Hi everyone! My name is Gretchen Glick and I am a sophomore elementary education major from Galena, Illinois.
For class today, we traveled about 20 minutes outside of Berlin to The House of the Wannsee Conference in Wannsee, Germany. The Wannsee Conference was attended by fifteen men affiliated with the Nazi Party. This meeting was to determine how to carry out what is known as “The Final Solution,” which is the final plan to exterminate the Jewish race in Germany. The house was beautiful inside and out, with a breathtaking view of the lake. It was hard to imagine anything awful happening in a house so beautiful.
Our class has been talking about two different views expressed by historians regarding the events of the Holocaust. The functionalist view explains that the events of the war and Holocaust can not be attributed to one individual. It gives equal blame to all parties involved. Functionalism views the events of the Holocaust as a ‘function’ of war and not something that was premeditated. The intentionalist view explains that the Holocaust was a premeditated event. It places blame on the leaders, specifically Adolf Hitler, and assumes the mass murder of Jews was intentional from the start of the war.
At the House of the Wannsee Conference, we were able to reflect on these opposite viewpoints and decide where we as individuals fall in this spectrum. (Currently, I agree more with the intentionalists). In his article, “Searching for the origins of the Final Solution, Debates on the Holocaust,” Tom Lawson states that some intentionalists believe “the war against the Jews could become the ‘war that Hitler won.’” At the Wannsee house we saw examples through the memoirs in the house. One memorable quote was from Hitler’s speech on February 27, 1925; he said, “Fight the devilish power that is plunging Germany into this misery, fight Marxism as well as the Jew.” Because of this, some may assume that Hitler intended to erase the Jewish population from the start. Hitler attempted to convince prisons Ry citizens that Jews were against Germany; this was something he would successfully do trough propaganda and instilling fear. He wanted to win something, and this was his attempt.
After a guided tour and lunch through the Wannsee House, we had the opportunity to speak to Jacqueline Gies. Her grandfather was a perpetrator during the Holocaust. She has just recently started speaking about her family’s past, as this was only her third time sharing her story. Jacqueline told us that she felt ashamed about what her grandfather did. She was only eight or nine years old when she found out about his actions, but it wasn’t until 1997 when she finally realized the severity of the situation. Her grandfather, Robert Gies held a high ranking (fourth in line to Heydrich Himmler) and was never held responsible for the crimes he committed. Jacqueline carries a lot of shame regarding the actions of her grandfather. She says she feels responsible for what he had done.
After hearing Jacqueline’s story, all I could think about was Elke Heckner’s article “Whose Trauma is it? Identification and Secondary Witnessing in the Age of Postmemory.” Heckner discusses post-memory. This involves the memory of events after those who witnessed them firsthand have passed away. Jacqueline tells her grandfather’s story. Some parts of the story are missing because she did not experience them herself nor did her grandfather live long enough to tell her his stories. Much like Agi from the U.S.H.M.M., Jacqueline may not share all the details she knows because of her inability to cope with what happened. For all of these reasons, memory of the Holocaust will continue to change. Survivors and their direct relatives continue to pass away.