Excavating Tempelhof airfield: objects of memory and the politics of absence

Seeking to critically engage with German post-war politics of memory through a study of material culture, this paper examines the political implications of absence for archaeological work. More specifically, it confronts the problem of the lacuna of the archive of the Holocaust and explores how we can productively engage the archival absences that animate the present. Introducing first results from archaeological excavations at a former forced labour camp at Tempelhof airfield in Berlin, Germany, I discuss how archaeology, by investigating what remains after the Holocaust, may allow us to manifest absence, loss and historical silence. Analysing the role of objects of memory in storytelling and history writing, I also lay out how tender a task an archaeological study of the Nazi past is, pointing out where our work may risk to misappropriate history.