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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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Chapter 2: ‘Der eigentliche Streitwert’: The Rosenstraße Protest in Historical Debate

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Chapter 2

‘Der eigentliche Streitwert’: The Rosenstraße Protest in Historical Debate32

In September 2003, historian Kurt Pätzold argued that the Rosenstraße debate had hitherto failed to discuss the key issue, namely the way in which historical understanding is produced and shaped by those involved this process. Certainly, the debate’s opening exchanges had been focused on the different interpretative positions, as well as questions of filmic representation, artistic licence and authenticity. Debate did not linger as long on the latter points. The focus on question of the protest’s success was not only narrow and limited, but pointed to the need to widen out this debate beyond its exisiting parameters. Arguably, this was the very reason for triggering the debate in the first place. Historical research from the late 1990s onwards had cast doubt on the protest’s success, yet any discussion had remained confined to the academic sphere. Far from wanting to dismiss the protest, there was a desire to discuss it. The release of von Trotta’s film Rosenstraße (2003) was therefore opportune, providing a useful catalyst to bring historical research to the fore and advance debate. Wolfgang Benz’s polemical article, Kitsch, Klamotte, Klitterei, in the Süddeutsche Zeitung several days prior to Pätzold’s, and for which he was roundly criticised in some quarters, in fact both facilitated and guaranteed the debate.33 The point of contention at the core of the debate was ultimately more about the implications of the way in which...

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