Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook XLVII (2002)

 

Preface by John Grenville and Raphael Gross

 

I. JEWISH INTELLECTUAL RESPONSES TO TRADITION AND MODERNITY

 

ASTRID DEUBER-MANKOWSKY: Walter Benjamin’s Theological-Political Fragment as a Response to Ernst Bloch’s Spirit of Utopia

 

Taking Jacob Taubes’ polemical essay “Walter Benjamin – a modern Marcionite?” as a starting point, this article aims to clarify the differences between Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin. These mainly lie in Benjamin’s concept of the nature of “desire”, which, unlike Bloch’s concept of “hope”, is never thought of as aimed at a “concrete utopia” and always remains in the realm of illusion: a realm that, however, is both unavoidable for and constitutive of a thinking about history. Unlike Bloch, Benjamin stays with a cognitively grounded idea of criticism. This leads him to a critical engagement with the philosophy of Hermann Cohen. Relating his own philosophy to Cohen’s critical idealism enables Benjamin to develop a philosophical criticism congruent neither with Marxist dialectics nor with the Jewish mysticism explored by Scholem. Beyond this, Cohen’s combination of critical philosophy and Jewish thought furnishes Benjamin with a self-definition as a Jewish thinker at some distance both from Taubes’ view of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity and from the general understanding of Judaism argued for by Rosenzweig and Buber.

 

LOUISE HECHT: “How the power of thought can develop within a human mind.” Salomon Maimon, Peter Beer, Lazarus Bendavid: Autobiographies of Maskilim Written in German

 

The article analyses the autobiographies of the German speaking maskilim Salomon Maimon, Peter Beer, and Lazarus Bendavid. Its aim is twofold: on the one hand to point out similarities between these autobiographies and fit them into the literary context of German autobiography around 1800; on the other hand to explore the ways in which these particular maskilim dealt with Jews and Judaism. With regard to the autobiographies’ contents, it seems remarkable that politics and general history are strikingly absent from these texts. In confining themselves to a Jewish frame of reference, the maskilim are thus returning to the very ghetto from which they yearned to escape.

 

II. THE JEWISH ALLTAG IN THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD

 

ROBERT LIBERLES: Introduction

 

RACHEL L. GREENBLATT: The Shapes of Memory: Evidence in stone from the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

 

During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the space known today as “The Old Jewish Cemetery in Pragu” was one of the places in which the city’s Jews lived their daily lives. This article seeks to characterise those aspects of Jewish life in Prague that took place in the cemetery by suggesting a categorisation of various types of gravestone inscriptions, and by considering the stones’ changing shapes and graphic forms. In this context, it examines the relationships between the living and the dead, and the ways the living remembered the dead, during this period of Jewish life in Prague.

 

AVRIEL BAR-LEVAV: Ritualisation of Jewish Life and Death in the Early Modern Period

 

This paper examines the process, termed here ‹ritualisation of life›, in early modern Jewish society and analyses the new customs relating to death and dying that appeared in this period. It also focuses on ques-tions of “beginning” and “threshold” in the acceptance of new rituals (terms borrowed in this context from the Dutch historian of literature Gert-Jan Johannes). The suggested explanations emphasize the social and cultural needs of the widening circle of Jewish readers, much enlarged due to the development of printing in Hebrew and Yiddish, and the sense of crisis in Jewish traditional society.

 

STEFAN LITT: Conversions to Christianity and Jewish Family Life in Thuringia: Case Studies in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

 

The central-German region of Thuringia included only a few Jewish settlements during the early modern period. Many of these were small and isolated from other Jewish centres. This article shows conversions to Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as a phenomenon that can be seen as a certain expression of an acculturation to the majority Protestant-Lutheran denomination in its homeland. Here, three cases are presented that give better insight into the phenomenon, particularly regarding the fate of the converts’ families.

 

DAVID WARREN SABEAN: Kinship and Prohibited Marriages in Baroque Germany: Divergent Strategies among Jewish and Christian Populations

 

This article deals with different ways Jews and Christians in seventeenth-century Germany interpreted the Leviticus prohibitions against incest. Throughout Europe in both Protestant and Catholic countries, canon or ecclesiastical law forbade marriage with the deceased wife’s sister. Conflicts over this issue led, for example, in the 1590s to the exile of the Jewish population of Hildesheim, a case that was cited frequently over the next 150 years. The argument of the article is that incest discourse should be understood, at least in part, in the context of kinship and the circuits of exchange between allied families. Beginning in the eighteenth century, Christian populations with the support of the state adopted forms of marital alliance previously practised by Jews and considered by the former to be incestuous.

 

KENNETH STOW: Neofiti and Their Families: or, perhaps, the Good of the State

 

To be a neofita, a convert, has been called a profession. Neofiti were never allowed to forget their past, and their status deteriorated. In the Papal State, neofiti received financial aid by having parents give neofiti children inheritances during the parents’ lifetimes. In the case of minors, a Church-appointed guardian had these funds invested in luoghi di monti (public bonds), including in the Monte di pietà poor loan fund, which meant that monies earned in many cases from lending, and thus illegal by Church standards, were being invested in a Church fund. As occurred so often in the Papal State, the Church was privileging its material needs over spiritual ones. The Jews in general lost out because the Church had intervened on a personal level in matters like inheritance, where it normally did not tread – which in itself was also a sign of incipient modernity.

 

III. JEWISH LIFE IN AUSTRIA

 

EVYATAR FRIESEL: The Oesterreichisches Central-Organ, Vienna 1848: A Radical Jewish Periodical

 

The gradual development of the Jewish press in nineteenth century Western and Central Europe was one of the expressions of the growing adaptation of Jewish society to the general environment and its cultural ways. One interesting example of the Jewish press was the Oesterreichisches Central-Organ, published in Vienna during the months of the 1848 revolution. The periodical published original ideas regarding topics such as social tensions in the Jewish community, Jewish self-awareness, and connections of the Jews to their general environment. At some point, the Central-Organ adopted Jewish emigration to the United States as a major theme.

 

RICHARD HACKEN: The Jewish Community Library in Vienna: From Dispersion and Destruction to Partial Restoration

 

Analogous to the scattering and destruction of Viennese Jews during the Second World War were the scattering and destruction of their cultural treasures, including books. This article documents the fate of the rich research collections of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (Jewish Community of Vienna). The first two sections of the article outline the pre-1938 acquisition and growth of priceless holdings, the third details – within the context of a competitive Nazi bureaucracy – the dispersion and destruction of the volumes while the final two sections trace the various paths by which some books returned to Vienna under very different postwar circumstances.

 

IV. JEWISH ORGANISATIONS BETWEEN ADVOCACY AND ACCOMMODATION

 

VIRGINIA IRIS HOLMES: Integrating Diversity, Reconciling Contradiction: The Jüdischer Friedensbund in Late Weimar Germany

 

This article shows that the short-lived German Jewish pacifist organisation, the Jüdischer Friedensbund (1929–1933), integrated the prominent figures and philosophies of both Jewish liberalism and Zionism in pursuit of a common goal, the Friedensidee (peace idea), which members saw as grounded in their Judaism. It discusses the pacifist Weltanschauungen of prominent Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Leo Baeck, Albert Einstein, Oscar Wassermann, Alfred Nossig, Alfred Klee, Heinrich Stern, Ernestine Eschelbacher, Alfred Goldschmidt, and Rabbi Felix Goldmann. It also addresses the workings of gender, antisemitism, and relations between East European and native German Jews.

 

JAY HOWARD GELLER: Representing Jewry in East Germany, 1945-1953: Between Advocacy and Accommodation

 

After 1945, Jews in eastern Germany organised religious communities and a central representative association (the Landesverband der Jüdischen Gemeinden). Despite communist obstructionism and antisemitism, the Landesverband, under the leadership of Jewish Communist Julius Meyer, was able to gain support for Jewish needs. However, Meyer’s political activity drew the ire of the ruling Communist party, which predicated its claim to power on its heritage of persecution under the Nazis; and Jewish claims to a legacy of even greater victimhood threatened the party. After the formation of the East German state in 1949, the Landesverband maintained a close relationship with non-communist governmental officials, who were among the few real allies the Jews had within the official administration. In 1953, the Communists eliminated the Landesverband’s independence and placed it under considerable governmental supervision.

 

V. MEMOIRS

 

EDUARD BLOCH: The Autobiography of Obermedizinalrat Eduard Bloch

 

Dr. med. Eduard Bloch, the Jewish physician of the Hitler family in Linz, Austria, discusses his personal background, his treatment of Hitler’s cancer-stricken mother, and his impressions of the young Hitler. In recognition of his care of Hitler’s mother, Bloch was shown some considerations by the Nazis and was exempted from most of the restrictions imposed on Austrian Jews. He describes his efforts to aid other Jews in Linz and his various negotiations with the Linz Gestapo chiefs. The memoir concludes with an account of his emigration in 1938 and of the difficulties in adjusting to life in the United States.

 

DIETER FRANCK: Youth Protest in Nazi Germany

 

In 1933 German television producer and historian Dieter Franck was a boy of seven, the son of an ordinary Gentile German family. He describes various childhood experiences which made him detest Hitler. In 1943, aged seventeen, Franck and some of his friends began to clandestinely write and distribute handbills exposing Nazi crimes, especially the persecution of the Jews. They reveal how astonishingly much of the truth these young men managed to find out. Six of the handbills are reproduced in the article. In April 1945 the Gestapo finally caught up with the youngsters, but they were saved by the general chaos – Franck ironically by becoming a PoW in a French internment camp until recruted to ‹reeducate› his fellow prisoners.

 

VI. BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR 2001

 

VII. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

 

VIII. INDEX

 

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