Vergangenheitsbewältigung: Working Through Difficult Pasts

Vergangenheitsbewältigung: Working Through Difficult Pasts

Thursday, December 3, 2020 at 7:30 PM

Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming is director of international academic programs for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Mandel Center and author of The Holocaust and Catholic Conscience: Cardinal Aloisius Muench and the Guilt Question in Germany. Dr. Brown-Fleming’s work has been featured in the Catholic News Service (CNS), Catholic News Agency (CNA), and The Catholic Virginian. She has appeared on Cable News Network (CNN), EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, and several documentaries, including Holy Silence (2019). She is a 2021 Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Contemporary History’s Center for Holocaust Studies in Munich and Berlin.

Vergangenheitsbewaltigung is roughly translated as “the struggle to overcome the past” – it is a German term coined to describe the process of confronting and working through the Nazi past that has been unfolding since the end of the War. Questions about culpability and blame, suffering and loss, and how to commemorate difficult history dominate this process. Two documentaries, Human Failure ( original title Menschliches Versagen, 91 min. 2008) and Holy Silence (2020), explore questions around how Germany and the Catholic Church have faced up to the Second World War and the Holocaust. Join the Neuberger as we consider the images that have forced retroactive reckonings with the past in Germany and Rome, how the loss of the last witnesses and survivors may influence this unfolding process.

Human Failure tells the shameful story of the appropriation of German Jews’ assets during the Third Reich, and how it benefited the average German citizen. Emphasising that it was not the Gestapo who conducted most of the theft, but German tax officials, Human Failure documents civilian participation in the mass robbery of Jews prior to their deportation and death using recently uncovered materials.

Holy Silence examines the Catholic Church’s response to the Holocaust through historic footage, documents, and contemporary interviews. Although Pope Pius XI was a staunch critic of antisemitism in 1930s Germany, his successor, Pius XII, was less vocal. Accusations of inaction and complicity have dogged Pius XII’s historical reputation, to the point of being described as “Hitler’s Pope.” Could Pius XII and the Church have done more to intervene in the Final Solution? This documentary considers several angles on this hotly debated topic.

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Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming is director of international academic programs for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Mandel Center and author of The Holocaust and Catholic Conscience: Cardinal Aloisius Muench and the Guilt Question in Germany. Dr. Brown-Fleming’s work has been featured in the Catholic News Service (CNS), Catholic News Agency (CNA), and The Catholic Virginian. She has appeared on Cable News Network (CNN), EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, and several documentaries, including Holy Silence (2019). She is a 2021 Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Contemporary History’s Center for Holocaust Studies in Munich and Berlin.

Vergangenheitsbewaltigung is roughly translated as “the struggle to overcome the past” – it is a German term coined to describe the process of confronting and working through the Nazi past that has been unfolding since the end of the War. Questions about culpability and blame, suffering and loss, and how to commemorate difficult history dominate this process. Two documentaries, Human Failure ( original title Menschliches Versagen, 91 min. 2008) and Holy Silence (2020), explore questions around how Germany and the Catholic Church have faced up to the Second World War and the Holocaust. Join the Neuberger as we consider the images that have forced retroactive reckonings with the past in Germany and Rome, how the loss of the last witnesses and survivors may influence this unfolding process.

Human Failure tells the shameful story of the appropriation of German Jews’ assets during the Third Reich, and how it benefited the average German citizen. Emphasising that it was not the Gestapo who conducted most of the theft, but German tax officials, Human Failure documents civilian participation in the mass robbery of Jews prior to their deportation and death using recently uncovered materials.

Holy Silence examines the Catholic Church’s response to the Holocaust through historic footage, documents, and contemporary interviews. Although Pope Pius XI was a staunch critic of antisemitism in 1930s Germany, his successor, Pius XII, was less vocal. Accusations of inaction and complicity have dogged Pius XII’s historical reputation, to the point of being described as “Hitler’s Pope.” Could Pius XII and the Church have done more to intervene in the Final Solution? This documentary considers several angles on this hotly debated topic.


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