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Using the Past to Find a Future: German Intellectual Engagement with the Holocaust and the Construction of a New National Identity

How do people remember a dark past, and can recognition of that past change them? In all corners of the globe, peoples struggle with histories laden with atrocity, death, and destruction. Few peoples construct their national identities around these histories, but of those who do, none do it as completely as the Germans with memory of the Holocaust. This research, using the writings of German intellectuals, explores the development of West German, and later, German memory of the Holocaust and demonstrates the ways that that development was influenced by the international community. The path of this development was rocky and uncertain, with historical revisionism, denialism, and unchallenged taboo, but also sincere historical engagement. However, the development of German memory demonstrates that history can change a people, and that they can use a dark past to seek out a brighter future. Keywords: German Memory, Collective Memory, National Identity, Intellectual History

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