Kathrin Bachleitner remaps the road that led to Germany's "atonement" for the Holocaust
The duty to remember the Holocaust, the profession of responsibility for the atrocities committed, the admission of guilt and shame on the part of all Germans with the ensuing effort to atone for the past constitute the cornerstone of Germany’s national memory approach today. However, what started this official ‘atoner attitude’ in the first instance? More specifically, what was the initial push towards the long road of atonement, and why did German political leaders decide to take this approach in the first place? To answer this question, the presentation examines the decision to pay reparations to Israel in 1952. Through archival documents, the case study reconstructs the international incentives, mindset and diplomatic backchannel discussions between the Israelis, the Allies and the West Germans and compares these with the Austrian case. Altogether, the paper sheds new light on the roots of the German “atonement approach” – particularly the role of Israel therein – explicating more generally which international constellations and aspects of the global political process bear the potential to lead countries towards atonement.
Dr. Kathrin Bachleitner is the IKEA Foundation Research Fellow in International Relations at Lady Margaret Hall. She wrote her DPhil at the University of Oxford about the diplomatic relations between Israel, Germany and Austria. Her research focuses on collective memory and values within International Relations, mainly how WWII and the memory of the Holocaust affected inter-state relations. She is the author of the book Collective Memory in International Relations, recently published with OUP.