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Fraenkel Prize 2012: A Small Town near Auschwitz
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 from 18:30 to 20:00 (GMT)
London, United Kingdom
The persecution, degradation and murder of millions of people by the Nazis on ‘racial’ and related grounds have continued to pose major problems of interpretation and representation. Even as ever fewer survivors remain to tell their tales, this past continues to arouse personal passions; this is, to use a contentious phrase, a ‘past that will not pass away’.
In what ways did this significant period of history continue to shape those who lived through it, as well as members of subsequent generations? How were memories and legacies of the Holocaust affected by the differing post-war contexts in which people sought to make new lives? And how useful is the concept of ‘collective memory’ in understanding the diverse legacies and representations of the Holocaust?
This lecture discusses not only the involvement of German civilian administrators in the destruction of the Jewish community of Będzin, a small Silesian town some twenty-five miles north of Auschwitz, but also the wider questions this case raises about the longer-term memories and legacies of the Holocaust among perpetrators, survivors and members of subsequent generations. It discusses, too, the difficulties historians face when seeking to recount and interpret this past, and the ways in which the pursuit of historical truth may be affected by personal involvement in the past.
Mary Fulbrook, FBA, is Professor of German History at UCL. Her most recent book, A Small Town near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust, was joint winner of The Wiener Library's 2012 Fraenkel Prize.