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Memorializing the Sacred: Kristallnacht in German National Memory

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This article uses field visits (including photographs) to examine the construction of religious memory in the commemoration of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) in contemporary German society. Over the last two decades there has been a proliferation of Kristallnacht memorials to the synagogues that were destroyed during the pogroms of November 9, 1938. Based on research at 50 of these memorial sites, I explore the way in which violence against the synagogue (and Jewish sacred objects) has become the symbol of Jewish genocide in German Holocaust remembrance. The findings strongly suggest that the missing synagogue and its destroyed relics have replaced the murdered Jewish citizenry as the predominant subject of memory in public monuments and memorials throughout the country. However, this visual trope as a representation of the sacred is complicated by other attempts at humanizing (and thus implicitly Christianizing) the suffering and sacrifice of the Holocaust.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Janet L. Jacobs is Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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