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Reemerging Jewish Culture in Germany: Life and Literature Since 1989

Sander L. Gilman
Karen Remmler
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    Reemerging Jewish Culture in Germany
    Book Description:

    How can there by a Jewish culture in today's Germany? Since the fall of the Wall, there has been a substantial increase in the visibility of Jews in German culture, not only an increase in the number of Jews living there, but, more importantly, an explosion of cultural activity. Jews are writing and making films about the central question of Jewish life after the Shoah. Given the xenophobia that has marked Germany since reunification, the appearance of a new Jewish is both surprising and normalizing. Even more striking than the reappearance of Jewish culture in England after the expulsion and massacres of the Middle Ages, the presence of a new generation of Jewish writers in Germany is a sign of the complexity and tenacity of modern Jewish life in the Diaspora. Edited by Sander L. Gilman and Karen Remmler and featuring works by many of the most noted specialists on the subject, including Susan Niemann, Y. Michael Bodemann, Marion Kaplan, Katharina Ochse, Robin Ostow, Rafael Seligmann, Jack Zipes, Jeffrey Peck, Kizer Walker, and Esther Dischereit, this volume explores the questions and doubts surrounding the revitalization of Jewish life in Germany. The writers cover such diverse topics as the social and institutional role that Jews now play, the role of religion in daily life, and gender and culture in post-Wall Jewish writing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3346-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This volume is the outcome of an interdisciplinary conference on “The Reemergence of Jewish Culture in Germany” that brought together scholars and writers from North America and Germany.¹ The timeliness of the topic, confirmed by the intensity of the debates that ensued at the conference, warrants further discussion. The rise of xenophobic attacks in Germany since unification and a more pronounced atmosphere of internal anxiety among Germans and non-German residents also raise many questions about the feasibility and desirability for a renaissance of Jewish culture in Germany. By presenting various historical, cultural, and personal perspectives, this collection contextualizes the debates...

  6. PART ONE Jewish Life in Germany

    • 1. The Contemporary German Fascination for Things Jewish: Toward a Minor Jewish Culture
      (pp. 15-45)
      Jack Zipes

      Given the outbreak of violent xenophobia and virulent anti-Semitism in Germany during the past several years, it would seem almost inconceivable that there could also be signs of a Jewish culture that is once again firmly entrenched in Germany, and that Germans are exhibiting a fascination for all things Jewish. Yet as Ian Buruma reported last summer in theNew York Review of Books, there can be no doubt about it:

      If West German consumerism was reflected in such things as theFreβwelle, literally the wave of gluttony, and theSexwelle, which speaks for itself,Betroffenheithas resulted of late...

    • 2. A Reemergence of German Jewry?
      (pp. 46-61)
      Y. Michal Bodemann

      Until two or three years ago, a textbook account of the history of postwar Jewry could be presented roughly as follows: before Nazism, over half a million Jews lived in Germany. About half of those managed to escape, a third were killed, and about 15,000 survived outside concentration camps—some in hiding, others in mixed marriages and (usually missing from the textbook account) still others were quietly protected by local Nazi potentates. Those Jews, mostly Eastern European, who survived and were liberated in the camps spent the following years as so-called displaced persons under Allied protection, on German territory. Most...

    • 3. Becoming Strangers: Jews in Germany’s Five New Provinces
      (pp. 62-74)
      Robin Ostow

      For Jews, as for other inhabitants of eastern Germany, the four decades of the German Democratic Republic began in the chaos of the postwar years. First and foremost was the geographic displacement of people. Altogether sixty million Europeans were uprooted as a result of the war, particularly through the policies of the German and Soviet governments.¹ Through the early postwar years millions of so-called displaced persons—including fourteen million German refugees from what had been Nazi Germany’s eastern territories—were moving through Europe. Most were going from east to west, but some were moving from west to east. Among the...

  7. PART TWO Contemporary Issues:: Politics, Religion, and Immigration

    • 4. What Is “Religion” among Jews in Contemporary Germany?
      (pp. 77-112)
      Marion Kaplan

      Germany’s Jews are 99 percent secular—so asserts a keen observer of Jewish life in Germany.¹ Thus an essay on religious life has to look beyond practicing Jews and to understand “religion” to include the idea—common to Jews in many modern, secular societies—of culture. In other words, “religion” here is interpreted broadly. This essay will look at synagogue life, religiosity, and spirituality only briefly, and go on to discuss Jewish “culture,” by which I mean an intellectual interest in religion as well as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, morals, law, custom, and any other habits acquired”...

    • 5. “What Could Be More Fruitful, More Healing, More Purifying?” Representations of Jews in the German Media after 1989
      (pp. 113-129)
      Katharina Ochse

      After years of widespread disinterest, there is no doubt that the attention paid to contemporary things Jewish, especially in the western part of Germany, has grown tremendously since 1989. Considering the number of publications, exhibits, and the large focus on Jewish topics in the media, one could get the impression that the country had a few hundred thousand Jews and a blossoming German Jewish culture. The increased attention given Jews is remarkable when one takes into account the past disinterest and the size of the Jewish population: there are about 40,000 Jews. In a united Germany with approximately 80 million...

    • 6. The “Ins” and “Outs” of the New Germany: Jews, Foreigners, Asylum Seekers
      (pp. 130-147)
      Jeffrey M. Peck

      On December 16, 1992, I heard Ignatz Bubis, the recently elected leader of the Jewish Community in Germany, give a speech in Berlin. I posed the first question. “Mr. Bubis,” I asked, “Are anti-Semitism and xenophobia [Fremdenfeindlichkeit] the same thing?” He responded unequivocally, “There is no great difference [grosser Unterschied] between the two.”²

      Since Hoyerswerda, Hünxe, Rostock, and especially Mölln and Solingen, the lives of foreigners, Jews, and asylum seekers in Germany have changed dramatically. Since the events that have put these towns on the map of the new Germany, I have asked myself the question I addressed to Bubis....

    • 7. The Persian Gulf War and the Germans’ “Jewish Questions”: Transformations on the Left
      (pp. 148-170)
      Kizer Walker

      This volume is concerned with the reemergence of Jewish life in contemporary Germany—the emergence, that is, of new German Jewish identities in the postunification Federal Republic. In this chapter, I reexamine an early crisis for Jewish life in the short history of Germany since 1990: the debates surrounding the Persian Gulf War and the opposition to it in Germany, as well as the bitter disputes that arose around Israel, the German Left, and anti-Semitism. My treatment of the so-calledAntisemitismusstreitpushes somewhat against the current of the other contributions in this collection in that—while I consider Jewish voices...

  8. PART THREE Literature and Sexuality

    • 8. What Keeps the Jews in Germany Quiet?
      (pp. 173-183)
      Rafael Seligmann

      By the time Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, he had long since plunged Germany into the most appalling political, military, and moral defeat in its history. Only on one single front did the Führer and his henchman triumph. They had succeeded in murdering most of Continental Europe’s Jews. In Poland, Europe’s largest and most vigorous Jewish community was obliterated. In other countries, with the exception of France, the situation was not much better.

      Most Jews whose mother tongue was German survived the Holocaust, at least physically. But more than 90 percent of them refused to return to...

    • 9. En-gendering Bodies of Memory: Tracing the Genealogy of Identity in the Work of Esther Dischereit, Barbara Honigmann, and Irene Dische
      (pp. 184-209)
      Karen Remmler

      The unsettling rise of xenophobia in unified Germany and the concomitant call for recognizing the multicultural makeup of German society coincides with the portrayal of a genealogy of different Jewish identities within German culture in literary works by Jewish women writers publishing in Germany. Their work expresses the desire to break down monolithic images of the “Jew” and examine the relationship between tropes of femaleness and Jewishness in contemporary Germany, while at the same time reassessing the parameters of German identity. One could argue that Jewish identity in post-Wall Germany is as controversial and constructed as the unification process itself....

    • 10. Male Sexuality and Contemporary Jewish Literature in German: The Damaged Body as the Image of the Damaged Soul
      (pp. 210-250)
      Sander L. Gilman

      In the past decade a new literature written by Jews has begun to appear in the German language, representing the “negative symbiosis” of culturally embedded Jews in the new Germany.¹ The writers of these works feel themselves to be both part of this new Germany yet alienated from it. For these Jewish writers this new Germany always existed in their fantasy. Their literature is marked not only along the expected line of demarcation between the “German” and the “Jew” (while calling that boundary into question), but it is also clearly marked by the gender of the author. There is a...

  9. PART FOUR Concluding Voices

    • 11. In Defense of Ambiguity
      (pp. 253-265)
      Susan Neiman

      I was asked not to write a scholarly paper for this conference, and fortunately or not, I’m in no position to do so. What I offer instead is a record of my ownZerrissenheit:of the fact that no day goes by without wondering whether my decision to leave Berlin four years ago was a terrible mistake. The seven years I spent there were the most intensely lived ones I’ve ever known. In November 1988, despite them, I packed what I owned and shipped it back to America, convinced that nothing resembling a sane Jewish life was possible on German...

    • 12. No Exit from This Jewry
      (pp. 266-282)
      Esther Dischereit

      My God, where are my shoes? Here’s one. There’s the other. And my keys? Shit Where are the keys?

      These are the opening lines of my playRed Shoes—which then continues:

      I hate parks. And these constantly smiling mothers with their strollers. I don’t want to see them anymore, these playground mothers with their sliced apples and sugarless tea bottles. I’ve got to get out of here. Out Look at me. I’m literally shaking with unhappiness. Can’t you see it? My hairs are bristling in this darkness. Everything looks dark to me. The daffodils disgust me. The red of...

  10. Index
    (pp. 283-290)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)