A Past Without Shadow: Constructing the Past in German Books for Children, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

A Past Without Shadow

Constructing the Past in German Books for Children, 1st Edition

By Zohar Shavit


380 pages

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A Past Without Shadow examines 50 years of German children's books in which the darkest horrors of the Third Reich have routinely remained hidden. The horrors of the Third Reich are systematically screened and filtered, allowing the darker, bleaker parts of history to escape illumination. Here Zohar Shavit explores 345 German books for children describing the Third Reich and the Holocaust, and finds a shocking distortion of the past: a recurrent narrative which suggests that the Germans themselves had no hand in the suffering inflicted on the Jews. These books, Shavit argues, have created the false historical lesson that the real victims of Hitler's crimes were the German people themselves.

First published to great acclaim in Hebrew and now available in English, this book is a wake-up call for anyone concerned about German children's literature and its responsibility to past and future.


"…[S]imply fascinating. Where is Germany going if its children learn to remember things that constitute a distortion and falsification of their past?." -- Elie Wiesel, author of Night

"I have no doubt that this book will become a basic study in both the field of children's literature as well as the analysis of postwar German society." -- Omer Bartuv, Haaretz

"Shavit's shocking research is a reminder that those who don't want to remember the past may be paving the way for such tragedies in the future." -- Joseph Lapid, Minister of Justice, Deputy Prime Minister, Jerusalem

"Zohar Shavit's book about the unique strategies employed by authors of children's books in Germany in their presentation of the past image of the Third Reich is a cultural bombshell and piques special interest." -- Orit Prague, Maariv

"For many years Shavit has devoted herself to the image of the Shoah presented in West German children's literature and has thus caused a growing disapproval. Controversy is fierce-launched not only from the right wing and not only in Germany but from the extreme left and in Israel as well…Shavit's insights are astounding because they sound so crystal-clear, because they make sense and are enlightening." -- Michael Maier, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Table of Contents

Introduction to the English Edition Part 1: The "Story" of the German Past and the Construction of its Past Image 1. The Development of German Books for Children on the Third Reich and World War II 2. Keys to the Past Image 3. Construction of the Past Image Part 2: Strategies in the Construction of the "Story" Preface to Parts II and III 4. "Present, but not in Place" 5. "The Dream of the Thousand-Year Reich" - The Borders of the Reich and the Boundaries of Time 6. "Some of my Best Friends … " - Philo-Semitic and Anti-Semitic Descriptions of the Jews 7. "Not the Way it Looks" - Nazis and Pseudo-Nazis 8. "If Only I Could …." - An Analogy between Jews and Nazis Part 3: Whose War Was It? 9. "The Whole People … " - The Scope of the Resistance Movement 10. "Actually, I Myself was a Victim" - The Germans as Victims 11. "I'm not Guilty" - The Germans and Guilt Part 4: The Construction of an Alternative Discourse 12. "Seeing it Differently" - An Alternative Narrative. Conclusion: The Image of the Past in German Public Discourse and Texts for Children

About the Author

Zohar Shavit is Professor at the Unit for Culture Research, Tel Aviv University. Her many books include Poetics of Children's Literature and several books in German on the History of Books for Jewish Children in the German-speaking world. Shavit is also known for her translations of American children's classics, among them her translation of E. B. White's Charlotte's Web, which received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for distinguished translation.

About the Series

Children's Literature and Culture

Founding Editor and Series Editor 1994-2011: Jack Zipes

Series Editor, 2011-2018: Philip Nel


Founded by Jack Zipes in 1994, Children's Literature and Culture is the longest-running series devoted to the study of children’s literature and culture from a national and international perspective. Dedicated to promoting original research in children’s literature and children’s culture, in 2011 the series expanded its focus to include childhood studies, and it seeks to explore the legal, historical, and philosophical conditions of different childhoods. An advocate for scholarship from around the globe, the series recognizes innovation and encourages interdisciplinarity. Children's Literature and Culture offers cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections considering topics such as gender, race, picturebooks, childhood, nation, religion, technology, and many others. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / German
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature