Germans and Jews since the Holocaust: The Changing Situation in West Germany

Germans and Jews since the Holocaust: The Changing Situation in West Germany

Germans and Jews since the Holocaust: The Changing Situation in West Germany

Germans and Jews since the Holocaust: The Changing Situation in West Germany

Excerpt

It is a commonplace that historical events force us constantly to reevaluate the past. But the impact of the Holocaust on the history of European culture, and on Jewish history specifically, has been so profound that it almost defies conceptualization. To invoke the Holocaust as an explanation is almost to have recourse to myth rather than to history. Overnight, as it were, the entire history of the Jews and their place in European culture had to be rewritten. This reconsideration of the place of the Jews in the history of Europe has been a central preoccupation of historians and philosophers since 1945. This book, since it focuses on the relationship between Germans and Jews after 1945, is necessarily part of that process. But at the same time it provides testimony to the difficulties of the undertaking. Instead of clarifying the relationship between the Germans and the Jews, the Holocaust has only sharpened our recognition of its complexity and opacity. To discuss the problem of Jewish identity and self- consciousness in the post-Holocaust age is to unravel the contradictions and vicissitudes of Jewish existence without arriving at a predictable destination.

Especially the post-Enlightenment German-Jewish tradition that produced the great cultural and intellectual achievements of the Wilhelminian and Weimar epochs was called into question. It is now almost two decades since the great scholar Gershom Scholem pronounced his verdict on the Jewish-German "symbiosis": "The love affair of the Jews and the Germans . . .

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