Forgotten victims? The early Nazi Camp of Osthofen and its Jewish prisoners: a case study in local memorial culture

Wünschmann, Kim (2015) Forgotten victims? The early Nazi Camp of Osthofen and its Jewish prisoners: a case study in local memorial culture. In: Galizia, Giovanni and Shulman, David (eds.) Forgetting: An Interdisciplinary Conversation. Martin Buber Society of Fellows Notebook Series (2). The Hebrew University Magnes Press, Jerusalem, pp. 220-228. ISBN 9789654938464

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Within the memorial landscape of former sites of Nazi terror the first concentration camps of 1933-34 have long remained forgotten and unmarked territory. This article deals with the early camp of Osthofen in Western Germany and analyses the reasons why the former institution of terror has been wrapped in silence for decades after its closure in the summer of 1934. Focussing on the fate and commemoration of Jewish prisoners it can be shown that camp terror and the violent persecution of the Jews rapidly destroyed the century long tradition of Christian-Jewish relations in the region. Bystanding and sometimes actively working towards the arrest and detention of their Jewish neighbours, members of the local population have participated in and profited from the violent exclusion that started in the midst of German society. But, as the paper shows, it was not only this uncomfortable participation in the historic catastrophe one wished to suppress that is responsible for the ‘forgetting’ of the camp. Politically biased memorial initiatives that remember first and foremost the fate of political prisoners and view the camp as a site of the antifascist class struggle overshadowed the distinct antisemitic dimension of Jewish camp detention. Finally, the horror and fascination surrounding the war-time concentration camps and Auschwitz in particular trivialized early camp terror and let Osthofen and the history of its Jewish prisoner appear ‘harmless’ and therefore ‘uninteresting’.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
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Depositing User: Kim Wuenschmann
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2015 14:12
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2015 14:12
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