Discussion in English: On (not) speaking Zochrot in German
Incompabilities between contemporary German memory discourse(s) and Zochrot’s poltical agenda
From: 22/03/2012 18:00 - To: 22/03/2012 20:00
Prestigious memory: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin / Cornelia Siebeck

For many Germans it is somewhat difficult to unreservedly solidarize with Zochrot’s memory activism and political agenda. Regardless of their respective political stands towards the Israe-li/Palestinian conflict, most Germans do not primarily conceive Israel as a ›real‹ place in this world, but rather in terms of a topos inextrinsicably linked to Germany’s Nazi-past. Hence, whenever Germans are negotiating the Israeli/Palestinian issue, they always also take position towards the German past and within German sociopolitical disocurse. Against this back-ground, speaking Zochrot in German does imply negating Israel’s ›right to exist‹, while high-lighting ›Jewish-Israeli‹ crimes may reinforce anti-Semitic resentment and fit suspect desires to alle-viate German historical guilt. There is no decent language yet to speak Zochrot in German, even less when it comes to political positions like the ›Right of Return‹.The highly affective German entanglement with the Nazi-past – which already has a long and complex history of its own – is not only the root of German (mis)conceptions of the Israe-li/Palestinian conflict, but also of overt and latent incompatibilities between contemporary German memory discourse and Zochrot’s mnemopolitical agenda. What is at stake here is not some mysterious German ›Shoah-complex‹, as is often guessed by Israeli/Palestinian activists, but there are two very different historico-political contexts that cannot simply be translated into each other. Hence, the presentation will show a differentiated picture not only of official German memory discourse and its discontents, but also of the manifold dilemmas and quarrels of the German left when it comes to Israel/Palestine. If there is a need to speak Zochrot in German, we should start discussing how we can get to an adequate translation.

Cornelia Siebeck is a historian and publicist based in Berlin. She has researched and pub-lished on memory theory, memory in public space as well as on memory politics in postnazist societies. 2004/5 she spent one year in Israel/Palestine to do research on dissident memory work. Together with C. Misselwitz she co-edited the volume: Dissonant Memories, Frag-mented Present. Exchanging Young Discourses between Israel and Germany (2009).

Zochrot online