‘Windstill’ and the Burden of Memory
: Intergenerational trauma and the German expulsions in ‘Windstill’

  • Eluned Gramich

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This is a creative-critical thesis, comprising of a novel and a critical commentary. The novel, ‘Windstill’, is set in Hamburg in January 2016, and it follows twenty-one-year-old Lora Oldenburg as she stays with her recently widowed grandmother, Elfriede Oldenburg, for a week after the funeral of her grandfather, Ernst. During her stay, they receive uninvited guests: Lora’s ex-boyfriend Daniel and Gerold, a middle-aged nephew of Ernst. At the centre of the novel is Elfriede and Lora’s grief, and the way in which it raises specters from the past: Elfriede and Ernst’s traumatic childhood as forcibly displaced people in post-war Germany in the event known as the German expulsions. This casts a shadow, not only over Elfriede’s life, but also of Gerold (as a member of the second generation and a child of ‘war children’) and Lora (a member of the third generation). The novel examines the way historical trauma is played out in modern-day families where the pressures of the present conceal and obfuscate the emotional and mental repercussions of long-ago events.

The critical commentary, ‘Burden of Memory: Intergenerational trauma and the German expulsions’, explores these ideas in more detail, drawing on classic trauma theorists such as Cathy Caruth and Shoshana Felman, as well as Marianne Hirsch’s influential concept of postmemory. The commentary also seeks to locate ‘Windstill’ among other literary novels that deal with Second World War trauma published in the last thirty years, before bringing together other themes of the novel – the role of photography; and the complex, uneasy status of ‘ethical’ or ‘just’ sex in Lora and Daniel’s relationship. At heart, this thesis is concerned with how to portray intergenerational trauma in a new way, and how to convey the particular complexities of representing German trauma.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorRichard Marggraf Turley (Supervisor)

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