PUBLIC 42: Traces

Elke Grenzer
Publisher: Public Journal
ISBN: 0845-4450

ISBN: 0845-4450

The growing proliferation of images, memorials, and exhibitions devoted to visualizing the Nazi destruction of European Jewry in Berlin and the controversies surrounding their materialization can be understood within the context of the city’s relation to the problem of the trace. If the notion of the trace with respect to the past makes reference to the conflict between the mark of the event and its erasure in time, it also points more deeply to what Hannah Arendt hints at as the “nothing” that thought encounters in its attempt to understand the evil of Nazism. Sixty-five years after the implementation of the Final Solution, the problem of the untraceable trace is not just the (il)legibility of the event’s inscription in the present, but also the initiation of an unprecedented event set in motion by the extermination of Jews in the gas chambers of concentration camps. In the aftermath of attempted genocide, it is the fact of the annihilation of the trace as a human endeavor that stands as an absolute in relation to the event itself. This ontological transformation is implicit to the debates surrounding commemoration and can be registered by the various usages of Shoah and Holocaust and the way they circulate as primary relations to questions of representation.