The creation of this exhibition was prompted by the findings of a major research project conducted by the Department of German, Leeds University “From Victims to Perpetrators? Discourses of German Wartime Suffering’ (2005-2008).” The project examined the complex interaction of narratives of victimhood and perpetration from the end of WWII into the 21st century in Germany. Tropes associated with Jewish victimhood were found to have been merged within German claims to have suffered as a result of Allied bombing, mass rapes, and expulsion.
It was also revealed that nuanced narratives have emerged since the mid-1990s in German society. These aim for an inclusive juxtaposition of the complexities, and ambiguities, of the individual experiences of Jews and non-Jews while remaining mindful of the risk of relativising German responsibility or of Jewish suffering.
Such narratives were argued to raise productive questions within today’s globalisation of Holocaust memory as a model for coming-to-terms with injustices far removed from the concentration camps.
Specifically, recent German fiction, film and memorials raise questions relating to:
1) the possibility of empathy with ‘ordinary’ Germans;
2) the balance between recognising the ordinary German’s ‘absolute’ victimhood (e.g. that he or she was bombed) and the need to set this suffering in the context of how Germans benefited from the racial state’s exploitation and elimination of others;
(3) how opposing narratives of persecution and victimhood might be sensitively juxtaposed and so be able to generate inclusivity and dialogue without a blurring of historical accountability.”
These questions also resonate in the post-apartheid South African context.
Working with The South African Holocaust & Genocide Foundation (SAHGF), Leeds university adapted their research findings in the creation of the exhibition to further the SAHGF’s mission to intervene productively in SA’s efforts to confront the legacy of apartheid and to impact on its work on Human Rights education with SA schools, civil servants, and the general public.
October 3rd to October 29th / Price: R50.00