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Remembering Rosenstrasse

History, Memory and Identity in Contemporary Germany

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Hilary Potter

In February 1943 intermarried Germans gathered in Berlin’s Rosenstrasse to protest the feared deportation of their Jewish spouses. This book examines the competing representations of the Rosenstrasse protest in contemporary Germany, demonstrating how cultural memories of this event are intertwined with each other and with concepts of identity. It analyses these shifting patterns of memory and what they reveal about the dynamics of the past–present relationship from the earliest post-unification period up to the present day. Interdisciplinary in its approach, the book provides insights into the historical debate surrounding the protest, accounts in popular history and biography, an analysis of von Trotta’s 2003 film Rosenstraße, and an exploration of the multiple memorials to this historical event.

The study reveals that the protest’s remembrance is fraught with competing desires: to have a less encumbered engagement with this past and to retain a critical memory of the events that allows for a recognition of both heroism and accountability. It concludes that we are on the cusp of witnessing a new shift in remembering that reflects contemporary socio-political tensions with the resurgence of the far right, noting how this is already becoming visible in existing representations of the Rosenstrasse protest.

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Introduction: Remembering Rosenstraße

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Introduction

Remembering Rosenstraße

On 27 February 1943 in Rosenstraße, a small side street in the centre of Berlin, an act of public opposition began on the day the National Socialist regime launched one of the largest anti-Jewish raids of the Second World War. Amongst the thousands arrested over the ensuing days were nearly a quarter of Berlin’s intermarried Jewish Germans and their descendants. They were detained in a makeshift detention centre, once the Jewish Community Administrative Building. In response, their spouses and other relatives gathered outside to show solidarity, to gain information, to demonstrate against their arrest and their feared deportation. The protest ebbed and flowed, lasting for approximately one week; none of the protesters was arrested in spite of the fact public demonstrations were illegal in Nazi Germany. Moreover, all but twenty-five of the Rosenstraße detainees were released over a period of days and weeks. Their persecution did not cease following their release, indeed it increased. However, almost all survived the Third Reich. The question of whether the protest secured their release or whether the regime had a different plan for them, albeit with the intention of deporting them at a later date, remains contested to this day.

This book focuses on multiple ways in which the events in Rosenstraße over seven decades ago are remembered. Unlike previous works on the protest, which have tended to be within the one discipline, be it history or film studies, this book...

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