Wednesday, August 17, 2005

on death and memory

for some reason, lately, it feels like death is on everyone's mind. if I was a writer for vh1, I would say the grim reaper is having the best week ever. first, nate's (un)expected passing on six feet under. then, the memorials began for peter jennings. and now we witness the obvious grief and anguish of cindy sheehan. even mtv got in on the act last week, albeit in their slick, trite after-school special kind of way. not to be outdone, last week's nytimes dining section discussed funeral foods.

so it is with death on the brain that I watched this episode of frontline: A Jew Among The Germans. what does this have to do with LA? absolutely nothing at all. but it is related to architecture, public art and spaces, and the process of memorialization.

its an absorbing first-hand account by a holocaust survivor who goes back to germany to try to understand the government's process of building a memorial. (eventually built by peter eisenmann). while first-hand, it never backslides into hackneyed cliches about either germans or jews. Marian Marzynski searches for answers: can he return to a world that terrified him and feel safe? can the tragedy of the holocaust ever be adequately memorialized? must memorialization always be represented by metaphor and abstraction? is it possible to create a sense of 'good guilt' among germany's younger generation?

the documentary has particular resonance for me because my mother was born in germany in a displaced persons camp, and my grandparents were both survivors (as were my great aunts and uncles). even without the personal interest, the debate is still salient, particularly as we watch new york struggle with the wtc site. the frontline piece is available online - its broken into 4 streaming chunks, but is well worth the graininess and occasional pauses in realplayer.


Post a Comment

<< Home