Stories of Serving and Surviving the Nazis
A presentation by and dialogue with Ursula Mahlendorf
7:00 pm -- Monday, October 17, 2011
Dear CSB/SJU Students, Faculty, Administrators and Staff,
This fall we have the honor of hosting Ursula Mahlendorf, professor emerita of German at UC Santa Barbara. Here are some comments about her memoir of her childhood, The Shame of Survival:
“The Shame of Survival is a compelling memoir of a girl’s experiences growing up in Nazi Germany that analyzes the lifelong implications of Nazi indoctrination on a sensitive, thoughtful young woman. It shows how a reluctant, shy, frightened, and naïve BDM member becomes swept up in Nazi ideology and documents the lifelong psychic ramifications of living with that legacy: feelings of guilt and shame, a need to work through these experiences and to take responsibility for and mourn the past. Focusing on both class and gender, Mahlendorf’s memoir offers a unique and valuable perspective on a growing body of emergent belated narratives on Nazi Germany by German émigré academics.” —Anna Kuhn, University of California, Davis
“Ursula Mahlendorf’s The Shame of Survival is a beautifully written autobiographical account of a former BDM (League of German Girls) leader who was a loyal supporter of the Nazi regime until its demise, when she suffered a major crisis in her entire belief system. Such eloquent, thoughtful accounts of a German girl’s experience during World War II have been rare, and Mahlendorf’s incisive gender analysis provides a firsthand look at how women and girls were cynically co-opted by the Nazis. Mahlendorf contextualizes her experiences within the larger frame of German military aggression and the Holocaust, focusing not only on the brutal consequences of unquestioningly following the Nazis, but also on how her traumatic postwar expulsion from the East caused her to reevaluate everything she had been taught during the Third Reich.” —Erin McGlothlin, Washington University in St. Louis
“As a young teen, she was a bystander; if she had been old enough, would she have been a perpetrator? It is that dual perspective that gives this memoir its power: the immediacy of her memoirs; the shame, remorse, and uncertainty of remembering. . . . The personal experience is haunting about then and now: how you can develop a shell of toughness and numbness and not know what is happening at Bergen-Belsen, only fifty miles away from where you live.” —Hazel Rochman, Booklist
“This is a brave, honest account of a young girl’s experience in Nazi Germany, and especially of how women and girls were exploited. There are many layers of story and meaning in this courageous and painful memoir.” —Jewish Book World
Ursula Mahlendorf earned her Ph.D. in German Literature from Brown University in 1958 and spent the rest of her professional life teaching in the German Department and Women’s Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she retired as Professor Emerita of German, Slavic, and Semitic Studies. She also served as Associate Dean of the College of Letters and Science there. She was honored with a teaching award by the UCSB Alumni Association in 1981. She drew on her own experience as well as research in teaching undergraduate and graduate students about how Germans and German writers deal with their Nazi past.
We hope you can join us. October 17 at 7 pm, Gorecki 204A.