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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 5: From Screenplay to the Cinema Screen: Memory and Identity in Transition in Margarethe von Trotta’s Rosenstraße (2003)


Chapter 5

From Screenplay to the Cinema Screen: Memory and Identity in Transition in Margarethe von Trotta’s Rosenstraße (2003)

Rosenstraße, a film by veteran German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was a key feature of the sixtieth Venice International Film Festival in August 2003, a month ahead of release across German cinema screens. The German press were keen to heap praise on von Trotta’s return the cinema screen, after nearly a decade working in television, emphasising in particular the long battle she had undergone in order to produce the film.232 However, upon its release in Germany on 18 September 2003, there was a notable shift in tone, and von Trotta was heavily criticised, not least by historian Wolfgang Benz, who declared the film a work of kitsch, a farce that falsified history insinuating the detainees’ release had been won through an act of sexual sacrifice.233 In fact, he was not even the first to suggest←131 | 132→ this.234 In the days immediately afterwards, Benz and von Trotta traded and deflected accusations with and from each other, as well as from journalists, eyewitnesses, film critics, filmmakers, as well as historians, before departing the scene and leaving the debate to run its course.235

In some respects, this volte face in the pages of the German press is neither surprising, nor remarkable. If the praise at the Venice Film Festival, followed by widespread criticism, accusations of unfounded claims...

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