if they supported unethical storytelling that displaced the notions of guilt and responsibility.

Guido Bartolini (Ghent University)Tropes of Self-Absolution: The Axis War in Italian twentieth century literature.Throughout the 20th century, the representation of the Axis War in Italian literature was strongly affected by recurrent tropes that aimed to minimise the collective responsibility for the war and co ...

TFDC 1.17 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The panel seeks to explore the construction of the memory of World War II in former Axis Power states by focusing on postwar cultural production. While the history of the Axis Powers was a transnational history of international cooperation among states that aimed to create an anti-democratic world order, the national memories that were developed in the postwar era tended to conceal past complicities and collective responsibilities. Focusing on literary and cinematic mediation, the speakers of this panel will consider the role that cultural products played in articulating a memory of World War II and the Holocaust in former Axis Powers states. Through the exploration of varied national cultures, considering cases studies drawn from Italy, Austria, Japan, Romania, Hungary, and Croatia, the panel aims to discuss and identify the main cultural tropes that have sustained the representation of World War II in national discourses of states that had been associated with the Axis. The panel will try to assess whether the tropes that were developed in the postwar era had transnational relevance, or if the complied instead with national specificities. While interrogating national and transnational tensions in cultural memory, the panel will also question whether the considered cultural products critically engaged with the past and fostered awareness of Axis crimes, or if they supported unethical storytelling that displaced the notions of guilt and responsibility.



Guido Bartolini (Ghent University)

Tropes of Self-Absolution: The Axis War in Italian twentieth century literature.

Throughout the 20th century, the representation of the Axis War in Italian literature was strongly affected by recurrent tropes that aimed to minimise the collective responsibility for the war and conceal the implication of the Italian people in the crimes of Fascism (Bartolini 2021). Disseminating the main stereotypes of Italian collective memory, Italian literature consistently conveyed to its readers the idea that during World War II the Italians acted decently and in ways that starkly contrasted with the behaviour of the Germans and the most radicalised Fascist supporters. Besides the most renowned stereotypes – such as the figures of the Good Italian and the evil German, which have been largely discussed by the historiographical scholarship of the past two decades (Focardi 2013) – Italian literature deployed several other tropes to articulate an unethical sense of innocence for the past. Building on James Wertsch's work (2002), the paper will show that the self-absolving perspective supported by the Italian literary texts strongly relied on typified plot-lines centred on the experiences of sacrifice and conversion. Thanks to these two masterplots (Abbott 2008), Italian writers narrated the Axis War through stories of atonement and redemption that, as the paper will argue, allowed a conceptualisation of the war that was completely oblivious of questions of guilt and responsibility.


Jakub Gortat and Maria Migodzińska (University of Lodz)

Between the center and the periphery: Austria and coming to terms with its Nazi past in post-war film (1945-1980)

Austria did not exist as an independent state during the Second World War, as the country was occupied by one of the Axis powers – Nazi Germany. However, Austrians did significantly contribute to the development of National Socialism, both on an ideological and institutional level and were partly co-responsible for Nazi crimes, and above all the Holocaust. After the war, however, leading Austrian politicians went to great lengths in encouraging the notion that their country was the first victim of Hitler's aggression. Consequently, it was predominantly Austrian artists who would later awaken the memory of Nazism from a state of latency. The proposed paper embraces the preliminary outcomes of the project whose working title is Between the center and periphery: Austria and coming to terms with its Nazi past in post-war film (1945-1980). It outlines the theoretical approaches selected for the study – firstly, Enrique Dussel's transmodernity theory and its application to Austrian-German relations. Secondly, the paper summarizes how the memory of the Nazi past evolved in Austrian film – from a stage of latency, through a critical debate with the victim myth, to an overt confrontation of Austria's role in the Nazi regime. Thirdly, the paper encompasses the results of a reception analysis of essential films dealing with the Nazi past in order to argue that some of them functioned within a plurimedial network (Erll/Wodianka). In this respect, the paper also explains the methodology adopted in the project, mostly regarding the elaboration of data relating to the films' reception.


Diana Popa (Tallinn University)

Reworking Romanian and Hungarian Past: Holocaust Memory in Péter Forgács's and Radu Jude's Archival Documentaries

In this paper, I explore Péter Forgács's Free Fall (1998) and Radu Jude's The Dead Nation. Fragments of Parallel Lives (2017) two documentary films that use both private and public archival materials in order to engage with Hungarian and Romanian Holocaust memory culture. I use Dagmar Brunow's (2015) theorising on documentary filmmaking as archival intervention in order to show how these documentaries rework and recontextualise the archival material in order to foreground the gaps and absences in the master narrative of the nation.

In the context of 1990s Hungarian memory politics, I argue that in Free Fall the appropriation of found footage emerges as a tactic of recuperation of alternative histories previously hidden under the red carpet (Pető 2014; Varga 2008) and as an evocation of the historical experience of the Holocaust through the home movies of Hungarian and Jewish amateur filmmaker György Pető, who documented his life between 1937 and 1945. The Dead Nation uses archival materials self-reflexively in order to uncover the wilfully forgotten memory of Romanian perpetration during the Holocaust, partly the result of communist-era "organised forgetting" (Shafir 2004) and partly the result of post-communist memory culture which recuperated the interwar period as "the epitome of Romanian civilisation" (Turcuș 2017), while conveniently forgetting the xenophobic, anti-Semitic nationalism characteristic of the period (Copilaș 2015). As I will show, The Dead Nation remediates archival footage not only to evoke past experiences but to interrogate how the past might be invoked in dialogue with the concerns of the present-day, post-EU accession Romania.


Natka Badurina (University of Udine)

The representation of the Nazi concentration camp San Sabba Rice Mill in Trieste in contemporary Italian and Croatian novels

The paper deals with the collective memory of the San Sabba Rice Mill, a Nazi concentration camp that operated in Trieste from 1943 to 1945, through the analysis of two contemporary novels: Blameless by Claudio Magris and Sonnenschein by Daša Drndić. The first part presents basic historical data and various stages of memory, especially with regard to the legal process for crimes committed in the camp, its proclamation as a national monument, and the establishment of a museum. Particular attention is paid to the comparison of the San Sabba Rice Mill with the crimes committed by Yugoslav partisans during the liberation of Trieste in May 1945. This comparison appears in public space and collective memory more frequently since the time of the trial. Susanne C. Knittel's research is presented, which, using the psychoanalytic concept of the uncanny, connects the repressed memory of Nazi euthanasia programs with that of the Slovenian and Croatian victims of the San Sabba Rice Mill. In the second part of the paper, this insights will be applied to the analysis of the two novels. The analysis will show that both novels approach the Holocaust from an universal and cosmopolitan stand, neglecting local specificities and perpetuating the stereotypical memory that sees only the so-called "innocent" victims (as they were defined in the 1976 trial), and forgets those who were killed as members of the resistance movement, mostly Slovenes and Croats, and communists. 

FWO Postdoctoral Fellow
,
Ghent University
associate professor
,
University of Lodz
PhD Candidate
,
University of Lodz
Postdoctoral Fellow
,
Tallinn University
asociate prof
,
University of Udine
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
,
University of Warwick
PhD/Curator for Outreach
,
Stiftung Berliner Mauer
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