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‘Coming Out’ as Jewish in Weimar Germany

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Kerry Wallach

In the 1920s and early 1930s – as today – Jews in Germany were concerned about growing anti-Semitism, and many took precautions to conceal their Jewishness by dressing and behaving in certain ‘assimilated’ ways. Yet there were still occasions when it was beneficial to be openly Jewish. This lecture explores the tensions that came with being visible as a Jew – an identity play that often involved appearing simultaneously non-Jewish and Jewish. Drawing on a wide range of images and films, this presentation explores controversial aspects of German Jewish visibility and invisibility, as well as the complex reasons why Jews chose to appear distinctly ‘Jewish’.

Kerry Wallach is Associate Professor and Chair of German Studies and an Affiliate of the Judaic Studies Program at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Passing Illusions: Jewish Visibility in Weimar Germany (2017) and a number of articles on German-Jewish literature, history, film, and visual and consumer culture. She serves as co-editor for the German Jewish Cultures book series published by Indiana University Press and sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute London.