In My Brother's Shadow Analysis

1930 Words 8 Pages
Harald Welzer identifies the divergence between official, public cultures of remembrance in Germany (the history of the Third Reich taught in schools, the establishing of Holocaust memorials, etc.) and private cultures of remembrance in Germany (multigenerational histories situated within family storytelling), evolving from his study of Western and Eastern German families through interviews, individually and collectively, regarding contextual, historical knowledge of the Third Reich and their family history within that period. Uwe Timm’s memoir, In My Brother’s Shadow functions as both personal and historical in nature, chronicling Timm’s exploration of his family history and memory. In particular, Timm investigates Karl-Heinz’s actions during …show more content…
Karl-Heinz is his brother, his generational contemporary, yet Timm stands at greater distance from him than many of the children and grandchildren in Welzer’s study. Timm possesses but one, undefined memory of his brother, of him hiding behind a door, but Timm “can’t remember his face” and fills in details with retrospective knowledge, saying Karl-Heinz was “probably” in uniform. Therefore, Timm lacks the positive, personal memories of Karl-Heinz that may bias his interpretation of his actions in uniform. Similarly, though his parents have wholly positively accounts of Karl-Heinz, Timm is positioned as an “afterthought” in comparison, introducing a personal motive for skepticism of familial remembrance. Helmut Schmitz characterizes Timm’s approach as one of “emotional distance,” both acknowledged and utilized to contextualize any findings. Moreover, he posits Timm as interested primarily in “unanswered” questions, an actively analytical undertaking. While interviewees are presented with historical facts and deny logical family association with them, Timm recognizes the likelihood of evidence of perpetration existing even before reading his brother’s journal. This is most evident in his likening of reading Karl-Heinz’s diary entries to discovering the bloody chamber in the Bluebeard tale. Additionally, he clearly describes his “fear” of learning that his brother’s unit and, therefore, his brother “had taken part in the shooting of civilians, Jews, hostages.” This demonstrates an awareness of perpetration not found in the subjects of Welzer 's study. Welzer details a “dual structure of knowledge and ignorance,” in which vast historical and contextual knowledge of the horrors of the Third Reich “evokes a need to remove one’s relatives from this framework of knowledge.” This dual structure appears

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