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Rebirth of a Culture

Rebirth of a Culture: Jewish Identity and Jewish Writing in Germany and Austria today

Hillary Hope Herzog
Todd Herzog
Benjamin Lapp
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 198
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  • Book Info
    Rebirth of a Culture
    Book Description:

    After 1945, Jewish writing in German was almost unimaginable-and then only in reference to the Shoah. Only in the 1980s, after a period of mourning, silence, and processing of the trauma, did a new Jewish literature evolve in Germany and Austria. This volume focuses on the re-emergence of a lively Jewish cultural scene in the German-speaking countries and the various cultural forms of expression that have developed around it. Topics include current debates such as the emergence of a post-Waldheim Jewish discourse in Austria and Jewish responses to German unification and the Gulf wars. Other significant themes addressed are the memorialization of the Holocaust in Berlin and Vienna, the uses of Kafka in contemporary German literature, and the German and American-Jewish dialogue as representative of both the history of exile and the globalization of postmodern civilization. The volume is enhanced by contributions from some of the most significant representatives of German-Jewish writing today such as Esther Dischereit, Barbara Honigmann, Jeanette Lander, and Doron Rabinovici. The result is a lively dialogue between European and North American scholars and writers that captures the complexity and dynamism of Jewish culture in Germany and Austria at the turn of the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-028-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Dagmar C. G. Lorenz

    The collection of articlesRebirth of a Culture: Jewish Identity and Jewish Writing in Germany and Austria Todayfeatures Germanophone Jewish writing at the turn of the millennium and examines works by authors of different generations as well as larger cultural topics. Prominent survivors of the Nazi era such as Stefan Heym, George Tabori, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, and Ruth Kluger are discussed throughout the volume and in individual articles, as are major representatives of the post-Shoah generation including Lea Fleischmann, Ruth Beckermann, Barbara Honigmann, Esther Dischereit, Henryk Broder, Robert Schindel, Robert Menasse, and Rafael Seligmann and also authors born in the...

  4. Part I German-Jewish Writing and Culture Today

    • 1 The Monster Returns: Golem Figures in the Writings of Benjamin Stein, Esther Dischereit, and Doron Rabinovici
      (pp. 21-33)
      Cathy S. Gelbin

      For two centuries, the Golem, a literary trope inspired by the Cabbalah that in turn took its cues from the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud, has enjoyed heightened popularity during periods of major historical junctures and shifting social constellations. Its recent revival in the work of young Jewish writers signifies the second generation’s step into the cultural limelight and, indeed, a wider Jewish renewal occurring alongside the shifting political, economic, and cultural constellations in post–1989 Europe.

      A figure from Jewish tradition seized upon by Christian German writers and subsequently adopted by their Jewish counterparts, the Golem has long embodied...

    • 2 Hybridity, Intermarriage, and the (Negative) German-Jewish Symbiosis
      (pp. 34-51)
      Petra Fachinger

      As Leslie Morris and Jack Zipes observe in their introduction toUnlikely History: The Changing German-Jewish Symbiosis, 1945–2000, “it seems that Dan Diner’s declaration of negative symbiosis between Germans and Jews that may have been true during the first 30 years following the Holocaust may no longer be true. Certainly, the relations between Jews and Germans since 1945 keep undergoing major shifts” (Morris and Zipes 2002: xii). In much of the Austrian-Jewish and German-Jewish fiction of the 1980s and 1990s, and particularly in texts by writers born after World War II, the relationship between Jews and non-Jews is one...

    • 3 A Political Tevye? Yiddish Literature and the Novels of Stefan Heym
      (pp. 52-66)
      Richard Bodek

      Memory is not history. Neither is history memory. Intertwined, mutually reinforcing, yet at times contradictory, they represent the past in different ways. Obituaries straddle the line between the two. Not fully objective, yet relying on facts to frame their narrative, obituaries frequently become hagiographies. This makesThe New York Times’obituary of Stefan Heym especially surprising (Binder 2001). The piece seems to have Heym’s demonization as its central concern. Employing a host of vaguely insulting phrases, half truths, and non sequitors, Stefan Heym appears as that most despicable of figures, the hypocritical, high-living, communist.

      Heym himself claimed that he began...

    • 4 Anti-Semitism because of Auschwitz: An Introduction to the Works of Henryk M. Broder
      (pp. 67-82)
      Roland Dollinger

      Few other writers and journalists in Germany elicit such strong reactions to their writing as Henryk Broder. Seen by many as a polemicist and provocateur with great skill for sarcasm and irony, Broder has attacked, criticized, and questioned the political and cultural opinions and actions of large segments of German society. He has not only incited and accompanied numerous debates about major events in recent German history, but also commented on less spectacular public utterances and actions by politicians, writers, intellectuals, and other journalists. Read together, Broder’s books and collections of essays constitute an “archive” where important material about “things...

  5. Part II The Case of Austria

    • 5 “What once was, will always be possible”: The Echoes of History in Robert Menasse’s Die Vertreibung aus der Hölle
      (pp. 85-99)
      Margy Gerber

      History, or more precisely, man’s perception of history, is a red thread running through the four novels Austrian writer Robert Menasse (born 1954) has produced thus far. “History and, above all, our way of dealing with it”² is also a central theme of addresses, essays, and interviews. Menasse’s philosophical and sociopolitically oriented interest in history began before the collapse of the Cold War order; it was heightened, however, by the political sea change of 1989/90, which, as Menasse has said, made the querying of history more urgent: “I think, if literature considers itself contemporary, and wants to reflect this, then...

    • 6 The Global and the Local in Ruth Beckermann’s Films and Writings
      (pp. 100-110)
      Hillary Hope Herzog

      Contemporary Austrian-Jewish writing, to a far greater extent than its German-Jewish counterpart, adheres closely to the tradition of city writing. The city of Vienna plays a crucial role in the themes explored by a number of significant Jewish writers of the post-Shoah generation. For these writers, Vienna serves as a more powerful referent than Austria. Indeed, their approaches to the difficult task of negotiating an identity as an Austrian Jew are crucially bound up with a primary identification with Vienna. However important, it is, nonetheless, a highly complex relationship between Jewish writers and the city in which they live, work,...

  6. Part III Transatlantic Relationships

    • 7 The Holocaust Survivor as Germanist: Marcel Reich-Ranicki and Ruth Kluger
      (pp. 113-121)
      Benjamin Lapp

      Ruth Kluger and Marcel Reich-Ranicki are members of the “second generation” of German-speaking Jews, writers and intellectuals who survived the Holocaust in their youth and began to give voice to their experiences in the post-Nazi period (Schlant 1999: 247). Both have written memoirs that, I will argue, reflect on the end of a tradition, the tradition of the German-JewishBildungsbürgertumand on the historical event—the Holocaust—which destroyed that tradition. Each of them is a significant voice in contemporary German culture. Reich-Ranicki plays a prominent role in German literary life as a leading newspaper and television critic. His autobiography...

    • 8 Transatlantic Solitudes: Canadian-Jewish and German-Jewish Writers in Dialogue with Kafka
      (pp. 122-142)
      Iris Bruce

      There have been numerous studies of artists all over the world who were inspired by Franz Kafka’s writings. However, apart from a few sporadic references, there has been no scholarship on the transatlantic dialogue between Kafka and Canadian Jewish writers. This in itself is a noteworthy absence in contemporary scholarship. More importantly, it is worth examining the Canadian Kafka reception in literary circles in relation to their German Jewish counterpart: the former soon found an original voice in Canada’s increasingly multicultural literary community, whereas German Jewish writing did not achieve this until the third generation.

      Kafka’s famous line about the...

    • 9 A German-Jewish-American Dialogue? Literary Encounters between German Jews and Americans in the 1990s
      (pp. 143-154)
      Todd Herzog

      In the middle of a dismissive review of Doron Rabinovici’s recent novelOhnehin(Nonetheless, 2004), Thomas Rothschild includes a seemingly unmotivated condemnatory digression on the role that books such as Rabinovici’s have played in American universities. Noting the unusually large interest in German- and Austrian-Jewish culture among American scholars, he argues that this interest is motivated by self-interest and self-promotion rather than the intrinsic interest of the topic itself:

      There are not only elite universities in the United States, but also lots of mediocre academic institutions that nevertheless follow the principle of “publish or perish” and are consequently continually making...

  7. Part IV Jewish Writers in Germany and Austria

    • 10 “Attempts to Read the World”: An Interview with Writer Barbara Honigmann
      (pp. 157-169)
      Bettina Brandt

      Barbara Honigmann was born in 1949, the year in which the former German Democratic Republic was founded. Her parents, both Jews who were atheists and identified as Socialists, had returned from exile in England to settle in East Berlin. Honigmann studied theater at the Berlin Humboldt University and worked for three years in theater production in Brandenburg and Berlin. In 1975, she became a freelance artist and writer. Her early writings were scripts, mostly one-act plays, some of which were later revised for radio.

      In 1984, the author moved with her husband and her two sons to Strasbourg, France, where...

    • 11 Behind the Tränenpalast
      (pp. 170-172)
      Esther Dischereit

      She was in a hurry—getting fromBahnhof FriedrichstraßetoSchiffbauerdamm.“Parallel” is what Ann’s voice had stressed. Parallel to what she could not remember now. “It’s very simple, really very simple, you can’t miss it.” She felt exposed in this part of the city. Ten years after reunification that hadn’t changed. The splashing water in the canal was cloudy, almost black. She would have to keep going.

      The neighborhood looked abandoned, the streetcar station far away.Tränenpalastand the flight of her girlfriend, the flight of . . . the border guards . . . that’s a story ....

    • 12 Germans Are Least Willing to Forgive Those Who Forgive Them: A Case Study of Myself
      (pp. 173-182)
      Jeannette Lander

      I hesitated when I was asked to participate here. “Jewish Identity and Jewish Writing in German after 1980,” was going to be the topic. Further down in the program description I read the following statement: “After 1945 a Jewish Literature in Germany seemed possible only as labor of mourning. Only in the 1980s, after a period of silence, could a new Jewish literature evolve in the German-speaking countries.” I asked myself whether this description applied to me, whether my writing fell under this statement. Three of my novels, as well as a volume of stories, all with Jewish themes, were...

    • 13 Mischmasch or Mélange
      (pp. 183-184)
      Doron Rabinovici

      It’s a photograph of a school class taken in the year nineteen hundred seventysix. I am not, or to be more precise, was not the boy clad in lederhosen standing in front of the pencil sharpener. My mother, who had escaped extermination, would have never put me in this traditional Alpine costume. I was also not the chubby boy whom my beloved grade school teacher had just asked a question and who, as the photograph shows, is looking rather timidly at the book in front her. I remember that already on the first day of kindergarten my Austrian peers all...

  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 185-188)
  9. Index
    (pp. 189-194)