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Remembering Rosenstrasse

History, Memory and Identity in Contemporary Germany


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 3: Changing (West) German Histories? Gernot Jochheim’s Protest in der Rosenstraße


Chapter 3

Changing (West) German Histories? Gernot Jochheim’s Protest in der Rosenstraße

In 1990, coinciding with the year in which Germany was formally unified, Berlin author and secondary school teacher Gernot Jochheim (1942-) published Protest in der Rosenstraße, with Hoch Verlag publishing house. This work of popular history would subsequently be twice revised and republished under amended titles Frauenprotest in der Rosenstraße: Gebt uns unsere Männer wieder in 1993, and Frauenprotest in der Rosenstraße Berlin 1943: Berichte, Dokumente, Hintergründe in 2002 with the Berlin publishing house Hentrich and Hentrich. The book was originally written for a teen and young adult audience, but subsequently republished so as to appeal to a wider demographic. The central narrative, that of Hans Grossmann, remains throughout all three editions. It is a work of semi-fiction, and indeed the first of its kind to focus on the events; whilst the plot is fictional, as are the characters, both are drawn from the eyewitness testimonies provided to Jochheim in 1988.114 It centres on the character Hans Grossmann, a so-called Mischling, owing to his Judeo-Christian heritage, who was detained at Rosenstraße, and went on to join the Jewish underground resistance in Berlin.

Protest in der Rosenstraße articulates the desire for a positive identity, both for Jewish and non-Jewish Germans by the beginning of the 1990s. Yet, even whilst it draws attention to the protest, it simultaneously conceals the politicised construction of the narrative. Jochheim’s...

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