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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $40.95

312 pp.
6.125" x 9.25"


Publication date:
March 2017

Imprint: OUP US

Not in My Family

German Memory and Responsibility After the Holocaust

Roger Frie

Series : Explorations in Narrative Psychology

Winner of the 2018 Western Canada Jewish Book Award
Winner of the 2017 Canadian Jewish Literary Award
Shortlisted for the 2018 Vine Book Award for Canadian Jewish Literature

Even as the Holocaust grows more distant with the passing of time, its traumas call out to be known and understood. What is remembered, what has been imparted through German heritage, and what has been forgotten? Can familiar family stories be transformed into an understanding of the Holocaust's forbidding reality?

Author Roger Frie is uniquely positioned to answer these questions. As the son of Germans who were children during World War II, and with grandparents who were participants in the War, he uses the history of his family as a guide to explore the psychological and moral implications of memory against the backdrop of one of humanity's darkest periods. From his perspective of a life lived across German and Jewish contexts, Frie explores what it means to discover the legacy of a Nazi past. Beginning with the narrative of his grandfather, he shows how the transfer of memory from one German generation to the next keeps the Holocaust at bay.

Not in My Family is rich with poignant illustration: Frie beautifully combines his own story with the stories of others, perpetrators and survivors, and the generations that came after. As a practicing psychotherapist he also draws on his own experience of working with patients whose lives have been directly and indirectly shaped by the Holocaust. Throughout, Frie proceeds with a level of frankness and honesty that invites readers to reflect on their own histories and to understand the lasting effects of historical traumas into the present.

Readership : General audiences interested in understanding the Holocaust and German responses to their Nazi past; students and scholars studying the Holocaust, memory, narrative, and German history; psychotherapists and psychoanalysts.


  • "[Frie] could have lived with the myth, accepted by the majority of the German population today, that the planners and the executors of the Holocaust were properly punished for their crimes in Nurnberg and that there was no reason for subsequent generations of Germans to feel guilty for their forbearers' crimes. The honesty with which he describes the guilt and shame he continues to feel is not idle self-indulgence but the strong and well-reasoned voice of a philosopher-psychoanalyst inviting his fellow Germans to recognize the moral dimensions that remembering the Holocaust has for his and for future German generations."

    --From the Forward, written by Anna Ornstein, a survivor of Auschwitz

  • "Searingly honest, multi-textured, and beautifully written. Roger Frie's riveting exploration of intergenerational war memory and submerged guilt will be read as an instant classic."

    --Erna Paris, author of Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History

  • "This masterful and emotional book needs to be widely read. Finding the Nazi past in his own family, Frie calls on Germans, as well as others, to feel the responsibility to remember the collective crimes of the past. He bravely shares his personal story and in so doing invites all of us to recognize how the traces of atrocity remain within us."

    --Yecheskiel Cohen, Past President, Israel Psychoanalytic Society and Tel Aviv University

  • "Not in My Family is a book of outstanding importance. Roger Frie blends personal memoir, psychoanalytic insight and deep historical scholarship, and draws out the complex web of emotions that surround German identities in the wake of the Holocaust. This profound, moving and beautifully written work looks unblinkingly at the hidden and denied effects of Nazism on German society and shows how facing responsibility for historical crimes is at once a social, family and personal responsibility. This is a book both for scholars and for everyone who cares about the shadows cast on the present by the horrors of the past."

    --Stephen Frosh, Professor and Pro-Vice Master, Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London

  • "Both a soul-searcher and an interdisciplinary scholar, Roger Frie asks us to face the unavoidable: how are we responsible for what we only half know, and may not have personally lived? His determined confrontation with the dark times into whose shadows and crimes he was born challenges the reader emotionally, intellectually and ethically."

    --Donna Orange, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

  • "This book is so remarkable because it accomplishes the nearly impossible: acknowledging German pain, while keeping in constant focus the unimaginable suffering and pain Germany inflicted. Frie ardently and generously opens his own mental processes for the reader to examine and to know. He reaches into the deepest recesses he can access, in a continuous process of self-search and self-reflection. It is a search for 'a lived historical truth' in himself, the truth of his beloved maternal grandfather, a member of the Nazi party, and the latter's complicity in the crimes committed by the Nazi regime."

    --Dori Laub, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine and Co-Founder of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies

  • "Remembering and forgetting are not only about cognition and neurology but also about emotions and moral engagement, about taking a stance. Roger Frie makes clear that when autobiographical and social memories of the Holocaust are passed on to the next generations they are never 'pure memories' but inextricably caught in a cultural web of narrative, history, and moral interpretation. From the unique perspective of a cultural psychoanalyst-philosopher, this book gives us a compelling picture of the intricacy of this web."

    --Jens Brockmeier, Professor of Psychology, The American University of Paris

  • "Not in My Family brings the personal and the academic into conversation with one another in a productive, human, and moving way. This book not only demonstrates the power that history exerts over human beings, but also reveals how we can process that history in a way that is both personal and transcends the individual, that combines emotional and intellectual work. Roger Frie works through the impact of the Holocaust on his family and on himself as a way to consider its effects on humanity, including-specifically--on the readers of this gripping and important book."

    --Thomas Kohut, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Professor of History, Williams College

  • "This book breaks the spell of the past and points the way to a future that preserves our shared humanity. Frie's painstaking and frank narrative relates the personal to collective memory and shows how the effects of Nazi history must concern us all to this day. His comprehensive, thought-provoking account of the past is deeply honest, future-oriented and inspiring."

    --Alexandra Senfft, author of The Long Shadow of Perpetrators: Descendants Face Their Nazi Family History

  • "Bringing the unspoken into words, the breaking of taboo and, in the process, exposing one's vulnerability, is not easy work or for the faint of heart. Reading this book kindled many memories of my own history growing up, where there was rampant anti-Semitism, in a neighborhood where there were very few Jews. I grew up with an ever-present sense of fear, inherited from my family's history, and frequently heard derogatory remarks that often kept me from disclosing my Jewish identity. This is one of the powers of Not in My Family. Reading Roger Frie's story compels us all to remember our own. Moreover, it helps us in learning how to situate and inform our memories and understandings within the broad context of history, moral responsibility, and the current world. This is a remarkable work."

    --Jeff Sugarman, Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University

  • "Not in My Family illustrates the work that is required if we are to honor our responsibility to remember. As the author, psychoanalyst Roger Frie, explores what discovering his grandfather's Nazi affiliation meant to him, this book emerges as a gem for examining the transmission of memories related to the Holocaust and the moral obligations of memory. Anyone interested in the impact the collective memory of historic events can have on individuals should read this moving story."

    --Vamik D. Volkan, MD, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and author of A Nazi Legacy: Depositing, Transgenerational Transmission, Dissociation, and Remembering through Action

Foreword by Anna Ornstein, MD
Introduction: Limits of Understanding
1. Refuge or Exile? Searching for a New Home
2. Confronting the Legacy of my Grandparents
3. Shaped by History, Caught by Language
4. Whose Suffering? Narratives of Trauma
5. Living with the Nazi Past
6. Knowing and Not Knowing
7. Breaking the Silence
Coda: Finding my Grandfather

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Roger Frie is a psychologist and philosopher educated in London and Cambridge. He is Professor of Education at Simon Fraser University and Affiliate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and Psychoanalytic Faculty and Supervisor at the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology in New York.

Special Features

  • Using his German family history as a guide, Frie examines what is involved in transforming familiar stories into an informed understanding of the Nazi past and responsibility for the Holocaust.
  • Frie deals directly with difficult and painful subject matter by using autobiographical tools that include his own family history for the last three generations.
  • Bridges personal and intellectual reflection in psychology and history in a wholly productive, positive, and moving way for readers of all backgrounds.