Cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways. While this new scientific concept clarifies causal relationships between previously unrelated events, structures, perceptions, and actions, it also illuminates a neglected domain of social responsibility and political action. By constructing cultural traumas, social groups, national societies, and sometimes even entire civilizations, not only cognitively identify the existence and source of human suffering, but may also take on board some significant moral responsibility for it. Insofar as they identify the cause of trauma in a manner that assumes such moral responsibility, members of collectivities define their solidary relationships that allow them to share the suffering of others. Is the suffering of others also our own? In thinking that it might in fact be, societies expand the circle of the ‘we’ and create the possibility for repairing societies to prevent the trauma from happening again. By the same token, social groups can, and often do, refuse to recognize the existence of others’ suffering, or place the responsibility for it on people other than themselves.
S:I.M.O.N. is an e-journal of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI). It appears twice a year in English and German language. S:I.M.O.N. aims at both a transnational and comparative history of the Holocaust and Jewish Studies in Central and Eastern Europe within the broader contexts of the European history of the 20th and 21st century, including its prehistory, consequences and legacies as well as the history of memory.
S:I.M.O.N. serves as a forum for discussion of various methodological approaches. The journal especially wishes to strengthen the exchange between researchers from different scientific communities and to integrate both the Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust into the different “national” narratives. It also lays a special emphasis on memory studies and the analysis of politics of memory. S:I.M.O.N. uses a double-blind review system, which means that both the reviewer’s and the author’s identities are concealed from each other hroughout the review process.
Shoah: The journal deals with the history of the Shoah from multidisciplinary, transnational and comparative perspectives. It seeks to integrate studies on Jews as well as on other groups of victims of the Holocaust, especially on Roma, and of so far less researched regions of (East) Central and (South) Eastern Europe.
Intervention. The journal reports on research projects and their transmission into public events. It also informs about current educational and remembrance programs.
Methods. The journal serves as a forum for the discussion of methodological approaches as, for instance, the everyday history, oral history, gender history, the history of violence, anti-Semitism and racism and the theory of memory and memory politics.
DocumentatiON. The journal contributes to critical approaches on using and interpreting archival materials in the 21st century.
Download the current issue S:I.M.O.N. 2017/1.
It is argued in this paper that Roma and Sinti memories of the genocide during the Second World War did not form a coherent picture of the past that would be widely shared among them. Therefore, the recent spread of memorialization and commemoration of the genocide of Roma and Sinti shall be interpreted as a process of the social construction of trauma in which memory increasingly becomes a marker of identity, not just the recollection of the past. The article presents the consequences of the genocide of Roma and Sinti for their post-war situation and the emergence of the memory of the genocide within their political movement, both on the local and transnational levels. Drawing on Jeffrey Alexander’s social theory of trauma, I argue that Roma and Sinti do remember the Nazi persecution, that these memories are fragmented and incoherent largely because of the nature of the crimes committed on them by National Socialism, and that their self-definition as victims of genocide is a social construction embedded in their struggle for empowerment.
Sklavenarbeit und Gewalt. Die KZ-Außenlager
The detainees at the subcamps of Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg lived and worked under a broad range of conditions. Although the first two subcamps were established as early on as in 1941/1942, it was not until 1944 that all of northern Germany was covered. The Neuengamme concentration camp had more than 85 subcamps, to which the SS had brought about 40,000 detainees as slave workers for the German war effort by the end of 1944. Marc Buggeln has compared the subcamps and evaluated the significance of a range of factors such as labour conditions, racism and gender differences with regard to the concentration camp inmates' likelihood of survival. In this way, he was able to disprove some central assumptions made by concentration camp research to date, or at least to seriously curtail the general validity that had been ascribed to them. Finally, he describes the conditions for the perpetrators as well as the victims at hand of a selection of biographies.
During the clerical-fascist Slovak State, "Tóno" Brtko, a docile and poor carpenter, is offered the possibility to 'aryanise' the small Main Street sewing accessories shop of Rozália Lautmannová. Torn between his good-natured principles and his greedy wife Evelyna, he finally agrees to take over the shop by making the deaf and senile lady believe he is her nephew arriving to help her out. Yet he then discovers that the business is bankrupt, and Ms. Lautmannová is only relying on donations from the Jewish community. While letting his wife believe he is making money from the shop, he gradually becomes a supporter of the old lady. More and more, a cordial relationship between the two evolves. When the Slovak authorities finally decide to deport the Jewish population of the small town, Tóno, in a deep conflict with himself and his values, finally opts for hiding Ms. Lautmannová – a decision which turns into tragedy. Obchod na korze won the 'Oscar' for Best Foreign Language Film in 1966. The film was presented on the occasion of a VWI-Visuals presentation on 29 January 2015 in Vienna's Admiralkino.
Jeffrey C. Alexander: Culture, Trauma, Morality and Solidarity. The Social Construction of ‘Holocaust’ and Other Mass Murders