Kauganov E. L. «The Goldhagen debate»: re-actualization of the guilt problem in the context of german national identity in the 1990s (.pdf)


The author analyzes the debates on Daniel Goldhagen’s book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust”, which, along with the controversy about the exhibition “The Crimes of the Wehrmacht”, became one of the most essential discussions concerning German historical and national identity in the 1990s. The author considers the theoretical and methodological frameworks of Goldhagen’s study, analyses his conception of “eliminationist anti-Semitism”, exposes the reception of the book in the media and by the community of professional historians, reconstructs the development of the debates, characterizes the main positions of its participants and the reactions of broader social strata in Germany. The relevance of the study of “The Goldhagen debate” is determined by traditionally high significance of social discussions about the Nazi past in Germany for national identity. The author concludes that Goldhagen’s work and debates on it had an essential influence on the change of methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of the World War II and Holocaust history. It also became a significant milestone of the German “coming to terms with the past” and the consolidation of culture of remembrance of Nazism. At the same time, while the initial reaction of the majority of professional historians to the book was a critical one, the majority of German readers, in turn, perceived the book positively. As a possible explanation of the phenomenon, author states that Goldhagen succeeded in drawing a clear distinction between the totalitarian Nazi past and the democratic present of Germany.


Key words: Germany, Nazism, culture of remembrance, national identity, Goldhagen.


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