From "weiter leben" (1992) to "Still Alive" (2001): Ruth Klüger's Cultural Translation of Her "German Book" for an American Audience

by Caroline Schaumann
From "weiter leben" (1992) to "Still Alive" (2001): Ruth Klüger's Cultural Translation of Her "German Book" for an American Audience
Caroline Schaumann
The German Quarterly
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Emory University

FroID weiter leben (1992) to Still Alive (2001):

Ruth Kluger's Cultural Translation of Her

"Cerman Book" for an Atnerican Audience'

In the postwar era, the "never to be written'? history of the Holocaust has evolved from a shunned and silenced genocide to the most widely publicized and remembered crime of the twentieth century Mounting interest in the Holocaust has spawned survivor literature, art exhibits, museums and memorials, blockbuster movies as well as university classes and programs. The Holocaust has also come to serve as a universal symbol of evil in this world. To Western ears, words like Auschwitz and Hitler epitomize the worst imaginable horrorsf and are thus used abundantly and indiscriminately

Ontheonehand,insistenceon theuniquenessof theHolocaustissofiercethat some deem the mere attempts to compare it to other crimes as Holocaust denial. On the other hand, the language of the Holocaust has become a staple of daily American life and is being used on the political stage from those pushing for military intervention in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and Bosnia to the supporters of anti-terrorist measures to right-wing anti-abortionists." By the beginning of the twenty-first century; the Holocaust, which Tim Cole calls "the central cultural icon in the West" (6), has become a pars pro toto for universal wrongdoing. That makes the Nazi crimes themselves frighteningly general and indistinct.

Ruth Kluger's Holocaust memoirs weiter leben: eine]ugend (1992)and StillAlive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (2001) question such universalizing tendencies and provocatively pose the Holocaust as a particularevent with particularimplications. When Kluger's weiter [eben: eine]ugend was published in Germany in 1992, it met with enormous success, selling over 250,000 copies and quickly climbing bestseller lists. The book also made famous its small publishing house, Wallstein. After the major German publishing house Suhrkamp had rejected the work with the claim that it was not "literary" enough (even though it came with an enthusiastic recommendation by Martin Walser), Kluger decided to publish her work with Wallstein, a formerly unknown publisher with only four employees. weiter [eben garnered the praise of Germany's most esteemed literary critics, and Kluger receivednumerousliteraryawards/'Neverbeforehad aHolocaust testimonybeen so successful in Germany

The German Quarterly 77.3 (Summer 2004) 324

weiter leben: eine ]ugend was subsequentlytranslated into Dutch, French, Italian,Spanish,Czech,and Japanese, butan Englishtranslationofthebooknever cameforth. Klugerherselfwascommittedtothat undertakingbutpurposefully delayed theEnglishtranslationofherbookuntilafterhermother's deathatage97. Alma Hirschel, who had survived Auschwitz along with her daughter, disapproved ofKluger's interestinGermanlanguageandculture,and avoided anycontactwith thingsGermanherself. Yet, sheinadvertentlyobtainedtheGermanedition and readweiter leben. Seeinghermother"badlyhurt" (210),6Klugermadethe decisionto postponethe Englisheditioninanefforttoavoidpublicly exposingher mother to the blunt discussion of their "flourishing mother-daughter neurosis" (54).Written"inmemoryofmymotherAlmaHirschel (1903--2000)," StillAlive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered appeared in 2001. After the success of weiter leben, publishers openedtheirdoorswideto Kluger, yet shechoseto publishherbook with another smallpublishing house, the Feminist Press at the City Universityof New York.

InKluger'stwo texts,theHolocaustisconceptualizedandverbalizedfortwo differentaudiences, aGermanandanAmericanone.Insteadofcallingforuniversallessons, Kluger engages eachaudience in a dialogue about the Holocaust that is basedon the sharedexperiences ofeachculture.Inadditionto receiving wideacclaimforitslanguage and style,weiter leben struckachordwith theGermanpublic in its direct and uncompromising form of address. Kluger's work differed from otherHolocaust testimoniesinthat shewasdirectlyspeakingtoherGermanreaders:

Ihr mu~t euch nicht mit mir identifizieren, es ist mir sogar lieber, wenn ihr es nicht tut: [... ] Aber la~t euch doch mindestens reizen, verschanzt euch nicht, sagt nicht von vornherein, das gehe euch nichts an oder es gehe euch nur innerhalb eines festgelegten, von euch im voraus mit Zirkel und Lineal sauberlich abgegrenzten Rahmens an, ihr hatter ja schon die Photographien mit den Leichenhaufen ausgestanden und euer Pensum an Mitschuld und Mitleid absolviert. Werdet streitsuchtig, sucht die Auseinandersetzung. (141)

Recognizingthat fiftyyearsaftertheHolocaust,thefactsofJewishdeath,survival, andcamplifearewellknownandmuchrecountedandthat herGerman readershavehadtheir fillofinformation, discussion, andguiltsurroundingthe Holocaust, KlugerchosetoconveyherHolocaust memoriesinadistinctiveway. Byaddressing her readers directly; by provoking and evenaffrontingthem, Kluger includedherGermanaudienceinhermemoirand calledonthemtohelpwith the constructionofhertestimony:"Wennesmir gelingt, zusammenmit Leserinnen, die mitdenken, und vielleicht sogar ein paar Lesern dazu, dann konnten wir Beschworungsformeln wie Kochrezepte austauschen [...]" (79). Goingbeyond self-reflection and self-analysis, Kluger's text became an invitation to a dialogue. Thefactthat aGerman-JewishsurvivornotonlyaddressedherGermanaudience butalsoconnectedwith itwasaparticularlycourageousanddaringaspectofher text?

Thetimeperiodbetween 1992and2001 aswellastheclearawarenessofher new American target audience substantially shaped Kluger's English text. Still Alive, accordingto Kluger, is"neitheratranslationnoranew book: it'sanotherversion'aparallel book,ifyou will [...]" (210). Insteadofmerelybeingupdatedina new edition, Kluger's work has grown and changedwith time, an unusual examplein literaryhistory StillAlive hasnonewforewordorfootnotesbut isanentirely differenttext than weiter leben-which attests to Kluger's courage to rework and alteranalreadycompletedandsuccessfulbookaswellashercommitment toher own title weiter leben-to go on living. Tracing the evolution from weiter leben to Still Alive, Isuggestthat bothtextsspeaktotheirtimeandtheirrespective readership. Although somewhat tempered in its initial provocative tone, Still Alive emerges as an exceptional cultural translation that attempts to make the Holocaust relevantforanAmericanaudiencebyembeddingit firmlyin theAmerican experience. BydistinctlytailoringhertextstofirstaGermanandthen an Americanaudienceaswellastotheculturalneedsofaparticulartime period, Klugerchallenges our understanding of the Holocaust as an eternal and constant evil.

The epilogues of weiter leben and Still Alive concludein 1988and 2000, respectively: StillAlive respondsto both personaland politicalchangesoftheintervening years.Twelveyearsolder, Klugerhasbecomeagrandmotherwhoisobservingher granddaughter Isabelaandherown sonasafather.Inweiter Ieben, Kluger recounted that herfatherhadpunishedhisdaughterforusinghistypewriter (26),but inStill Alive, Klugeraddsthat sheboughtherfour-year-oldgranddaughteracomputerfor her own use (33). Giving her granddaughter the very thing her father had denied her, Klugerdeliberatelyresistsahistoryofrepetitionandusespastexperiencesto changethe present.Thereareotherchanges.Whileweiter lebenconcealed the identitiesofKluger's friends byusingfictional Germannames (250), Still Alive reveals the names of Kluger's adopted sister Susi (formerly Ditha), her friend from TheresienstadtHanna (Olga),andherfriendsintheUnitedStatesKit,Liselotte, andMonique (Marge,Anneliese, Simone).TheGermanintellectualChristoph,for Kluger "the epitome of what attracts and repels me about his country" (169), is publiclyrevealed aswell-knownauthor Martin Walser.8Whiletheearlierfictional names protected the identities of relatives and friends, Kluger's use of actual namescontributestothemorepersonal, honest,and forgiving toneofStillAlive. In herEnglish text, Klugeralsoreveals and reflects onmorepersonaldetails, asinher contemplation that getting divorced and quitting her jobwas a necessarysacrifice in the quest of achieving what she needed (140).

StillAlive's compassionate quality also surfaces in the different tone Kluger chooseswhen talkingabouthermotherafterherdeath.Althoughtheincidentsof motherlyabusenarratedinweiterleben alsoappearin StillAlive, Kluger's rageseems to havebeentempered,hervoice softened.Forinstance,in weiter leben Kluger commented on hermother's refusaloflettingher leave Germanyona Kindertransport toIsraelinthe following: "Ichglaube,dashabichihrnieverziehen.Derandere Mensch, der ich geworden war, wenn ich nur ein Wort harte mitreden konnen,wenn siemichnichteinfachalsihrEigentumbehandelthatte" (62). Inthe English version, thisbecomes: "ButIneverforgot that briefglimpseofanother lifewhich would have made me a different person. What kind of a person? Who knows? Shouldshehaveasked myopinion?Nothavetreatedme exclusivelyasherproperty?"(57) In this passage, neverforgiving becomes neverforgetting, and the assumptionsvoiced in theGermanoriginalbecomequestionsinthe Englishedition. Similarly; Kluger answers her own rhetorical question in weiter leben: "Ich frage mich,obichihrdiesenschlimmstenAbendmeinesLebens jeverziehen habe"(114) with the words "[o]fcourse I have" in Still Alive (97). Thesewordsindicatethat Kluger foundsomereconciliation in the relationship to hermother afterherdeath,

andaddto the overall moremoderatedtoneof Still Alive.

If Kluger's description of the relationship to her mother radiates a sense of redemptionand closure, sheextendsthisattitude towardherhalf-brother, Schorschi.Withthe passingoftime,Klugerrealizes that Schorschiwouldhaveturned70 bynowandthat hislifewouldbe"essentiallyover" (83).Thisknowledgeallows hertoacceptthefactofhisdeathandgoon living.Atagesixty-nine, Klugerseems muchmoreat peacewith herfamily. Otherfamilyconflictsofweiter leben havealso evolved inStillAlive. TherelationshipbetweenKluger's motherandher"adopted" daughterSusi, whomAlmaHirscheltookintothefamilyin Crols-Rosenbutabandoned in the postwar years, has changed once more. In weiter leben, Kluger concluded the description of this relationship with a tentative reconciliation: "[a]lIes ist,wieschonlangenicht.Allesistwiederoffenundunfertig, undichmuf Schlufs machen,sonststimmt morgenauchdasnichtmehr" (283). In Still Alive, she narratesandevaluatestherelationshipinhindsight,with asenseoffinal peace: "Inthe end,oldagedidwhat reasonhad failed toachieve, andmymotherwas friends with Susioncemore" (124). In someinstances, though, presentinteractionsshape andchangeKluger's understandingofthe past.When reading about their flight fromChristianstadtin a draft to Still Alive, Susiremembers an episode Kluger had forgotten(127), andhermemoriesareincludedinthefinaltext. Similarly; renewed contactwith heroldfriend VeraalsoinfluencesKluger's understandingofthepast. Whereas weiter leben aboundswith admirationforVera, aCzechsocialistwhobecameKluger's rolemodelinChristianstadt,welearninStillAlive that Vera, in turn, admired Kluger for her confidence and strong will. In the first text, Vera was merelyacharacterbeingdescribed, but inthe second textshetalksbackandisin interactionwith theauthor.OneofthemostprofoundchangesinKluger's recollectionofthepastisthe discoverythat herfatherwasnot,aspreviouslyassumed, gassed at Auschwitzbut presumably killed on a transport to Lithuania or Estonia. This informationnot onlycalls into questionthe story Kluger had previously constructedand believedfordecadesbutreplacesitwitha"newandundigested" (40) version, unsettlingonceagainherunderstandingofthepast.Thenewinformation about her father reached Kluger only after a Frenchwomanhad read weiter leben inFrenchtranslation.Thus,theveryfactthat Klugerwroteandpublishedher memories in weiter leben prompted a new unfolding of her past in Still Alive.In

other words, at the moment that Kluger secures her memories on paper, they are called into question. Along with the present, Kluger's past is continuously evolving, proving that memories cannot be fixed in space and time but live on.

As Kluger's personal views and desires change over time, so do the cultural needs of a given period. Nowadays, discussions of the Holocaust in both Germany and the United States focus on entirely different issues than they did in earlier decades. For instance, one might think of psychiatrists' diagnoses of the "survivor syndrome" in the 1950s, of the Eichmann trial and the ensuing "banality of evil" discourse in the 1960s, of the increased attention to Holocaust studies following the 1Vminiseries "Holocaust" in the 1970s,of the Historians' Debate in the 1980s, of the emergence of research on women in the Holocaust in the late 1980s,of the intentionalist-functionalist dispute and the Americanization of the Holocaust in the 1990s, and of the increasing attention to second-generation Holocaust representation in the 2000s. As meanings of the Holocaust alter and shift, so do our readings of Holocaust documents. Examining, for instance, the reception of Anne Frank's diary; Hilene Flanzbaum finds that not only the meaning of the diary and thegoalsoftheAnne FrankFoundationhadchanged, butalsotheactual textofthe diary itself (2). Rather than being subjected to a changing readership in changing times, Klugerchoosestoaddressthe culturalneedsofthose shiftingtimes herself.

weiter leben and Still Alive are as much a mirror of their place as of their time. Born in Vienna and living in the United States, Kluger wrote her original text in a Cottingen hospital, in the same Germany that had annexed Austria in March 1938, had barred her from schools, swimming pools, and movie theaters, forced her to wear a yellow star, later deported her to camps throughout the Reich, and murdered her father and half-brother. In weiter lehen, Kluger emphasized the importance of places:

Ich wollte meine Erinnerungen 'Stationen' nennen und ganz unbefangen an Ortsnamen knupfen. Erst jetzt, an dieser Stelle, frage ich mich, wieso Orte, wenn ich doch eine bin, die nirgendwo lange war und wohnt. Wiederholt bin ich gestrandet, und so sind mir die Ortsnamen wie die Pfeiler gesprengter Brticken. Wir konnen nicht einmal sicher sein, daf es die Brucken hier, wo es nach Pfeilern aussieht, gegeben hat, und vielleicht mussen wir sie erst erfinden, und es konnte ja sein, daf sie, obwohl erfunden, trotzdem tragfahig sind. Wir fangen mit dem an, was bleibt: Ortsnamen. (79)

Although Kluger did not name her book "Stationen," she arranged her memories according to locations, naming her five chapters after places, not dates: "Wien," "Die Lager," "Deutschland," "New York," and "Cottingen." The original book cover by Wallstein corresponded to these chapters by presenting a montage of photographs from Vienna, Auschwitz, New York, and Cottingen. If Kluger emphasized the connections between these places by mentioning bridges that exist between them, the book cover reinforced her sentiments by using overlapping pictures to link these places.

Cottingenappearedboth asafinalchapternameandasapictureon the cover, indicatingthat thissiteinGermanyoffered accesstothepastinwaysother places (i.e., herresidence Irvine,California) didnot.WhereasKlugerestablishedherpostwarlifeasaGermanprofessorinthe UnitedStates, Cottingenwasabreakfrom thislife, puttingherinclosercontactwiththenightmaresofherpast. Yet,Cortingeninthelate 1980sturnedout tobea placeverydifferentfromherhometown Vienna and from the camps. Bedridden in a German hospital, Kluger found herself mentallyand physicallydisplaced fromherusuallifeandentirelydependenton Germanstrangers.Duringtherecoveryprocess, shewasabletofindnew friends, a new relationshipwith her past, and a new voice with which to narrate. Although clearlylinkedto the past,Cottingen representedanew;neutralspaceinwhichtestimony became possible.

Still Alive, on the other hand, was completed in Irvine, the place Kluger calls "home" (280), the center of her professional lifeand the placewhere she spent the longestperiodofher life. The English editionomits the Cottingen epilogue and concludes instead with an epilogue written in Irvine. Yet, Irvineis not mentioned asachapterineitherthe Germanor English editionsand doesnot appearasa pictureon the coverofthe originaledition.While Cottingenwas asiteof displacement thatoffereddistancefromthepresentand accesstothepast,Irvineisaless emotionallychargedandlessdisruptivesite,and Klugerchoosesamoregentle tone to describe her home in Irvine.

Thequestionofsitesetsthetoneforboth texts. Forcedinto thediasporabythe Holocaustanditsaftermath, Klugeridentifiesherselfas "eine,die... oftauszieht, aus Stadten und Wohnungen, und die Crunde erst erfindet, wenn sie schon am Einpacken ist" (7), and weiter leben's book cover reinforces this sense of placelessness and disruption with its loosely connected images of what Kluger calls "Stationen." While Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have defined the general termsofpostcolonialnomadology, MarianneHirschhasdetailedthediasporic experienceofchildrenofHolocaustsurvivorswho cannotvisitthe pre-warhomesof their parents.In fact, Hirschincludesthe experience ofdisplacementin her definition ofPostmemory(thememoryofthe second-generation): "EuropeanJewsofthe postwar generation are forever turning left, but we can never catch up with the past;inasmuchasweremember, weremaininperpetualtemporalandspatialexile. Our pastisliterallya foreign countrywecanneverhopetovisit" (663).Although KlugerdoeshavesomechildhoodmemoriesofVienna, theyarefewandfar between and she cannot reconstruct a coherent image of her parents' life in pre-warAustria.Klugerthus sharesamigratoryidentity,not becauseofageneral sense of postcolonial uprootedness but because of the specific experience of the Holocaust.Yet, whilesheexperiences Germanywithapprehensive distanceand remainskeenlyawareofGermans'andherown conjecturesand presuppositions, sheexemptsIrvinefrombeinga"Station"and insteadprojectsherplaceof residencethatbearsnoconnectiontoherpastas"home." Perhapsthisdesiretocreatea "home"ridsStillAlive fromexpressionsofdisplacement-and indeed, in StillAlive, Kluger omits the sarcastic observations on Orange County and contemporary Americanculture found in weiter leben.

InboththeGermanand Englishversion, thetext's localealsodeterminesits readership. Kluger called weiter leben "eindeutschesBuch" anddedicated it to "den CottingerFreunden" (285);StillAlive isdedicatedto hermother and written forher "childrenandAmericanstudents"(210). Inanefforttocreateatextreadablefora particular audience, Kluger goes far beyond merely translating sentences. In its transition froma "Germanbook," StillAlive has beenrefurbished into a text firmly groundedinAmericanculture;fromtheAmericanpoetsthat prefaceeachchapter (EmilyDickinson,Adrienne Rich,MayaAngelou) tonamingandcreditingnumerousAmericanartistsinthetextitself(MarkTwain, ToniMorrison, WoodyAllen).KlugerincludescontemporaryanddistinctlyAmericanreferences, fromthe myth ofPocahontas (28) tocomparingtheperilousaftermathoftheHolocaustto theExxonValdezoilspillin Alaskain1989 (1) tocomparingtheunpredictablenatureofherpersecutionundertheNS-Regimewith theunpredictabilityofCalifornia'searthquakes (4). Klugeralsoseekstorelateherpersonalexperienceto American national traumas such as slavery; racism, Vietnam, and the trauma of sexual abuse.InhercomparisonofJewswithAfrican-Americans, Klugerclaimsthat both groupswerebarredfrompublicsites(shefrom Viennese parkbenches, and African-Americans fromwater fountainsandtoiletsreserved exclusivelyforwhitesin the 1950s [26]). Kluger alsoarguesthat thejudenstern was avisible markofinferiority; likeskincolor(22). Moreover, shelikenstheexperienceofwatchinghermother beingpunishedto theexperienceof"childrenofwifebeaters" andof"childrenof slaves in the nineteenth century" witnessing physical abuse (111).

Kluger'seffortstoadapt hertext toits specific time,place, andaudiencecorrelatewitharecentturn intranslationstudies.Insteadofmeasuringatranslation merely by its proximity to the original, translation theory has emphasized the valueof translation asan "interculturaltransfer" that"alwaystakesplace in a continuum,neverina void."?AsKlugerrevealsthat shehas"writtenthisbooktwice" (210),translationscholarsmaintainthat translationisalwaysanactof"rewriting" ratherthan ameretranspositionofthe original.10HomiBhabhagoesevenfurther, situatinga "culturaltranslation"beyondthe confinesoforiginal and copyassomething different "that renews the past, refiguring it as a contingent 'in-between' space, that innovates and interrupts the performanceof the present" (7). In rereadingWalterBenjamin'sessay"TheTaskof the Translator," Bhabhaassertsthat an individual text must be considered in the cultural context in which it is produced, andthat translationthusnegotiatesbetweentwocultures,adynamicand ever-changing act.

Translation is the performative nature of cultural communication. It is language inactu (enunciation, positionality) rather than language in situ (econce or propositionality). And the sign of translation continually tells, or 'tolls' the different times and spaces between cultural authority and its performative practices (Bhabha 228).

Translation highlights cultural differences and cultural values; thus Kluger articulates these very values when aiming to communicate with her respective audiences.

Kluger's cross-cultural translationcomesata time when scholars in the United States are debating the "Americanization of the Holocaust." In his influential essay (1997) of the same name, Alvin Rosenfeld claimed that American representations of the Holocaust tend to "individualize, heroize, moralize, idealize, and universalize" the actual events.'! Most strikingly, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum portrays the Holocaust as a unique event that calls for universal lessons for its diverse American and international visitors.F Rosenfeld wonders whether such objectives are feasible, considering that another American representation of the Holocaust, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in LosAngeles, neglects to articulate the specificity of the Holocaust. Depicting the events of the Holocaust alongside the struggle for Civil Rights and the aftermath of the LosAngeles Riots reduces the significance of the Holocaust to what Rosenfeld calls an "empty and now all but meaningless abstraction: 'man's inhumanity to man'" (Alvin Rosenfeld 131).

In the United States, the Holocaust is remembered as a non-specific, undisputed, and uncontroversialevent (Novick279).TheHolocaustfurthermore serves to elicit its seeming opposite, hope and optimism. Incidentally; popular and successful American representations of the Holocaust (most notably Schindler's List and the exhibits of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC) conclude with a message of survival, liberation, and salvation, which all too easily translates into "redemptive idealism.t''' In the closing scene of Schindler ISList,the surviving Schindler-Jews are shown marching from their incarceration straight to Israel-turning from black and white into color to the tunes of "Jerusalem the Golden,"apopularsongfrom theSix-Days'War.Thissceneevokesadirect linkbetween the Holocaust and the creation of Israel, transforming Jewish victims into martyrs and suggesting that their deaths had meaning. Likewise, the permanent exhibit of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum concludes with liberation and a focus on survival. Fashioned as a visual counterpoint to both the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, the Holocaust Memorial Museum stands as a chilling reminder of another country's tyranny and thus serves to reinforce America's democratic mission. According to James Young, the museum merely mirrors American constitutional ideals "by graphically illustrating what it means not to be American" (73).

ElieWiesel,the survivor who shaped and framed the narrative of the Holocaust in the United States, regarded the use of Holocaust language and imagery in other contextsasattemptsto "steal"the Holocaust. 14Wieselwas alsoamongthe firstto promotethe term"Holocaust" asanexclusivereferenceto the genocideofthe EuropeanJews.Conversely TimCole(1998)suggested thatthe UnitedStates'preoccupationwiththe Holocaustdetractsattentionfromconflicts thathit closertohome, thus covering up crimes against Native Americans and African Americans (14-15).

In a similar vein, Peter Novick in his seminal work The Holocaust inAmerican Life (1999) pointed out that Jewish political and economic power in the United States instigated a federally funded United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Proposals to publicly remember the experience of African-Americans in the United States, however,did notpassCongressuntil2003.TheSmithsonian'sfirst newmuseum in seventeen years, the National Museum of the American Indian, willopen itsdoorsthisSeptemberatlast.15 DidJewsinthe UnitedStates, whoforthemost partwere not victims of Nazi Germany; monopolize the victim-status to such an extent that they silence other crimes? In his hard-hitting critique of the American Shoah business, Norman Finkelstein answered this question with a resounding yes."

EarlierattemptsbyAmericanhistoriansto furtherstudiesof theNativeAmerican genocide in the wake of the success of Holocaust studies have not enjoyed wide public acceptance.'?While marginalized and radicalized in the past, inquiries that explore similar questions are on the rise. In his recent article "The Placeof the Holocaust in the American Economy of Evil" (2001), Manfred Henningsen maintains that an American focus on the uniqueness of the Holocaust has kept a self-criticalinquiryonracismat bay.Henningsengoeson toexamine theAmerican reluctance publicly to acknowledge and take responsibility for slavery and its aftermath. Likewise, in the 2002 Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Annual Lecture at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, well-known historian Orner Bartov called attention to the value of what he terms "a comparative study of genocide":

Nevertheless, it would be unwise to reject comparative methods simply because of their potential for obfuscation and abuse. Indeed, this very susceptibility to political mobilization indicates the extent to which this approach can reveal the close intellectual, ideological, organizational, and historical links among discrete instances of genocide, which is, of course, why comparisons were so vehemently resisted in the first place. (14)

Thevalue of such studyisevidentin DirkMoses'srecent workcomparingAustralian colonialism and the "extinction'T' of the Aborigines with German racial theory and the Holocaust. Viewing the Holocaust as the culmination of European attempts at nation-building that began roughly one hundred years earlier, Moses defines the Holocaust as

A project of racial cleansing and self-assertion that sought consciously to achieve for Germans what the imperial endeavours of rival European powers had achieved in a largely haphazard manner before the First World War: permanent security and well-being for the domestic population conceived as the citadel and bearer of a superior European culture (35).

While this provocative theory will have to be substantiated in a more detailed fashion, 19 it reveals the extent to which comparative approaches have revitalized studies of the Holocaust.

Kluger's texts respond to calls for more comprehensive and comparative perspectivesin Holocauststudies. Yet,Kluger's wayofAmericanizing theHolocaust certainly does not domesticate it. On the contrary; in both texts, although at different points in time and with different cultural references, Kluger explicitly warns her audience of reading her story as a tale of survival and success:

Wie kann ich euch, meine Leser,davon abhalten, euch mit mir zu freuen, wenn ich doch [etzt, wo mir die Gaskammern nicht mehr drohen, auf das Happy-end einerNachkriegsweltzusteuere,dieich miteuchteile?Euchabhaltendavon, diese Seiten so zu lesen, als waren sie etwa Nachtrag und Bestatigung zu Anna Seghers' "Das siebte Kreuz" [... ] (139).

So how can I keep my readers from feeling good about the obvious drift of my story away from the gas chambers and the killing fields and towards the postwar period, where prosperity beckons? [... ] All I can say, helplessly to be sure, is that these are not the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Nigger Jim, floating down the river on their raft, experiencing a somewhat sinister but mostly humorous journey (138).

In contrast to dominant American representations of the Holocaust, Kluger does not idealize survival. Neither does she preach universal lessons or celebrate moral values. If scholars have denounced the '~ericanization of the Holocaust" as an appropriation of the Holocaust in order to establish a contrasting American experience and American values, Kluger's version is more an embrace than an appropriation, as she uses distinctly American traumatic phenomena to explain and make relevant the Holocaust. Thus, Klugerdoes not focus on the Holocaust in order to ignore racism but to highlight it. With respect to fugitive slaves, she confesses, "I've been there, I know many variants of what they felt, better than the historians and the novelists" (141) and claims that "[olnly Toni Morrison, much later, got it marvelously right."20 Yet Kluger's embrace was not always welcomed by those she wishes to embrace. Already in the late sixties, James Baldwin stated,

One does not wish... to be told by an American Jew that his suffering is as great as the American Negro's suffering. It isn't, and one knows that it isn't from the very tone in which he assures you that it is... It is not here, and not now, that the Jew is being slaughtered, and he is never despised, here, as the Negro is, because he is an American. The Jewish travail occurred across the sea and America rescued him from the house of bondage. But America is the house of bondage for the Negro, and no country can rescue him (quoted in Novick 194).

Yet, Kluger is certainly not a detached American observer of the Jewish mass murder overseas. Nor does she engage in comparisons as to whose suffering was worse, that of Jews or that of African-Americans.21 Still, Kluger presumes to know enough about African-American suffering to empathize, using even Baldwin's name to support her point:

This part of my story coincides with what older blacks will tell me, and with what black writers such as James Baldwin have poignantly described: a child facing a sea of hostile white faces. No white can understand, they say. I do, I say. But no, you have white skin, they counter. But I wore ejudenstern to alert other pedestrians that I wasn't really white (22-23).

Kluger's insistence on her ability to relate is a provocative and troubling aspect of her work. Is Kluger justified in her assertion that «[udenstem is the equivalent of dark skin color? Or do such assumptions void a victim's claim to her specific experience, an attitude that Kluger herself reprimanded in weiter leben in her depiction of a postwar German know-it-all who presumed to understand the suffering Kluger endured without ever listening to her7 Do Kluger's words "I understand" include or exclude her African-American readership? And can she relate her experience to those of African-Americans in the same way as she related it to Germans' WWII experience?

Kluger not only links her text to minorities in the US, she also mocks the attitudes of American victors (150, 177), disperses an idealized myth of liberation (149), and generally questions American war objectives, which lends her text a timelycharacterwhenreadinlightofthe recentdevelopmentsinthe MiddleEast:

Apart from strictly military situations, Americans have no idea what it is like to be bombed. Neither their personal nor their historical consciousness has stored that experience, and yet it is we Americans who do most of the bombing in today's world. We are surprised by the less than grateful response of civilians whom we are ostensibly helping because we have always been up in the air, not down on the ground (148).

Such critical passages emerge sporadically, but unlike in weiter leben, they are not addressed to the text's readers. The very fact that Kluger claims to understand the experience of blacks while maintaining that Americans have no idea of her own experience raises concern. At worst, her words reveal the construction of a privileged colonialist position of knowing that subsumes the experience of minorities and thus upholds dominant power relations. At best, Kluger struggles with a heterogeneous American audience that cannot be addressed, instructed, and enveloped in the same wayas her German audience.

To Kluger, audience is of crucial importance; in weiter leben, she provoked her Germanreaders,anticipating that theywouldnotbelieveher orreact withdisapprova1.22Addressing her readers in the imperative voice, Kluger urged her German readers to listen, understand, and respond to her stories. In an outspoken and instructingtone, Klugerdemandedintellectualaswellasemotionalinvolvementof her audience, even if that meant open dispute. In StillAlive,Klugerleavesout chapters that focus on postwar Germany's confrontation with the past. Instead of provoking a German audience and providing detailed references to Austria and Germany; Kluger assumes an inclusive American-Jewish audience, with a more intimate knowledge of Jewish religion and tradition. However, Kluger chooses a different way of addressing her American readers that does not include a dialogue

with them asit didin weiter leben. With her German audience, Kluger definedher endeavorveryclearlyasanattempt tounsettleGermans'understandingofthe Holocaust; what she seeks fromandforherAmericanreaders, however, remains undisclosed.WhileKlugeraddressed herGermantext toarelativelyhomogeneous postwarreadership, shedirectsherAmericantextatanethnicallydiverseaudience that evades anyone form of address.

The change in tone and focus is also connected to Kluger's construction of identity in both texts. In weiter leben, Kluger positioned herselfasaJewishHolocaust survivorwho remembers the camps,asanAmericanprofessor ofGermanliteraturewho observespostwarGermanyonastay abroad, andasawoman claimingherspaceinmen'sterritory.Whenusingthepronoun "we," Klugerrefersto herselfand,dependingonthecontext,hersurvivingfamily(183, 189),JewishprisonersinTheresienstadtand Crofs-Rosen (89, 149),herfriends intheUnitedStates (248),thepostwarworldin general (70, 79,147),andattimesherGerman readers (79, 80). Despite profound differences, Kluger begins a dialogue with Germans, connecting Germans' war and postwar experiences to her own. By calling into questionthat JewishandGerman experiencesarediametricallyopposed, Kluger reclaims her German-Jewish heritage.

In Still Alive, Klugerseemstocontinuethisapproachwhen termingherselfa "Germangirl" (146)andadmittingtobeing"irreversiblyGerman,albeitinanoffbeatway" (160).Yet,fromtheoutset KlugeridentifiesherselfasanAmerican(65, 137) who observes postwarGermanyfromadistanceandviewsGermanswitha senseofirony (63). Kluger'saccountoftheliberationexemplifiessuchachangein perspective:

And then one day they came, the "Amis,"the Americans. It was April, and in May the war in Europe would be ended. We had spring weather, and they had taken over the streets by advancing with their tanks and jeeps. There hadn't been a battle of Straubing because someone in City Hall had shown some sense and surrendered. The long nightmare, the seven lean years since Hitler's army invaded my homeland-that, too, without a battle-were suddenly over. We had arrived


By changing sides from being a citizen of her homeland Austria to being an American liberator, symbolized in the pronoun switch from "they" to "we [Americans]," Kluger moves to an undeniably American standpoint. This strong national identification also affects Kluger's efforts to confront her audience in a similar fashion as she does in weiter leben. In weiter leben,Klugerconstructedheridentity withanawareness ofdifferencevis-a-visheraudience;in StillAlive, this difference is not as evident. Thus, the latter text affords less room for provocation.

ThroughKluger's translationnot onlyofwordsandsentencesbut thecultural context they express, Still Alive becomes a Holocausttestimony that responds to its time and place as doesweiter leben. Kluger's statement that weiter leben is as muchabout the presentasitisaboutthepast23 suggests that StillAlive likewise attempts tosayasmuchabout present-dayAmerica asit doesabout theHolocaust. Andhereinliestheprovocation, Kluger-style.WhenElieWieselsaysthat "theHolocaustisauniqueJewishtragedywith universalimplications" (quotedin Novick 239), he seeks to transcend the dimensions of time and space to draw everlasting andall-encompassing lessonsfromoneparticularcrime. If,asWieselproposes, the Holocaustembodieseternalevil, itsnarrationwouldnot havetobeadjustedorreworded,and a text likeNight would remainthe samein any time and any context. Infact,theverytitleofWiesel's memoir, Night, frames the experience of the Holocaust in general and universal terms by evoking an allegory of darkness versus light.To Kluger,however, theHolocaustacquiresdifferentmeaningsatdifferent timesfordifferentpeople and needsto betranslatedlinguisticallyaswellasculturally Her texts embody Cole's poignant phrase that "[tlhere is not one homogeneous'Holocaust'outthere" (173) andfurthermoreBhabha'sclaimthat "cultural translation desacralizes the transparent assumptions of cultural supremacy" (228).Tosimply"neverforget" isnotenoughfor Kluger, makinghertextthefirst Holocausttestimony devisedasa specificdialoguewith aculturallyspecificreadership. Kluger'sanalogiesandcomparisonstaketheHolocaustoutofitsuniversal frameworkofabstractevilinorderto understandit andmakeit personally relevant.


"This essay is based on my talk "From weiter leben (1992) to StillAlive (2001): Ruth Kluger's "GermanBook"foranAmericanAudience?"at the 2002GermanStudiesAssociation conference in San Diego, California. I wish to thank Anna K. Kuhn, Ursula Mahlendorf, Sandra Alfers, and Colin Fisher for their comments.

2In his infamous speech to assembled SS Major Generals at Posen on October 4, 1943, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler envisioned the extermination of the Jewish race as "ein niemals geschriebenes und niemals zu schreibendes Ruhmesblatt unserer Geschichte." The Himmler speech can be found in Lucy T. Dawidowicz's Holocaust Reader (130-40); a further discussion of it in Peter Haidu (277-99).

3AsNormanL.Kleeblattputsit, "withoutdoubt,Hitleristhe twentiethcentury's ultimate signifier of evil, replacing mythological figures or religious ones like the Devil" (99).

4In American foreign policy, references to Hitler have fared well. In 1990, President George Bush deemed Saddam Hussein "worse than Hitler." His son continued such imagery in his infamous reference to the "axis of evil" (President George W. Bush, "State of the UnionAddress,"Washington, DC, January 29,2002),and, more explicitly, in his March19,2003ultimatumto SaddamHussein,inwhichhe justified waragainstIraq: "In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators, whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war. In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth" (President George W. Bush, "Ultimatum to Saddam Hussein," Washington, DC, March 17,2003). Yet, Bush's equations of Hitler and Saddam Hussein may reveal less about the villain than about the projected hero, i.e., the United States as a liberating and freedom-fighting force. Alan E. Steinweis discusses the appropriation of the term "Holocaust" by anti-abortionists (173), while Dora Apel cites further examples from the anti-abortionist and the Christian-persecution movement (41-42). See also Alvin Rosenfeld 122 and Peter Novick 239-63.

5T0 date, weiter leben has received the following major awards: Rauriser Literaturpreis (1993), Johann-Jacob-Christoph-von-Grimmelshausen-Preis (1993), Niedersachsen-Preis (1993), Marie-Luise-Kaschnitz-Preis (1994), Anerkennung zum Andreas-Gryphius-Preis (1996), Prix Memoire de la Shoah (1998), and Thomas-Mann-Preis (1999).

6Allquotationsfrom KlugerinGermanreferto weiter leben; all quotations from her work in English to StillAlive.

7Some have argued, though, that Germans failed to respond adequately to Kluger's provocation: "So ist der von Kluger intendierte Dialog zum deutschen Selbstgesprach geworden" (Braese and Gehle 80). By praising the book, Germans circumvented a reevaluation and questioning of existing frames of understanding.

8Klugernot only names Walser, but also offers her opinion of his autobiographical novel Ein springender Brannen (169). 9Bassnett, "The Translation Turn in Cultural Studies," Susan Bassnett and Andre Lefevere, Constructing Cultures/ 132, 123.

10See Bassnett and Lefevere, Translation/ History/ and Culture/ 10.

11Rosenfeld 123. See also ApeI's discussion of the same quotation.

12Alvin Rosenfeld takes issue with Michael Berenbaum, who as the former director of the museum's research institute claimed that the story of the museum needs to be "told in such a way that it would resonate not only with the survivor in New York and his children in San Francisco, but with a black leader from Atlanta, a Midwestern farmer, oraNortheasternindustrialist"(129-30). SeealsoFlanzbaum5,Young73and Steinweis 170.

13See Friedlander's work as well as ApeI's discussion of Holocaust kitsch,18-22.

14See Novick 195 and Moses 13.

15After John Lewis, a Democratic Congressman from Georgia, had introduced a bill for a museum of African-American history and culture on the National Mall in every session since 1988, Congress approved the project in 2003 as part of the Smithsonian Institution. TheSmithsonian'sNational Museumofthe AmericanIndianisscheduled to open on the National Mall on September 21,2004.

16See Finkelstein's text as well as Friedberg 353-81,who takes a similar position. (My thanks to Lilian Friedberg for pointing this out to me).

17See Stannard and Churchill as well as Gavriel Rosenfeld's evaluation of the debate. Lilian Friedberg compares the impact of Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners and that of Churchill, noting that "Native American scholar Ward Churchill's stellar and seminal piece of scholarship on Holocaust and denial in the Americas, A Little Matterof Genocide, did not meet with the same degree of public success" (4).

18Inhis well-researched work, Moses discusses the term "genocide" and its application to colonialism. 19Moses is currently completing a book-length study entitled The Racial Century


20Incidentally, Toni Morrison also refers to the Holocaust when dedicating her novelBeloved (1987) to the "Sixty Million and More." Peter Novick points out this analogy (194).

21Apel recapitulatesthisdebate, pointing outthatcompetitionbetweenblacks and Jews begins with ownership of the very term "Holocaust" (34). Thomas suggests that the "rivalry" between Jews and blacks' suffering may be rooted in the Christian notion that draws moral superiority from suffering (200).

22"Ichsehe meine Leser befremdet die Kopfe schutteln" (236; see also 115). 23Personal Interview with Ruth Kluger, March 12, 1998, Berkeley, California.

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