This thesis investigates the transformation of German-Canadian WWII family legacies as they are passed down through generations and between cultures. From a memory studies perspective, I examine my family’s archive of stories and artefacts as a case study, creating a memory project that interprets both autobiographical and co-produced texts created by my grandfather and I that describe his captivity in the American prisoner of war camp at Bad Kreuznach, Germany. In recounting these experiences, my grandfather’s texts construct and connect to post-war German discourses of guilt, victimization, and survivorship for his Canadian grandchildren. However, my involvement in mediating and representing his camp experiences reframes his stories to incorporate my third-generation German-Canadian perspective. Examining these texts, their creation, and our various identity positions within that process, I employ the concepts of intersubjective performance (Abrams, 2010) and traumatic representation (Caruth, 1996) in the analysis of my process of postmemory creation (Hirsch, 2008). It is my contention that this process can serve a therapeutic purpose, helping families comes to terms with traumatic legacies and difficult knowledge.
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Thesis advisor: Druick, Zoe
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