Born After : Reckoning with the German Past
Author(s): Angelika Bammer
What do we do with pasts we inherit that carry shame? A major and original contribution to thinking about and grappling with the legacies of German and Nazi history, this book reflects on the relationship between history and memory through the personal narrative of a postwar German intellectual. Arguing that the pasts that haunt usare shaped both by the things people did and suffered and the affective traces the past leaves in memory, Born After is a powerful meditation on questions of guilt, complicity, loss, and longing. With bracing honesty and without sentimentality, Bammer draws on her own family story to think anew about a history that we have come to accept as familiar. Inflecting questions about history with questions about ethics, her book speaks to all those concerned with historical pasts that remain unreconciled.
“[Born After] is a powerful meditation on love and death, guilt and atonement, and memory and imagination, as well as a recognition of reason and its limitations when confronting history's brutal realities. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers through faculty.” - CHOICE
“Important and in many ways original contribution to this vast body of work concerned with Holocaust memory from the perspective of a perpetrator culture…What makes Bammer’s accounting remarkable among other things is the huge time span of her engagement with her family history. Her personal narrative begins well before she was born in 1945 and stretches beyond the death of her father in 2009. Instead of narrating one single revelation concerning her family’s implication with Nazi violence, as has been done in so many popular novels and films, Bammer tells about her recurrent, labored, and often frustrating efforts of trying to understand not only the actions of her parents and grandparents but maybe even more important their changing emotions and silences vis-à-vis their country’s horrific past.” - H-Judaic
“Born After is a painfully honest and mesmerizing reflection on what it means to have been born a German in the wake of the Holocaust. An elegant writer, Angelika Bammer is unafraid to probe deeply into areas where others--including many Germans--have refused to go. She weaves together history and family, the past and the present, and literature and psychoanalytic analysis in a seamless and eminently readable fashion. I have waited for this book for a long time and when I received it I read it in one sitting because I could not put it down. And I shall return to it often.” —Deborah E. Lipstadt, Professor of Holocaust Studies, Emory University, USA, and author of Antisemitism: Here and Now (2019)
“In this brave and acutely perceptive book, Angelika Bammer confronts the legacy of a dark past without shirking the difficult ambiguities of denial, guilt, anger, or attachment carried by its inheritors. Moving between personal story and larger history, Born After gives us felt insight into the paradoxes of transmitted memory and the dilemmas faced by the second generation on both sides of atrocity.” —Eva Hoffman, author of After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust (2014) and Exit into History: A Journey through the New Eastern Europe (1993)
“Readers of Born After will be grateful to Angelika Bammer for the invitation to join in the intimacy of her life-long memory work. This is a courageous, wise, and quietly devastating book in which the past can shift at a moment's notice, while the future remains open to surprises large and small.” —Marianne Hirsch, William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, USA, and author of The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (2012).