Journeys into memory: Romani identity and the Holocaust in autobiographical writing by German and Austrian Romanies
Zwicker, Marianne Christine
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This PhD thesis examines the ‘working through’ of traumatic memories of the Holocaust and representations of Romani cultural identity in autobiographical writing by Romanies in Germany and Austria. In writing their memories in German, these Romani writers ended the ‘muteness’ previously surrounding their own experiences of persecution in the Third Reich and demanded an end to the official silence regarding the Romani Holocaust in their home countries. The thesis aims to explore how the writing of these narratives works to create a space for Romani memories within German language written tradition and to assert a more positive Romani identity and space for this identity in their homelands. Further, it aims to demonstrate that, in the struggle to create this safe space, their texts also reveal insecurity and landscapes that are not free from threat. The thesis also addresses the broad question of whether or not the shift from oral to written tradition in order to represent experiences of the Holocaust will result in a continuation of Romani writing in Germany and Austria. The thesis begins by examining the first Romani accounts of Holocaust memories published in Germany (1985) and Austria (1988) and ends with more recent narratives published in 2006 (Germany) and 2007 (Austria). In chapters one and two on writing by Philomena Franz and Ceija Stojka, I focus on their pioneering texts as assertions of space for Romani identity within their homelands; I analyse how these authors work through their traumatic memories by narrating their experiences and by identifying the landscapes of Germany and Austria as Heimat. In chapter 3, I continue to explore themes of Heimat and identity in Alfred Lessing and Karl Stojka ’s accounts which, while working through their own traumatic memories of the Third Reich, struggle with the loss of Romani cultural identity in their homelands. In chapter four, I address the generational memory of the Holocaust in Otto Rosenberg’s account of his experiences in the concentration camps and his daughter Marianne Rosenberg’s recent autobiography. In chapter 5, I will examine the presence of the ‘threat of Auschwitz’ in Stefan Horvath’s writing, in which he remembers the attack on a Romani settlement in 1995 which killed his son and three other Romanies in Oberwart, Austria. In all of these chapters, attention will also be given to the editorial construction of these texts as well as their reception. Throughout the thesis, I take a comparative approach, referring to similarities and differences between the works of these authors.