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The Lion and the Star

The Lion and the Star: Gentile-Jewish Relations in Three Hessian Towns, 1919-1945

Jonathan C. Friedman
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Lion and the Star
    Book Description:

    The Lion and the Starnot only offers an informed glimpse into the intricacies of daily German life but also confirms the continuing danger of making sweeping generalizations about German Jews and non-Jews. In the aftermath of World War II, many viewed the Third Reich as an aberration in German history and laid blame with Hitler and his followers. Since the 1960s, historians have widened their focus, implicating "ordinary" Germans in the demise of German Jewry.

    Jonathan Friedman addresses this issue by investigation everyday relations between German Jews and their Gentile neighbors. Friedman examines three German communities of different sizes -- Frankfurt am Main, Giessen, and Geisenheim. Symbolized by the Hessian heraldic lion, these communities represent a cross-section of both Gentile and Jewish society in Germany during the Weimar and Nazi years. Researching in the United States, Germany, England, and Israel, he gleaned information from interviews, memoirs, diaries, letters, newspapers, church and synagogue records, censuses, government documents, and reports from Nazi and resistance organizations. Friedman's comparative analysis offers a balanced response to recent scholarly works condemning the entire German people for their complicity in the Holocaust.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4749-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Preface
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Until the 1960s, most historians viewed the Third Reich (1933-45) as an aberration in Germany’s otherwise “normal” historical development, placing blame for the Terror, the war, and the extermination of Jews squarely on the shoulders of Hitler and his henchmen. As more documentary evidence surfaced, scholars came to see the Nazi dictatorship as a labyrinth of competing satrapies that possessed broad ideological antecedents in German history. In so doing, they began to implicate a broader spectrum of German society in the daily activities of the Reich and, specifically, in antisemitic persecution.¹ In the 1970s, surveys of German public opinion during...

  7. 1 Jewish Emancipation to 1919
    (pp. 15-24)

    The historian Jakob Katz described Jewish emancipation as the event that brought western and central European Jews “out of the ghetto” in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.¹ Though more a “tortuous path” than a single occurrence, emancipation nevertheless ushered in a process of Jewish integration into Gentile society by granting Jews civil rights and political privileges such as citizenship, suffrage, and eligibility for public office.² In return for the acquisition of rights, Jews were obliged to abandon their separate communal status and become “useful” citizens. Most Jews welcomed the chance both to play a role in a larger polity and...

  8. 2 Demography and Socioeconomic Structure
    (pp. 25-46)

    An examination of Gentile-Jewish relations in Frankfurt am Main, Giessen, and Geisenheim during the Weimar era would be incomplete without an assessment of the social and economic makeup of their Jewish communities from 1919 to 1933. Clearly, differences or similarities in occupational structure, class status, and residency patterns affected the form and extent of Jewish-Gentile interaction, as well as the overall shape of Jewish integration. More important, though the republic’s democratic structure provided opportunities for Jews to integrate further into German state and society, persistent antisemitism and economic uncertainty saddled Germany’s Jewish communities with a deep anxiety and accelerated their...

  9. 3 The Liberal-Jewish Model: Under Attack from Within
    (pp. 47-62)

    No single Jewish voice addressed the challenges facing German Jewry in the Weimar period. In fact, in order to understand the texture of Gentile-Jewish interaction, it is necessary first to describe the complex ways in which Jews themselves tackled questions of identity during the republican years. An analysis of intracommunal Jewish relations in the Hessian towns of Frankfurt am Main, Giessen, and Geisenheim provides an appreciation not only of the heterogeneity of Germany’s Jewish communities but also of the role communal institutions continued to play in shaping German Jewish identity in the context of rising antisemitism and demographic contraction.


  10. 4 Gesellschaft vs. Gemeinschaft: Gentile-Jewish Relations Before 1933
    (pp. 63-102)

    The sociologist Werner Cahnman has generalized that while relations among Jews weregemeinschaftlich, or communal and intimate, Jewish-Gentile contact wasgesellschaftlich, or societal and more formal.¹ Yet interaction between Jews and non-Jews in the 1920s was more amicable in Germany than in the traditionally hostile environs of eastern Europe and not much worse than in western Europe and the United States.² In this chapter I analyze the Gentile-Jewish relationship in Frankfurt am Main, Giessen, and Geisenheim during the years of the Weimar Republic, from 1919 to 1933. I use interethnic contact as a gauge of Gentile acceptance of Jews in...

  11. 5 Jew-Hatred or “Arbeit und Brot!” Antisemitism and the Electoral Rise of the Nazis
    (pp. 103-124)

    Few subjects have prompted as much historical inquiry as the electoral rise of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). Thomas Childers and Martin Broszat, among others, have written on the failure of liberal democracy and the ascendance of the Nazi Party at the national level from 1918 to 1933. William Sheridan Allen, Jeremy Noakes, Rudy Koshar, and Peter Fritzsche have offered provincial analyses on the matter.¹ Many have also sought to determine the extent to which antisemitism played a role in the Nazi ascent.² Several of these studies have concluded that Jew-bashing was a secondary issue in NSDAP...

  12. 6 Close to the Edge: Relations during the Early Years of the Third Reich
    (pp. 125-152)

    Historians now believe that Hitler’s Reich was less a monolithic party-state and more a polycracy of competing satrapies with which the central government had to seek some modus vivendi. The focus of researchers has therefore shifted to the role of local authorities in administering Nazi legislation and the impact of public opinion on Nazi policy, specifically on state-sponsored antisemitism. This chapter contributes to this historiographical trend through an analysis of Gentile-Jewish relations in Frankfurt am Main, Giessen, and Geisenheim from 1933 to 1938, before the pogroms of Reichskristallnacht. Much of the current work on responses to antisemitism in the Nazi...

  13. 7 Relations During the “Final Solution”
    (pp. 153-180)

    The destruction of European Jewry at the hands of the Nazis during World War II may not have been the inevitable result of centuries of anti-semitism on the continent. Even the intensification of persecution against Jews in Germany before the invasion of Poland in September 1939 did not necessarily foreshadow genocide. Clearly, though, the situation for German Jews had become more violent and lifethreatening well before the beginning of the war. Reports on the Jewish Question from the Nazi Party’s Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD), admittedly biased and sometimes unreliable sources, implied that public opinion had also shifted in favor...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 181-184)

    On Thursday, 29 March 1945, National Socialist rule in Frankfurt came to an end, and its occupation by the U.S. army began. Greater Hessen itself came into being in May 1945 as the occupying U.S. forces merged Hessen-Darmstadt with the Prussian province of Hessen-Nassau.¹ Jakob Sprenger, the NaziReichsstatthalterof Hessen during the Third Reich, left Frankfurt before the arrival of the American army and committed suicide in a Bavarian forest.² Of the major Nazis in Frankfurt’s city administration, only one official, Gestapo criminal secretary Heinrich Baab, received a life sentence in prison for his involvement in the Final Solution...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 185-186)

    Enduring references to Leo Baeck’s alleged proclamation in 1945 of the end of German Jewry’s thousand-year history underscore the centrality among historians in the post-Holocaust era of the question, Did the Nazi genocide reveal the symbiosis between German Gentiles and German Jews to be a tragic illusion?

    Detlev Peukert has argued that the rise of antisemitic discrimination and the role of anti-Jewish racial hatred within National Socialist ideology were not the outcomes of events within the history of the Jews in Germany but were solely part of the evolution of the German radical right.¹ I would argue that one cannot...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 187-270)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-284)
  18. Index
    (pp. 285-292)