Dr. Peter Höyng
Associate Professor and Chair of the German Program
Trimble Hall, 637 Asbury Drive,
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia 30302 USA
Telephone: 404-727-6439

Paper: "A Double Void: The Impact of the Holocaust in Berlin and Its Lack of KONTAKT with Poland"

Berlin has been and continues to be a city in the making. The city has no safe and comfortable identity. Its own past forbids it because within the past 100 years the city had to face no less than five political systems, each of them a radical shift from before, and each of them leaving a heavy mark on the city's physical body: the new capital of the German Empire in 1871 saw its rapid growth to a metropolis; the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) became eventually synonymous as a hotbed for modernism in architecture, the arts, music, and literature; the Nazi years (1933-1945) evoked and generated in the end the destruction of the city; while the division fo the city during the Cold War (1949/1961-1989) found its visible signature through the wall; and the decision of making Berlin again the capital of a unified Germany in 1992 triggered a frenzy building boom.

Not surprsingly, this heavy historical load, combined with today's social distress and alarming economic pressures--the unemployment rate remains verz high and city's budget deficit runs as high as sixty billion (!) Euros--creates conflicting desires of nostalgia for various time periods. Yet, the city and federal government haved cultivated an official culture of memory that seems to prevent a comfortable rest on its past since it focuses mainly on one event from the past: the Shoah or Holocaust. The racially motivated and systematic killing of the European Jews, orchestrated in this city, has not only become the political and ethical ground zero of Germany's identity but also of the city's politics of remembrance and an important part of its very own identity.

In my presentation, I will focus on the impact that this culture of memory has. Without any details on the six prominent sites or many less pronounced ones where the Holocaust is remembered today in Berlin, I will pose and explore questions that seem relevant within the context of this international conference of printmaking: to what extent are text and visual presentation of the Holocaust codependent? While the events of the Holocaust urge a need for remembering it, will the architectural and visual representation in Berlin help creating the opposite effect? In other words, what is the dialectic of remembrance? After all, there is a host of signifiers but nothing left to be signified, i.e., while there is little or no Jewish culture and life today in Berlin and Germany, one wants to signify the Jewish past. Finally, and perhaps most interesting in the context of this conference, how come Berlin is remembering the Holocaust so vividly without any KONTAKT with its neighbor Poland?

PETER HÖYNG received his Ph.D. in 1994 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This fall he has taken as position as Chair of the German Studies Department at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Prior to this he was Chair of the German Studies Program and Associate Director of University Honors Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Höyng is a recipient of the “University Studies Award for Outstanding Contributions to Interdisciplinary Scholarship” and the “Jefferson Prize” at the University of Tennessee. From 2001 to 2004 he developed an innovative, interdisciplinary course on Berlin which was supported through grants from the Max Kade Foundation and the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation. Höyng has published two books, Die Sterne, die Zensur und das Vaterland: Geschichte und Theater im späten 18. Jahrhundert (Wien, Köln, and Weimar: Böhlau, 2003) and Embodied Projections on History: George Tabori’s Theater Work (Tübingen: Francke, 1998). He has an extensive record of published articles, book reviews and presentations at national and international conferences. He is currently working on a book about literary influences on Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).