Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook XLVIII (2003)

 

Preface by John Grenville and Raphael Gross

 

I. RELIGIOUS RENEWAL

 

EDWARD BREUER AND DAVID SORKIN: Moses Mendelssohn’s First Hebrew Publication: An annotated Translation of the Kohelet Mussar

 

This is the first translation into English of Moses Mendelssohn’s first Hebrew work, the Kohelet Mussar or Preacher of Morals, published sometime in the 1750s. The translation comes with annotations and an introduction. While scholars can agree on little about this obscure work, the text shows an attempt to create a journal in Hebrew that could merge philosophical categories (Wolff ) with ideas drawn from Hebrew texts (ranging from the Bible to the 17th century), to address questions of metaphysics, aesthetics and language.

 

ANDREAS BRÄMER: The Dialectics of Religious Reform: The Hamburger Israelische Tempel in Its Local Context 1817-1938

 

German Reform Judaism established its first firm base in Hamburg, where, from 1818 onwards, the Neuer Israelitischer Tempelverein attempted to create new varieties of religious observance reflecting its members’ middle-class way of life. The Tempelverein was more concerned with matters of religious practice than with providing a theoretical foundation for its reforms. It underwent a somewhat changeable history, the twentieth century seeing a gradual return to older traditions of German Judaism. The Tempelverein’s existence was cut short 120 years after its foundation: after the November 1938 pogrom no further religious services were allowed.

 

II. JEWISH SOCIAL LIFE. ANTISEMITISM AND JEWISH REACTIONS IN IMPERIAL GERMANY AND DURING THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC

 

MARION KAPLAN: Unter uns: Jews Socialising with other Jews in Imperial Germany

 

Jews bridged two worlds. They maintained intense relationships with their Jewish families, friends, and communities, while interacting with non-Jewish Germans as well. This essay explores the inner, Jewish world of sociability. Just a s Catholics related almost exclusively to other Catholics and Protestants to other Protestants, relationships with other Jews took up the bulk of Jewish social life. Jews remained deeply enmeshed in their extended families. Families gave crucial emotional and material support. Jews also showed a staunch allegiance to their religious and ethnic communities. Whereas the synagogue provided a community for those who attended, most Jews also maintained other kinds of personal relationships and more formal, secular affiliations with other Jews. This broad range of contacts enriched Jewish social life.

 

CHRISTOPHER JAHR: Ahlwardt on Trial: Reactions to the Antisemitic Agitation of the 1890s in Germany

 

This article examines how the Imperial German state dealt with antisemitism in the arena of the courts and, in turn, how this was evaluated by the various political factions. The predominant motive for the state was to combat an alleged challenge of state authority, not to protect the Jews against antisemitism. Even further, judicial prosecution of “rowdy antisemitism” had had the consequence of making “moderate antisemitism” appear legal, and therefore potentially legitimate. In the public debates many judicial, party-strategic, and political factors played a role generating surprising political alliances. But once again the wish to fight the malicious antisemitic agitation was not the decisive factor for most contemporary observers. Therefore no political consensus against antisemitism was attained.

 

JÜRGEN MATTHÄUS: Tagesordnung: Judenfrage – A German Debate in the Early Stages of the Weimar Republic

 

On 31 March 1919, at the German Foreign Office in Berlin, a meeting was held to discuss “Jewish questions” as a prelude to further debates in preparation for the Versailles peace conference. The meeting was attended by high-ranking German politicians, bureaucrats, and representatives of Jewish organisations, among them Walter Simons, Moritz Sobernheim, Eugen Fuchs, Richard Lichtheim, James Simon, and Walther Rathenau. The synopsis of the Besprechung printed in this volume highlights the war-time experiences and post-war hopes of organised German Jewry at this crucial point in time. As can be seen from the discussion, in the “new Germany”– despite official statements to the contrary – the prejudices of the past prevailed. Jewish attempts at a rapprochement clashed with the eagerness of the ministerial bureaucracy to perpetuate positions that had driven the Kaiserreich’s attitude towards the Judenfrage, an eagerness that would facilitate unprecedented anti-Jewish measures in the future.

 

ANAT FEINBERG: Leopold Jessner: German Theatre and Jewish Identity

 

Along with Otto Brahm and Max Reinhardt, Leopold Jessner (1878–1945) is the most significant Jewish contributor to the modernisation of the German theatre. Appointed general director of the Staatstheater in Berlin in 1919, he gained fame through his impressive, Expressionist productions and his concept of Zeittheater while at the same time facing repeated personal attacks laced with nationalistic and antisemitic slander. The article explores Jessner’s life as a German and a Jew, reviewing his conviction that a German-Jewish synthesis was possible and desirable, tracing his professional development and examining his changing attitudes to Jewishness during his years in Germany and later in exile.

 

CHRISTIAN SCHÖLZEL: Fritz Rathenau (1875-1949). On Antisemitism, Acculturation and Slavophobia: An Attempted Reconstruction

 

This essay offers a short biography of the German-Jewish judge and civil servant Fritz Rathenau (1875– 1949) and examines the paradigmatic character of his life. Rathenau, who became a leading official in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior during the Weimar Republic, adopted a concept of acculturation that he defined in contradistinction to the “East”, which he viewed in a stereotypically negative light. This approach turned out to be unsuccessful, since the positive results of acculturation Fritz Rathenau had hoped for failed to appear. Instead, daily antisemitism persisted, and then gradually intensified after 1933. In reaction to this development, Rathenau moved his idea of Jewishness in a Zionist direction. The facts of his later life appear to confirm his disillusion with his earlier views: he was forced to emigrate to the Netherlands, from where he was deported to Theresienstadt. He survived that concentration camp, returning at the end of the war to the Netherlands, where he died in 1949.

 

III. SHATTERED HOPES UNDER NATIONAL SOCIALISM

 

GUY MIRON: Emancipation and Assimilation in the German-Jewish Discourse of the 1930s

 

This article deals with the representations of the concepts “emancipation” and “assimilation” in the German Jewish discourse of the 1930s. It shows how speakers of the main political and religious camps within German Jewry – the liberals, the Zionists and the Orthodox – interpreted these concepts, recreated related concepts like “re-emancipation” or “natural assimilation”, and used historical images from German Jewish history as part of their struggle to understand and explain the meaning of contemporary upheavals to their readers. Based mostly on Jewish newspapers and periodicals, the article illuminates the development of German-Jewish self-perceptions during the time of the collapse of both assimilation and emancipation.

 

ADAM J. SACKS: Kust Singer’s Shattered Hopes

 

This essay considers the aims and ideals of Kurt Singer, the founder and director of the Jüdischer Kulturbund. Singer moved his organisation beyond its primary function of aiding German-Jewish artists and cultural figures in the emergency situation created by the Nazis. Rather, the Kulturbund soon came to represent the hopes for a new and viable cultural movement – one that Singer eventually saw as the basis for continuing German-Jewish culture outside Nazi Germany. Singer’s effort to transplant the Kulturbund first to Palestine and then to the United States thus raises the question of how German-Jewish culture in emigration might have evolved. The central focus of the article are two letters written by Singer when he returned to Europe from New York shortly after Germany’s nation-wide pogrom in November 1938. In these letters – one addressed to the Reichskulturwalter, the other to the members of the managing committee of the Kulturbund – Singer reveals a keen awareness of the perils facing Jews in Germany.

 

STEFANIE SCHÜLER-SPRINGORUM: Hans Litten 1903-2003: The Public Use of a Biography

 

This article explores the public use of the biography of Hans Litten (1903–2003). Since his early and violent death in Dachau concentration camp in 1938, many different aspects of Litten’s personality – the activist who was strongly influenced by the youth movement, the committed lawyer, the upright concentration camp inmate – have attracted renewed attention for various reasons. Therefore the reception-history of Hans Litten’s biography can be read as an example of how memory is influenced by different interests, how it is instrumentalised for political purposes, and how members of successive generations use it to express their need for identification.

 

IV. YAD VASHEM AND THE GERMAN “RIGHTEOUS”

 

DANIEL FRAENKEL: The German “Righteous Among the Nations”: An Hisorical Appraisal

 

This article sets out to sketch a historically grounded picture of Germans who rescued Jews during the Holocaust based on a review of representative files in Yad Vashem. One may ask: what motivated the German “Righteous Among the Nations”? What made them behave so wholly differently from the vast majority of their compatriots? While arguing that the search for a single, overarching explanation is misconceived and rejecting the tendency to idealise or sanctify the rescuers, the article aims to provide a sense of both the range and singularity of German Holocaust rescuers by analysing them under four categories: (1) personally-motivated rescuers; (2) principled rescuers; (3) last-minute rescuers; (4) soldiers and army entrepreneurs in the occupied countries.

 

V. BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR 2002

 

VII. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

 

VII. INDEX

 

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