Materials of the film-webinar "Heroes of (Not) Our Time”
On February 21, 28 and on March 7, 20 2019 the film-webinars were held where the mini-series "Our mothers, our fathers" dedicated to the events of the Second World War were watched and discussed.
The film-webinars were organized with the support of the Center for Biographical Research "AITIA".
The undergraduate and graduate students of the major “Cultural Studies” ("Culture of Germany", "Russian culture") at the Institute of Philosophy of the Saint-Petersburg State University, as well as students of other faculties took part in the discussions, also the special quests from Germany were invited – Lars Krause (Göttingen) and Sabina Fischotter (Hamburg, took part via Skype).
The texts below are full transcripts of the discussions at the webinars, after stylistic edition and partly with translation from German.
Talking about the SS and the Wehrmacht – indeed, this subject is still very painful for the Germans. In this sense, the series is quite honest, but very cautious.
Historian A. I. Boroznyak in his monograph "Cruel Memory" describes in great detail the 90-ies and an art exhibition in Munich, which was arranged by young photographers on a documentary basis. And with this exhibition they visited different cities of Germany. In principle only the documentary materials of the Wehrmacht were shown. The sense of the exhibition was to show that crimes in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus were committed not only by SS. After all, even the banal counting of the number of victims refutes this. The historian also gives excerpts from the book of reviews. When the exhibition reached Munich, the civil war literally began. Society was clearly divided into two halves: "no, we did not know and do not want to know" and those who were horrified to recognize in these photos their grandfathers. The state and the police stopped the bloodshed in this situation.
This summer, when Sabine and I were traveling to the Trutzhain prison camp, I recalled the exhibition and asked how the same situation is perceived now. And she replied: "If you come to visit a family, and you start a conversation on this topic, then in some families you can just refuse from the house (“refuse shelter”- trascriptor’s remark)". Do you understand how painful this topic is? That's the part of memory that's really hard to work with.
Also in the framework of inter-university exchanges I learned the German named Doris – during one of her visits she came to the Piskarevskoey memorial cemetery. And suddenly she said to me: "I will never understand how you can forgive us."
These plots are so deep plots inside the memory, first collective (because Doris is a person of my generation, maybe a little younger), then cultural. And these are problems present within modern new Germany. That Germany, which was built by those who served the Fuhrer very honestly. And this successful embedding of many of them into the legal system... Gradually denazification occurred, but on how deep level? This is a big and difficult question for the new Germany. And this should be as well taken into account when discussing how culture will work with memory in the future.
Therefore, it is important to read very carefully the English and German publications on this topic. I have some issues to discuss with Aleida Assman, for example. There is an organization MSA, she is among the organizers. I would like to meet with her and discuss some issues at the conferences. I saw how translations of her books appeared, how colleagues began to actively use the concepts she proposed, including the concept of "trauma", to describe our memory situation. And the series partly shows us how important it is to work with images considering memory, both German and ours.
The series is very honest. For example, in the line with the Nazi, who got a job in the postwar administration; the position of the Americans on this issue: "with whom we can work, we will work."
Another story that is increasingly resonating in publications and works is the problem of rapes. As Nika mentioned the war "exhausted" people. The problem of violence, the problem of rape of women, of course, was present - it was a war. In Germany, the publication of the diary of one of the women of that time found a great response. And I caught myself thinking that we raise this topic at the level of small works, novels, and treat it more harshly than the Germans themselves. Difference of approaches. The object of criticism is the Soviet soldier and the emphasis that "the Soviet Army raped half of Europe". And it was important for me to understand how the Germans work with this story. This is important, this is what your generation needs to work with – the concept of guilt, of the responsibility.
But is a problem which was not mentioned: "child and war" theme. You have right that we were brought up on the fact that the Soviet soldier is a liberator. And the well-known monument with a child (this refers to the monument "Warrior-liberator" in Berlin's Treptow Park – transcriptor’s note) – image, which is preserved in our memory. And for me it is important, there are some boundaries of memory, necessary for the preserving of the integrity of life. But I don't know how the culture will continue to deal with this. What new images and themes may appear?