Sunday, May 08, 2005


Not Bought and Not Read

Sign and Sight features an English translation of Götz Aly's March 1st Süddeutsche Zeitung article about the woeful state of war memorials in Berlin:

The displays in these memorials give an impression of mustiness and hostility to innovation. They have become museums to themselves. Anyone who occasionally takes foreign guests through them cannot fail to be embarrassed by their present state. The displays give a disproportioned, overly complex impression, their statements are ambiguous. In extreme contrast to the carefully selected material of the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Berlin curators make do with photos most of which have been shown countless times. In the German Resistance Memorial, there are no explanatory texts in English at all.

The functionaries and advisers of the memorial industry have remained the same for ages, and are very much bound up with one another.... The Topography of Terror catalogue is typical of the well-paid neglect seen in the memorial as a whole. Its unpretentious layout is reminiscent of Soviet youth publications, and has remained unchanged since 1987.... None of the Berlin memorials has set up a bookshop to provide interested visitors with further information. Nowhere can you buy "The Diary of Anne Frank" or the Auschwitz Calendarium, nowhere can you leaf through the newer titles in National Socialist research. In their place, the memorials offer small selection of their own excruciatingly boring writings.... Even hard-boiled sceptics will be stupefied at what is on sale there in place of the current literature: Neatly arranged and priced, as if they were the major works on the Nazi era, are the administrative reports of the memorial.

I have a fine experiment for Süddeutsche Zeitung, one that Spy magazine once tried to great effect on DC-area bookstore copies of Stephen Hawking's famously bought-but-not-read A Brief History of Time: insert checks for 100 Euros into the middle of a few copies of those administrative reports being offered for sale. Odds say they'll never get cashed.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?