Unicorn: Erbe aus längst vergangener Zeit (German Edition)

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The number of prize-winning books dealing thematically with the Third Reich gradually surpassed their relative share within the total number of books for children published in Germany. This certainly indicates a desire among the cultural elite to stimulate public discussion on the topic and to support and promote such texts.

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Yet winning a prize did not always guarantee successful distribution. In light of its recognition and unparalleled scope of readership, the text presumably served as a prime means for acquainting children with the history of the Third Reich. Sales in Germany totaled more than one million copies.

Worldwide sales have totaled more than two million copies. Initial sales were moderate, and commercial success was achieved only gradually, although its success paled in comparison with the huge popularity of Damals war es Friedrich. According to a private communication from the publisher, dated August 16,, the first edition of Sternkinder published by Dressler sold 55, copies between and From to , the Oetinger edition sold 62, copies.

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Four Questions for My Father had sold , copies. Dahrendorf The development of German Children's Literature 17 believes its historical contribution has been significant, despite what he regards as its problematic aesthetic quality Dahrendorf , p. Elke Liebs, in contrast, lauds the book , pp. In her view, the book presents, in stark and unadorned terms, the fear and sense of impotence experienced by the average person, and the willingness to conform to the totalitarian system; the individual is the victim of the totalitarian regime and can realize his or her potential only within a liberal, democratic system.

Liebs notes that the book succeeds in showing how even pleasant people can be brought to the point at which they betray their peers or allow them to be murdered, and how ideological incitement of young people to commit inhuman acts is no less despicable than incitement to murder. Books increasingly dealt with the theme of the Third Reich, many of which were awarded prizes. All of these books lie at the core of consensus in the historical discourse, in terms of the story told and the past image related therein see the analysis of these books in the Parts II and III.

Doderer and Riedel characterize this period as an era of new emotionality Neue Emotionalitat , observing that, although these books sought to present themselves as works about the Third Reich, they were basically personal stories set in wartime and books centered around an anti-hero Doderer and Riedel , pp. Treatment of the Nazi period was limited to the plane of individual psychology and interpersonal relations. According to Otto, the number of books in this category dropped from twenty-eight titles in — to twelve in the — period, rising once again to twenty-four during — Otto , p.

Scholars agree that the beginning of the great wave of books on the Third Reich can be traced to the mids. Moreover, positive reviews notwithstanding, a number of books published earlier and virtually forgotten were reissued during this period. Damals war es Friedrich came out in a paperback edition in Without embarking upon a lengthy analysis, it is noteworthy that by the end of the s a new interest in the Nazi past had emerged in the German public historical discourse, shaping the foundations of later discourse.

This period saw the so-called Hitler wave Hitlerwelle , a number of Hitler biographies, and various films on his life. The airing of the Holocaust television series also piqued interest in the recent past. All these indicate not only renewed interest in the Third Reich but also a new fascination with the human and biographical stories of both perpetrator and victim.

The dispute revolves principally around the question of the centrality or marginality of these new topics. Thus, for example, the persecution of the Jews received only marginal attention in books centering on childhood in the Third Reich. Of course, this has no bearing on the quality of these books. Dahrendorf , p. Writers related the Third Reich to the context of their own childhood and selfperception. The theme of National Socialism and the Third Reich confronts them with the biographical task of examining their childhood and youth. Consequently, when setting out to write about their own experiences under the Third Reich, it is not surprising that the authors presented them through the filter of that familiar narrative.

In this way, the authors translated their personal biography into a ready-made story. A past without shadow 20 If this is not the case, why then did virtually all the authors of autobiographical narratives choose to depict the end of the war and not what occurred during the course of the war, the collapse of the Reich rather than its inception, the victimization of the Germans and not the persecution of the Jews?

Moreover, one may challenge the extent to which the wave of autobiographical and biographical stories induced genuine change. Dahrendorf is vehement in his attack on the critics of this phenomenon, arguing that its merits should be emphasized, since in this manner it succeeded in ingratiating itself with the young readership. In his view, had the narratives been based on a new model of poetics, the excessive innovation would most likely have deterred young readers Dahrendorf , pp. In any event, even Dahrendorf, who maintains that a profound change occurred, acknowledges its extensive stereotypes.

He believes that this is related to its didactic intentions, which project a black-and-white world of clear and unambiguous values Dahrendorf , p. For such reason I am inclined to agree with the scholars who propose a different interpretation for this development. They argue that the change is manifest in the very fact that addressing the Third Reich became a fashionable trend, with numerous books written on the topic. The change that began in the s may be summarized as follows: 1.

The number of books evidencing such change was relatively small.

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The predominant topic in the overwhelming majority of juvenile titles remained unchanged, namely the suffering of the Germans, or the Germans as victims. The persecution of the Jews was depicted, if at all, from the perspective of the German victim. Germans were portrayed as the principal victims, at times even as the indirect victims of persecution against Jews.

By the late s, not only did it become permissible to address the era of the Third Reich, but this period became a favored theme. Steinlein refers to the attempt, quite minor at this stage, to pierce the literary model fashioned by Richter. In most books, the dominant paradigm centered around a bond of friendship between a German and a Jew, the narrative of German suffering, the use of embedded speech7 or a child narrator in order to place limitations on knowledge and the narration itself, or a combination of these elements.

The development of German Children's Literature 21 At this stage of research, the meandering stream has not yet become a raging river. But the number of books on the Third Reich and the Holocaust published in Germany in recent years, both in original German and in translation, has risen steadily. Yet a very small number are constructed along the lines of a different model, perhaps signaling the possibility of another development.

Time will tell. Time will also tell whether new interest in the Third Reich will flag or reawaken in the wake of neo-Nazi outrages or revived public uproar over some new book, film, or study. These were written in different periods of postwar German history, spanning a period of some thirty years. Some have written only a single work, others many; there are male and female authors, authors from different social classes and different generations. Their biographies span wide personal differences. Some experienced World War II as children; others were born after the war.

Several authors, or their fathers or other relatives, served in the armed forces during the war. Nonetheless, the differences among this highly diverse collection of authors notwithstanding, an analysis of their writings reveals a common historical foundation, upon which the following story is constructed: There was a terrible war in Germany.

Hitler and a small group of Nazis under his command managed to take over the country and force it into a state of belligerence and war. The war was indeed terrible, causing dreadful suffering to the people, exposing them to hunger, homelessness, deportation, and death. True, the Jews in Germany suffered as well and were persecuted by the Nazis.

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Sometimes they were sent to prison and on occasion to concentration camps, where at times they even died; yet only in the most isolated cases were they murdered. The Germans themselves had no hand in the suffering inflicted on the Jews. The Jews fell prey to the unexpected Nazi takeover of Germany. Indeed, the Germans loved the Jews and very often helped to save them from the wicked, villainous Hitler, a non-German who successfully carried out his devious designs by deceiving the entire German nation. The Allies were cruel; at times their actions were senselessly brutal—they bombed German citiesfor three consecutive years without rhyme or reason, destroying for the sake of destruction itself.

Later they divided Germany, separating families and causing poverty and anguish. The very existence of this story is not surprising. Still, when presented to the non-German reader, whether American, British, or Israeli, the story is disconcerting and perplexing.


Prior to analyzing the basic story narrated by the texts in the following chapters, I will explore the patterns and construction of the German story, while scrutinizing the concrete strategies of processing the historical material. On the contrary—most of the texts for children include the important historical events and key players. People and events—such as Hitler, the Nazis, Jewish persecution, the war, the reign of terror in the occupied countries, death, physical and mental maltreatment, destruction, hunger, and even the concentration camps—all appear in the text stage, imbuing the historical panorama with a sense of authenticity.

As in every other case of the construction of an historical discourse, the material is processed in our case according to a preexisting model.

Table of contents

The keys need not be collectively employed in the ordering of each and every one of the texts. They appear in different variations, do not necessarily complement one another, and may even be mutually incongruous. Nonetheless, a majority of the keys structure the dozens of texts analyzed in this study. Stated differently, when a certain period, event, or figure is described in the texts, the portrayal is nearly certain to conform to the fundamental keys presented here.

If the — period appears at all, the text emphasizes German suffering caused by Allied bombing raids. The boundaries subsequently become flexible, ranging from the end of the war and the immediate period to the postwar years. Certain texts, especially those published in the s, may even extend until German reunification. Location The story of the Third Reich takes place within firm geographical boundaries. It describes the villages and large cities in Germany, as well as some areas in the east, mainly the Sudetenland from which German inhabitants were expelled. Some of the stories mention the Russian steppe as a backdrop to the German soldiers who were killed.