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The Mark of CainGuilt and Denial in the Post-War Lives of Nazi Perpetrators$
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Katharina von Kellenbach

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199937455

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199937455.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 02 August 2021

Absolved from the Guilt of the Past?

Absolved from the Guilt of the Past?

memory as burden and as grace

(p.187) 8 Absolved from the Guilt of the Past?
The Mark of Cain

Katharina von Kellenbach

Oxford University Press

During the 1960s two German clergymen, one Roman Catholic and one Lutheran, were publicly exposed and criminally prosecuted for participation in mass killings. One maintained that he had confessed and received absolution, although he denied criminal as well as moral guilt in court. The other turned himself in to the French police and testified truthfully at the Majdanek trial. Their biographies show why forgiveness should not be understood as a release from the burden of guilt or as a mechanism to leave the past behind. Instead, the moral restoration of perpetrators requires transparency and moral fortitude that is developed in penitential practices. The religious tradition of penance suggests that perpetrators benefit from an activist approach to guilt that moves beyond passive acceptance of either punishment or forgiveness. Instead, penance generates personal strength, exercises moral agency and practices social skills, all of which are required to bear recognition of culpable wrongdoing., When perpetrators can bear the truth of memory openly, they regain human worth and restore moral dignity.

Keywords:   memory, penance, absolution, majdanek trial, defregger, moral repair, redemption

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