Shame and Childhood in the Perpetrator Graphic Novel

Sarah Yeung

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemera


In recent years, there has been increased interest in the representation of perpetrator perspectives in artistic and literary responses to the Holocaust (Shoah). Many of these works seek to explore shameful memories of complicity and guilt, which have often remained concealed within the confines of the private sphere. This paper critically examines the turn to childhood as a method of negotiating shameful family memory, focusing its analysis on the graphic memoir Heimat: A German Family Album by Nora Krug. Published in 2018, Heimat traces the efforts of a German expatriate, born two generations after the Second World War, to investigate her family’s involvement in the Nazi regime.

This paper considers the ethical implications of Krug’s representations of her own childhood and those of her family members, which are harnessed as a way of broaching the haunting legacy of Nazi Germany. It examines the positions occupied by children who are implicated in acts of historical atrocity, and questions the affective role played by depictions of perpetrators as children. In doing so, this paper attends to the convergences of collective and individual memories, as well to the intersections of public and private histories. In Heimat, these memories are mapped onto the multimodal space of the graphic novel, layering the written word with photography, painting, and found object art. In exploring these narrative and aesthetic meeting points, this paper is also concerned with the overlapping memories at stake within the genre. In both form and subject, Heimat is preceded by a rich tradition of Holocaust graphic novels authored by Jewish creators, including survivors and their descendants (such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Joe Kubert’s Yossel, and Miriam Katin’s We Are on Our Own). Any discussion of the ‘perpetrator graphic novel’ must therefore be attentive to ongoing tensions at work in the contested approaches to historical memory within the medium itself.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 8 Jul 2021
EventMemory Studies Association Fifth Annual Conference: Convergences - Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
Duration: 5 Jul 20219 Jul 2021


ConferenceMemory Studies Association Fifth Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleMSA Conference
Internet address


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