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The Journal of Holocaust Research

Samuel Salzborn / The German myth

feeling as a nation of victims: portrayal and representation of "the Germens as victims" as a new controversy about escape and expulsion.

Various German expellee organizations have lobbied for a "Centre against Expulsions" to be built in Berlin, in "historical and spatial proximity" to the Holocaust memorial. Their designs for the "Centre" place their own "German suffering" at the core - both geographically and political - of German collective memory.

If founded in the spirit intended by the expellee organizations, the Centre Against Expulsions is anything but a form of productive engagement with the past. The article argues that the implicit aim of the project is to ascribe to the nation the role of a victim, while relativising the German past, especially National Socialism and World War II. The aim in representing the Germans as victims is not enlightenment about historical realities, but rather the creation of a certain collective identity.

The article analyzes how the topos "Germans as victims" is represented in the current debate on the "Centre against expulsions" in Germany and examines the historical implications of enabling this topos, as well as addressing the conflict between the myth of German innocence and the historical reality. That the ideas and demands of the expellee organizations still find an audience today is related to the new claim to sovereignty and 'normality' in the politics of the Federal Republic of Germany, ehich itself stems from the post-1989/90 transformations in Eastern Europe. Part of this new 'normality' is the 'levelling of the Nazi past' in everyday consciousness; people's concrete historical knowledge about National Socialism is in decline, and is gradually losing the meaning it had the 'old' Federal Republic (before reunification). This goes hand in hand with a tendency to detach historical realities, events and developments from their concrete socio-political context in favor of a moralizing view.

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