Academic journal article Christianity and Literature

Elective Divinities: Exile and Religious Conversion in Alfred Doblin's Schicksalsreise (Destiny's Journey), Karl Jakob Hirsch's Heimkehr Zu Gott (Return to God), and Karl Sterns the Pillar of Fire

Academic journal article Christianity and Literature

Elective Divinities: Exile and Religious Conversion in Alfred Doblin's Schicksalsreise (Destiny's Journey), Karl Jakob Hirsch's Heimkehr Zu Gott (Return to God), and Karl Sterns the Pillar of Fire

Article excerpt

But paradise is sealed and the cherub stands behind us; we must make the journey around the world and see if it is open somewhere from behind ...

--Heinrich von Kleist, On the Marionette Theater (342) (1)

While escaping from the advancing German army in 1940 and trying to find his family in the south of France, the exiled German author and psychologist Alfred Doblin (1878-1957) had a powerful religious experience that eventually led to his conversion from Judaism to Christianity in 1941. At his own sixty-fifth birthday party in California in 1943, Doblin announced to a group of his fellow exiles and friends that he had been baptized and become a member of the Catholic Church (Emde 15). Although Doblin considered his conversion to be an integral part of his intellectual and artistic progression, his announcement earned him the scorn of his fellow artists in exile. Bertolt Brecht memorialized the announcement in his vindictive poem "Peinlicher Vorfall" ("Embarrassing Incident") by painting a snide picture of Doblin decked out in a "moth-eaten priest's hat" and "defiling the platform that belongs to the artists" (Brecht 91). (2) A devout convert could not possibly be at the same time a serious artist and intellectual, only a ridiculous caricature.

Doblin's announcement of his conversion separated him from the secular political movements championed by many of his fellow exiled intellectuals. This secularism was so integral to the projects of the most influential members of the exile community that, as Wolfgang Fruhwald puts it, "every step from the path of this ideal was seen as betrayal and was subsequently stigmatized" (240). (3) Criticized by Jewish Nationalists and Marxists (Fruhwald 240-41, Emde 15-17, Muller-Salget 153-54) and scrutinized by their North American hosts, (4) Doblin and other emigres who converted to another religion (5) followed a conviction that exile was best explained and experienced in tandem with a deeply personal spiritual quest. Those whose quests led to conversion from Judaism to Christianity not only provoked their secular colleagues in exile, they purposefully withdrew themselves from a religious and cultural community that was reeling from the incomprehensible scope and brutality of the Holocaust. These individual conversions had enormous ramifications for the larger group of traumatized and crisis-weary European exiles: How could the converts appropriately address the political, aesthetical and ethical dilemmas caused by their highly personal spiritual experiences?

In this article, I will investigate three conversion narratives written by Jewish intellectuals who converted to Christianity while in exile in North America: Alfred Doblin's Schicksalsreise: Bericht und Bekenntnis (published in English as Destiny's Journey: Flight from the Nazis), Karl Jakob Hirsch's Heimkehr zu Gott: Briefe an meinen Sohn ("Returning Home to God: Letters To My Son"), and Karl Stern's The Pillar of Fire. The authors of these texts, I will demonstrate, use their conversion narratives to infuse their own brand of spirituality into the aesthetic and political doctrines that surround them. In order to do so, Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern employ similar strategies to minimize the potential ethical problems of their conversions. By portraying their processes of Christianization as a natural outgrowth of the suffering of the exile experience or from their spiritual rediscoveries of Judaism, these authors attempt to create an ethically unencumbered viewpoint from which to criticize the secularized aesthetics of the European exile community.

After Hitler seized political power in 1933, many German and Austrian artists, writers and intellectuals were forced to seek refuge in other countries. (6) In spite of their common situation and common enemy, those driven into exile represented a diverse collection of different political and aesthetic ideologies. (7) The situations and locations of those in exile also varied greatly, from relative economic comfort to intense poverty and political insecurity (Moore). As Alexander Stephan has argued, although the literature produced by German-speaking authors in exile was very diverse, many authors followed a tendency away from formal experimentation and toward a highly politicized concept of literature (Exilliteratur 216). The most salient and meaningful aesthetic debates among exiled authors--such as the so-called "Expressionism Debate" of the late thirties--were dominated by proponents of competing aesthetic theories of Marxism, including Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Georg Lukacs, and Ernst Bloch (160) While the different artistic movements and manifestos of the inter-war period propagated a colorful plurality of "isms," the exile community came to be classified into the categories of "Marxist" and "Bourgeois" authors (166), those who took part in the dominant political projects and those who were seen as "escaping" into other topics and methods (177). Bettina Englmann has demonstrated that those exiled authors that were politically ambiguous or disengaged were treated pejoratively by their peers, and their works have been marginalized in the subsequent critical reception of exile literature (2). Even very recent scholarship has focused on the sociopolitical potential of the works, ignoring other literary aspects (3).

German-speaking artists in exile produced hundreds of autobiographical texts in which they explored their personal experiences of alienation, fear, and escape (Stephan, Exilliteratur 164). The literary treatment of these experiences served many different aesthetic and political purposes in the exile community. Many autobiographical works written in exile--such as Ernst Toller's 1933 text Eine Jugend in Deutschland ("My Youth in Germany"), Johannes R. Becher's 1940 text Abschied ("Farewell"), and Ludwig Renn's 1944 text Adel im Untergang ("The Decline of Nobility")--describe a teleological progression from a bourgeois childhood through the different stages of modernization and political maturity (Exilliteratur 167). The texts thus function as a political criticism of the childish bourgeois culture that each author outgrew and transcended.

Although the memoirs by Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern being considered in this article belong formally to the genre of exile autobiography, they document a kind of personal experience that digresses sharply from the personal writings of other emigres. Doblin's Schicksalsreise: Bericht und Bekenntnis ("Destiny's Journey: Account and Confession") was published in 1949. The text includes the story of Doblin's escape from his home in St. Germain by Paris as the German armies were advancing across France. In the text, Doblin focuses upon his trials as he tries to reunite with his family and then to emigrate to the United States. Though Doblin wrote a great number of religious texts, Schicksalsreise stands out among them as a contextualization and explanation of his own religious conversion. The countless daily banalities, fears, and narrow escapes of his exile experience are centered on his spiritual quest for meaning and identity:

   It was not a journey from one French locale to another, but a
   journey between heaven and earth. On this trip, from the beginning
   to the end (is it over?) 'I' was traveling. But the traveler was no
   ordinary passenger with his ticket. The journey progressed at me,
   with me and over me at the same time. Only because it happened that
   way am I taking on the task of describing this trip, these
   circumstances" (8) (Schicksalsreise 150).

Thus, the whole purpose of the book is not to describe the workings of fate on Doblin's journey of escape from the Nazis but to describe the way that his trip served as a catalyst for a fundamental personal change. The historical events serve merely as a context for the story of Doblin's conversion.

Two other texts by exiled German writers resonate closely with the historical contextualization of conversion found in Doblin's Schicksalsreise. Artist, author, and set designer Karl Jakob Hirsch (1892-1952) left Germany in 1933, first going to Denmark and then in 1934 to Switzerland. In 1936 he left Europe and settled in New York City. While in New York he converted to Protestantism and was baptized in 1945 ("Karl Jakob Hirsch"). Hirsch wrote Heimkehr zu Gott, Briefe an meinen Sohn during that year, and the book was published in Munich in 1946 (Pfanner "Karl Jakob Hirsch" 207-08). The text is markedly different from the author's other autobiographical writings, (9) for in this work he concentrates on the way that his artistic and intellectual development acts as a precursor to his religious conversion. Karl Stern (1906-1975) studied medicine at the Universities of Munich, Berlin, and Frankfurt and worked after 1930 as an intern in the neurological department of the Moabit hospital in Berlin. In 1936 he left Germany for London, and in 1939 he and his wife and infant son traveled to Montreal, Canada. Stern was baptized there and accepted into the Catholic Church on December 21, 1943 (Hoehn 549-50, "Karl Stern"). Sterns book The Pillar of Fire appeared in 1951 in English and in 1955 in German with the title Die Feuerwolke. In his text, Stern carefully considers the unique historical background that influenced his aesthetic, intellectual and religious upbringing, and shows how all of these influences led him to embrace Christianity.

As personal narratives of conversions to Catholicism, two of the texts--Schicksalsreise and The Pillar of Fire--belong to a long-established genre of the Apologia pro vita sua. In his collection, Catholic Authors, Matthew Hoehn uses Stern's The Pillar of Fire to define and explain the genre:

   When one becomes a Catholic, the event is greeted with surprise by
   a few non-Catholic friends and sometimes with hostility. To clear
   away the misunderstanding, converts often write their Apologia pro
   vita sua. When Karl Stern informed a girl he had known in Germany
   in 1932 and met again in America in 1946 that he had become a
   Catholic, she said simply and shortly "Oh!" It is this "Oh" that
   prompted Karl Stern to write his book, The Pillar of Fire. (548)

The classic Apologia pro vita sua serves as an apologetic text; it defends and explains the Catholic religion and the spiritual path of the convert ("Apologetics"). German-language Catholic literature contains a rich heritage of so-called Convertitenbilder ("Convert sketches") from throughout the centuries. (10) The years preceding and following the Second World War saw the production of many different collections of such Convertitenbilder (Eberle), including accounts from converts of different religious backgrounds including Judaism (Levy "Synagoge"). In American Catholic literature of the early twentieth century, much attention was given to Jews who converted to Catholicism. (11) The wartime conversion of the head Rabbi of Rome caused a further interest in the phenomenon. (12) Although Hirsch's Heimkehr zu Gott culminates in his conversion to Protestant Christianity, the structure and tone of his narrative does not deviate markedly from the form of the Catholic Apologia pro vita sua. The text of Heimkehr zu Gott does not focus upon the doctrinal distinctions between Christian sects but on the author's interactions with a monolithic version of Christianity. One of Hirsch's breakthrough moments in his conversion, in fact, happened while he was watching a film version of fellow exile Franz Werfel's Song of Bernadette, a text that portrays a specifically Catholic religious experience (Heimkehr 157-58).

Though unified in generic terms with other Convertitenbilder, the conversion accounts by Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern resonate much more closely with the undisputed pinnacle of the genre, John Henry Newman's 1864 Apologia Pro Vita Sua. In this work, Newman not only tells the story of his conversion but strives to create a voice of dissent against the secularizing tendencies of European Culture. As Gauri Viswanathan explains, conversion and the literature surrounding conversion, in some cases, have the potential to facilitate the breakdown of the modern western tendency toward secularization by becoming a "subversion of secular power" (3). Viswanathan points to Newman as an example of such a subversion because of Newman's attempts to recover belief from its limitations as a personal phenomenon and to restore it to its place as a critical, public, and world-changing praxis (53).

In his Apologia Pro Vita Sua and elsewhere, Newman places his conversion into the context of an increasing secularization of European society and government. Such a conversion, as Viswanathan explains, is not only a submission to a higher power, but also a powerful locus of criticism:

   In its most transparent meaning as a change of religion, conversion
   is arguably one of the most unsettling political events in the life
   of a society ... With the departure of members from the fold, the
   cohesion of a community is under threat just as forcefully as if
   its beliefs had been turned into heresies. (xi)

If converts can bring the stories and contexts of their conversions out of the marginalized realm of personal belief, they have the potential to draw attention to the secular movement's own great heresies: the loss of the central core of spirituality that it eschewed in its own politicization. Viswanathan explains that genre of "searches for truth" are unacceptable to a secular society, for it (re-)creates a moral category that could undermine its own moral codes:

   In a disestablished society where "truth" is no longer a function
   of belief but of what is amenable to codification, proof and
   administration, the potential of private judgment to act upon a
   world enveloped and defined by public doctrine is minimized, even
   marginalized. (47)

The story of conversion--as a subjective reappropriation of the secularized "search for truth"--thus underlines and criticizes the claim of secular aesthetics to be the absolute arbiter of truth. It creates an alternate, heretical literature, creating the possibility of a literary heterodoxy that has the tools to address the spiritual dimension of the modern human subject.

In the face of the rising influence of National Socialism and through the experiences of emigration, Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern found themselves increasingly alienated from their pursuit of spirituality by the increased political polarization and secularization of European aesthetic and political movements. In the texts describing their conversions, these authors follow Newman's precedent as they create "heretical" narratives that criticize the dogmatic secularism and politicization of the exile community and to restore a spiritual heterodoxy to the literature in exile. Helmut Pfanner describes the dilemma of the assimilated Jew, who, in his words:

   considering the societal and political anti-Semitism in his
   homeland, had to choose between a re-establishing of ethnic ties
   (in the sense of Zionism) and a life in a Diaspora that was fleeing
   German nationalism but was not putting roots down anywhere else,
   ("KJH" 204) (13)

Whereas many emigres experienced an intense personal and communal connection to Marxism or Jewish Nationalism during exile, Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern found these ideologies problematic, incomplete or antithetical to their own personal convictions. Though banished from Brecht's "platform that belongs to the artist," each of these authors considers his conversion to be a very important step in his aesthetic and political development, not as reactionary zealots, but as artists and intellectuals whose conversion experiences deepen their understanding of literature, anti-fascism, and the problems of national and personal identity.

During his time in French and American exile, Doblin resists the politicizing tendencies of the aesthetic discourses of his fellow exiled intellectuals. He felt strongly that literature should not only be used as a politicizing of art, which he called a "short-circuit into politics." (14) Instead, an artist in exile,--above all other artists--had the potential of becoming a "helper, defender, fighter and warrior of humanity" (15) (Kleinschmidt 51). Exile literature should, he felt, aid in the freedom of individuality from all political and national agendas as it makes possible "the configuration, the formation, indeed the conscious placement of the subject, the 'I' in the face of reality" (16) (Kleinschmidt 53). The challenge of exile literature, in Doblin's opinion, involved the representation and theorization of subjective experience, a problem that was a central project of literature in the twentieth century. Such a literature would enable the individual to personalize the political and to free the power of personal experience from the margins of a politicized society: "I recognize that which happens in the world as my own concern, and my concerns are of consequence to the world" (17) (Kleinschmidt 54). The frightful and disorienting experiences of escape and exile, like other interactions with modernity, call for an art that can reflect an embattled, fragmented, and multivalent image of the self (Robertson).

Faced with the images that surrounded him on his flight from the Nazis, Doblin struggles for language to describe a self in crisis: "I cannot remember ever at any time in my life being less 'I.' I was neither 'I' in my actions, nor did I have the same way of thinking and feeling" (18) (Schicksalsreise 116). Alienated from his own context, living a jarring, discontinuous existence, he gradually became aware of elements of himself that he had long overlooked. Knowing the rejection that lay in wait for his new-found sensitivities, Doblin creates a layered version of himself that obscures his emerging spiritual self:

   I had to open a secret door and enter into a still room that
   belonged only to me, I had to close the door behind me, and now I
   was all alone. Something healing began to happen, accompanied by
   excitement and tension, and I was often filled with intoxication
   and joy. A silent process behind closed doors." (19)
   (Schicksalsreise 213)

This inner exile was not in response to an outside political threat, but from the lack of any forum for the expression of spiritual feelings within the context of the aesthetic discourses that surrounded him.

After being displaced by rise of the Nazis and by the political polarization in Germany, Hirsch also found himself once more displaced by the polarization and dissension of the exile community. He describes this polarization: "When the emigration of 1933 reached America, Jewish emigres entered the country who, for the first time, had very little connection to religion ... Because of the horrific anti-Semitism in Europe, their relationship with Judaism was forced in racial/nationalistic directions" (20) (154).

Hirsch found joy in the success of his own anti-fascist efforts, but he still remained dissatisfied with the movements in the exile community, sensing that there was some kind of hole in his inner being that could not be filled through art and politics. Throughout his career, Hirsch experienced a series of withdrawals as an attempt to understand and express his dissatisfaction with the movements around him. Withdrawing from his family and from fellow artists, Hirsch went deep within himself, developing "the ability to lead a life of appearances, which one so often mistakes for true reality" (21) (26). He escaped into a kind of interior exile but felt that even this was not his innermost space--that was, he felt, reserved for a hidden, lost self with whom the artist, set-designer, and author Hirsch had little or no contact. It was only through coming to understand the spiritual nature of his lost self that Hirsch finally addressed his real needs and felt whole as a subject (190).

In the introduction to Heimkehr zu Gott, Hirsch explains to his son the importance of his title: "I write these letters to you so that you can see how your father lived, how he sought the right path, often lost his way, and still returned home to God" (22) (9). The word "Heimkehr" (coming home) connotes having left a home and then returned, not an Abkehr (turning away), as is often understood as a part of the word Bekehrung (conversion), but a turning back to the spiritual core from childhood. Being saved, Hirsch posits, is not a political question but a spiritual one, the difference between "Rettung" (rescue) and "Erlosung (salvation): "If they should accuse me of trying to rescue myself from the fate of the Jews, then I must say, that I was not concerned with rescue, but in salvation" ("... Wenn sie mir vorwerfen sollten, dass ich mich vor dem Judenschicksal retten wollte, so muss ich sagen, dass es nicht um Rettung, sondern um Erlosung geht") (191). While many members of the various Jewish movements search for a "Rettung," a temporal salvation, Hirsch was drawn to Christianity as a fulfillment of the need for an "Erlosung," a spiritual salvation, that had been developed in his youth.

In his treatment of the politicizing and secularization of the exile community, Stern comes to the same conclusion as Doblin and Hirsch. He argues that the Zionist movement had used rationalism to empty Judaism of its deep religious significance. The ethics of Jewish spirituality were still in place, but they existed now merely as a shell that had been emptied of all historical and religious contexts:

   (The young Zionists) ... who in their lives showed extraordinary
   examples of self-sacrifice and of a profound sense of justice and
   charity did not realize that they themselves were actually living
   on the immense treasure of orthodoxy. The attempts, in the western
   world, to live on pure ethics deprived of all form are barely a
   hundred years old ... Orthodox Jewry has preserved Judaism
   unadulterated in its purest and richest form over thousands of
   years. Pure ethics is an artifact isolated by a purely rationalist,
   "modern" process from the huge organism of tradition. (Pillar

The secularization that Stern describes took its toll on each of the authors' affiliations with aesthetic and political movements of the exile community. Stern relies on a modern psychological view of the subject to explain his long estrangement from his spiritual self.

Stern sees his belief and interest in Christianity as something that he kept repressed, hidden even from himself: "I felt it to my innermost depth but I refused, somehow, to admit it in its fullness and in all its implications" (Pillar 156). As his conversion becomes more apparent to himself, he portrays himself as a subject aware of its own psychological fissures:

   There were times I doubted my sanity.... Here I was, one of my
   people in the middle of the most dreadful persecution we had ever
   suffered and like a faint shadow, the possibility arose of leaving
   this community of destiny. This seemed madness. It seemed madness
   the more since it was my natural urge to stay with those with whom
   I was born to suffer.... Perhaps this was a "build-up," carefully
   framed by my subconscious to camouflage an escape from Jewry.
   (Pillar 167)

The polyphonic voices that make up Sterns self--Jew, Christian, Psychologist--come into conflict with one another as he grapples with his decision to be baptized. Like Doblin and Hirsch, Stern wrote his conversion narrative as a means to restore a part of himself that had been excluded in the process of articulating his exile experience. Each of these authors describes a moment when he recognized that there was an important set of sensibilities that existed hidden within him, without a possibility of expression and without a connection to the aesthetics that surrounded him. The authors portray themselves as physically cut off from a homeland and marginalized by the secularization of the political movements in the exile community. Seeing himself as being exiled even from other exiles, each author states a strong case for his quest for a spiritual home.

While unified with Newmann's Apologia pro vita sua in the common cause against secularization, the conversion narratives by Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern have one important difference that affects the usefulness of their texts as representatives of a moral and spiritual project. While Newman was a convert from one Christian denomination to another, Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern undergo a conversion that is politically and ethically very problematic. The above quote by Stern does not only reveal the multivalent nature of his soul, it also directly addresses the "madness" of abandoning Judaism at the most horrific possible moment. By entertaining the possibility that his interest in Christianity could at some level have been a "camouflage" for his "escape from Jewry" Stern directly addresses the potential danger that he--and other converts--might perpetrate the atrocities that were being waged against the Jewish people. No matter how enlightened the convert or how well-written his or her autobiography, the topic of conversions from Judaism to Christianity--especially those which happen concurrently with the horrors of the Shoah--carries with it powerful resonances of racial and religious hegemony. In The Pillar of Fire, Stern reminds the reader of this danger by including a quote from Ricarda Huch:

   For the Jews to become converted to Christ means an extraordinary
   sacrifice. Not only ... must the individual die with Him in order
   to live; it is the whole people that must die with Him. By some
   mysterious twist of fate the Jews are the only people which cannot
   remain a people and be Christian at the same time. Christ extolled
   a double sacrifice from His people; not only the individual Adam
   has to die to be dissolved in Him, the group too has to be
   dissolved. (Pillar 169)

Both conversion and murder participate in the absolute annihilation of the Jewish people, figuratively and literally. Stern includes Huch's quote in order to address the ethical questions that permeate his narrative: is it possible that a conversion narrative can transcend the horrors of Christian interactions with Judaism?

In an attempt to recover their conversions from the hegemony that is historically associated with conversions from Judaism to Christianity, Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern rely on similar narrative strategies. First, all of them draw an idyllic picture of a childhood familial connection to Judaism. Next, the authors portray their own experiences with a cultural assimilation process that removed them from their Jewish roots and integrated them into the secular mainstream of European intellectual society. Finally, as each author breaks away from the typical trajectory of other exile autobiographies by addressing spiritual themes, he casts his conversion in the context of a safe space: Hirsch and Stern collapse their conversion to Christianity into their own Judaism, and Doblin connects his conversion to the deep suffering that he endured during his flight from the Nazis. The authors use these broader contexts to create a non-threatening idealized spirituality that transcends the potential ethical problems of conversion.

All three authors describe a paradisiacal moment of childhood, safe in Judaism, where they are exposed to a family culture that seeks spiritual fulfillment. Doblin came from a Jewish family where his parents celebrated holidays, and he learned a few basic lessons in his religious instruction, but he did not share his parents' devotion: "No feelings emerged because of it, no connection was made" (23) (Schicksalsreise 207). What does remain with him is a tender association of Judaism with the image of his own mother:

   She held one of her books in her hand and read it for a while,
   under her breath in Hebrew. Sometimes it was only a murmur. When I
   think of all things Jewish, I see this picture of my mother before
   me.... Thus my heart was bound to her, sitting quietly in her room,
   her book in her hand, praying. (24) (Schicksalsreise 207)

Doblin's own spirituality, while not ever formally taking part in Jewish religious beliefs or practices, still resonates with the image of his mother's piety.

Hirsch grew up in an orthodox Jewish home. As the great-grandson of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a founder of an Orthodox Jewish movement of the nineteenth century, Hirsch lived in a household where "Jewish piety was the purpose and content of our daily activities" (25) (11). Hirsch's famous progenitor had fought against the liberal reform movements of nineteenth-century Judaism, and even after his own estrangement from Judaism, Hirsch continues to find fault with the progressive Jewish movements in Germany, particularly Jewish Nationalism. He compares these movements to the idyllic spirituality he experienced in his own family:

   Being a good Jew means to be a person who is constantly filled with
   the consciousness of God. Worship did not only consist of visiting
   the synagogue, it was the daily, even hourly service of the servant
   of God. God's presence was in the smallest and most unseemly
   things, and for the pious Jew these things were sanctified by God.
   (26) (12)

Despite his later estrangement from Judaism, Hirsch feels that his early impressions of his family's piety deeply affected his own sense of spirituality. When he later writes his conversion narrative as a series of letters to his son, it recalls the form of his great- grandfather's book The Nineteen Letters of Ben Uzziel, an explanation of Judaism written in the 1830s.

Stern joins Doblin and Hirsch as he describes the deep resonances that remain from his experiences as a child in a Jewish family in a small town in Bavaria. He describes the visceral connection that he has to the spiritual world of his past:

   Instead of a synagogue the Jews in our small town had a prayer hall
   which was rented from a brewery ... even today whenever I enter a
   brewery, it all comes back: a certain mood, melodies, liturgical
   texts, Friday evening with its atmosphere of peace, the Psalms
   (Leho lerananu), and the beautiful hymn Leho dodi. (Pillar 17)

The beauty and deep emotion associated with Judaism are inextricably linked to Sterns memory of his family. The spirituality of childhood is portrayed as a lost paradise, a place of childlike wonder at the outward expressions of a family's faith.

At different times in the lives of the three authors, the connection to the faith of their childhood was changed or lost as they became involved in the worship of the German culture, filtered through the positions of their families in an assimilated Jewish bourgeoisie. Art, music, philosophy, and literature played a central role in the formation of each of their adolescent and early adult identities. From his earliest youth, Stern had a keen sense of the difference between his own relationship to spirituality and that of his parents. Although his grandfather (with whom he lived) was very careful to attend all of the important meetings in the prayer hall and to keep the Jewish laws as he understood them, he did not expect the same from his children and grandchildren:

   Whatever was a vital law to him was not at all binding to those who
   came after him. His own children lived in a world which consisted
   of a strange mixture of political liberalism, agnosticism,
   Lessing's religion of tolerance, Goethean, and even Nietzschean
   ideas. He seemed to regard it as a fundamental law of life that the
   generation of "enlightenment" must follow the generation of
   "religious tolerance." (Pillar 18)

Sterns bourgeois family felt a strong need to assimilate into the German culture, and for him, this meant that his canonical readings included works by figures from the German cultural pantheon. Such a cultural indoctrination was a central part of the process of cultural assimilation for German Jews.

While Sterns family precipitated his growing reverence for the German culture, Hirsch explains that the gradual loss of his connection to his family's spirituality started through uninspired and pedantic religious instruction at school: "I wanted to be Jewish, pious and God-fearing, but no one showed me the way" (27) (16). He withdrew inwardly, gradually replacing his childhood spirituality with aesthetic pursuits:

   Thus I lost every interest in God.... For me it was only pressure
   to attend religious school and to go to the Synagogue.... The world
   of the artists tempted me as a way to freedom. It meant freedom
   from the bourgeois chains, that had never really tortured me that
   much.... My engagement with artistic problems let me forget that I
   was actually seeing my Judaism fade away like a shadow.... I had
   moved beyond God in the same way that one moves beyond one's
   family. (28) (25, 28, 35)

Much like Hirsch's experience, Doblin's connection to Jewish spirituality soon became completely replaced by a passionate spiritual connection to the pantheon of German culture, which he describes as a substitute for his spiritual compass:

   But ... how I lit aflame when I first encountered Penthisilea by
   Heinrich von Kleist.... (He) and Holderlin became the gods of my
   youth. "Thou shalt have no other God before me, I am the Lord, thy
   God," I had read and heard those things, but that is as far as it
   went.... Kleist and Holderlin became my spiritual guides. With them
   I stood against all that was static, bourgeois, satisfied and
   temperate. (29) (Schicksalsreise 207-08)

Having received a thorough indoctrination into the intellectual habitus of the German Bildungsburgertum, all three authors came to identify themselves with the German intellectual heritage instead of their Jewish religious heritage. As Hirsch describes it: "In Germany at that time, it was completely meaningless which religion anyone belonged to. Especially in the so-called artists' circles.... You had not read Friedrich Nietzsche for nothing, and you thought of yourself as beyond good and evil" (30) (62).

As a result of their integration into their intellectual and artistic communities, Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern became mentally, spiritually, and artistically involved in the development of the Modernist aesthetic. Each of these authors discusses his engagement with Modernism in depth in his spiritual autobiography. Doblin describes his vehement effort to overcome the anti-modern impulses in the German society of the Weimar period:

   How many huge books had I stacked up and how many had moved me to
   do daily battle in this city, against backwardness, the
   irrepressible militaristic spirit, against the approaching Nazi
   wave, against treacherous Nepotism.... And I was particularly
   repulsed by those authors ... who wanted to ignore the big city.
   Most of them, keep in mind, lived in the city while raving about
   the country and cow-bells, while throughout the countryside,
   especially in our own Germany, modern and ultra-modern science,
   technology and industry powerfully dominated the landscape. (31)
   (Schicksalsreise 408)

While Doblin was railing against the anti-modern movements in Berlin, Hirsch was designing sets and costumes for experimental theater and becoming very closely involved with the artists' colony of Worpswede. His 1920 book Revolutionare Kunst ("Revolutionary Art") came out of Hirsch's deep involvement with expressionism. He lived with Oskar Kokoschka in the early twenties and passionately attempted to address the questions of modernism in his art and in his literature (70-71, 75-76). Stern approached the aesthetic questions of modernism from a completely different standpoint. While he was contributing to the developing field of psychosomatic medicine, Stern closely followed the discourse of science and ethics in Modernist art and literature. He recognized the importance of Thomas Mann's Der Zauberberg to the development of medical ethics and corresponded with Mann about the morality of Modernist rationalism as it was portrayed in the book. Mann praised Stern for his aesthetical and ethical insights (Pillar 100, 104).

Even before the turmoil of the exile years, Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern found that their aesthetic pursuits led them to a personal engagement with religion. All three authors answered their different inner longings by turning to the same tradition: all of them began at some point to investigate Jewish Orthodoxy. Sterns return to Orthodox Judaism provided him with a spiritual center from whence he could begin to build a spiritual and political worldview (Pillar 153-56). He explains:

   I went back to the Orthodox synagogue. I argued that if anyone was
   in possession of the crystal of truth, no matter how deeply buried
   in accidental superstructures, it must be these people.... To
   re-experience the atmosphere, to hear the familiar tunes, to relive
   again the rhythm of the week and the year, to be again imbedded in
   the stream of the liturgy gave me a feeling of security and shelter
   in those days. (Pillar 147-49)

Sterns rapprochement to Orthodox Judaism was not merely a repetition of the spiritual experiences of his youth. He approached Jewish Orthodoxy as a foil to "pure Zionism with the somewhat noncommittal appendix of 'Jewish culture'" whose programs he found "rather shallow and abstract" (Pillar 147).

Even though Doblin and Hirsch were not as spiritually involved with Jewish Orthodoxy as Stern was, they each approached it as an important step in their development of personal spirituality. Hirsch's rediscovery of Judaism was not a complete return to the religious practices of his Orthodox upbringing. Though he was very much a pantheist, Hirsch repeatedly felt a connection with his lost spirituality, which he describes in his text as lying "buried" within him: "I was creating illustrations for books like The Legends of Baal Schem by Martin Buber. I poured all of my buried religious fervor into these etchings.... Here was a kind of Judaism that was above all Synagogues or utilitarian Judaism" (32) (51). Like Hirsch, Doblin tried to investigate his own Jewish identity by approaching Orthodox Judaism. After being challenged by Berlin Zionists to join the cause, Doblin traveled through Poland to acquaint himself with the Jewish people:

   Yes, I was there and saw Jews for the first time in my life. The
   sight of them touched me deeply.... I saw a band of schoolboys in
   the street, from 10 to 12 years, with locks of hair curled on
   either side of their faces.... They had their language, their
   surroundings.... After this visit, my interest in the Jewish
   destiny was roused. (33) (Schicksalsreise 212)

Doblin's description of this experience is more of an anthropological study of a foreign people than a spiritual homage to Orthodox Judaism, but he was drawn to them by the repulsion he felt toward the "Flag of nationalistic Zionism" (Schicksalsreise 212).

It is here, after each author's engagement with Orthodox Judaism, that the profound ethical dilemma of conversion becomes apparent. Both Stern and Hirsch portray their conversions as an organic outgrowth of their interactions with Judaism. As Stern describes it, the conversion process is much more complex than just the movement from Judaism to Catholicism; it a world-changing event that reveals a fluid notion of Jewishness, one that flows between Orthodoxy (as the spiritual center of Judaism) and Zionism, Marxism, and Reformed Judaism (as a politicized and secular form of Judaism). He sees Christianity as a continuation of Jewish spirituality:

   The Orthodox Jew who rejects Christ vigorously is much closer to
   the Christian than the enlightened intellectuals who keep the
   "sayings" of the "great social reformer" Jesus on their bookshelves
   next to anthologies of Confucius. Because, in their vigorous
   denial, the Orthodox constantly re-state the potentiality of a true
   Messiah and of His divinity. (Pillar 172)

Continuing his fluid movement between different forms of Judaism, Stern feels his conversion to Christianity to be harmonious with the Jewish spirituality he has experienced in his life, as well as with the aesthetic questions that have fascinated him for so long:

   We found everything again that had ever inspired us at any time of
   our lives. It was all there: the spirit of piety and peace I had
   encountered in Jewish Orthodox families ... the rebellious fervor
   of justice of some of the early revolutionaries, the sense of
   community, simplicity and self-abnegation of the Zionist
   halutziuth; the sense of the beautiful which had enlivened those
   faraway days in Heidelberg and Munich; the lucid clarity, logic and
   common sense which I had admired in my greatest academic teachers.
   Nothing was missing ... The Europe of our youth seemed centuries
   removed. Yet it was here, stripped of all that was arbitrary.
   (Pillar 230-31)

Hirsch echoes Stern's dissolution of the border between Jewish spirituality and Christianity. He explains his conversion as the final step in his Jewish spiritual quest: "It was the greatest experience of Judaism that had happened to me, for never did I more strongly feel like a part of the chosen than on that night, when I rose from the dead into life ... I experienced the necessity of salvation that every Jew strives to attain" (34) (190). Echoing the pan-religious transcendence of Lessing's Nathan the Wise, Hirsch tells his pastor directly after his baptism: "I believe I have never been a better Jew than today!" (35) (187).

By connecting Judaism with their conversions to Christianity, Hirsch and Stern might be seen as downplaying the importance of their respective breaks from their cultural and religious heritage. Conversion itself can be seen as another form of cultural annihilation, as is posited in Sterns earlier citation of Ricarda Huch. Yet neither Stern nor Hirsch portrays himself as really leaving Judaism behind when they become Christians. Their collapsing of Judaism and Christianity is not unheard of, as shown by the rise of "Jewish Christianity" and other movements of syncretism that attempt to construct a new religious reality out of elements of the two religions (Novak 4). The conversion narratives of Hirsch and especially of Stern, however, do not propose syncretism. As can be seen in many of the passages from the narratives that have been quoted in this article, both authors express elements of supersessionism, the Christian belief that "God has exchanged the Jewish people for the church, thus cancelling the election of Abraham and his progeny" (Novak 8). For Catholic Christians, the authority of the church (or, in Protestantism, the faith of the individual believer) supersedes and appropriates the Abrahamic covenant. Although they construe their conversions as the next logical steps in their Judaism, Hirsch and Stern ultimately take the standpoint of Christians who reject one version of Messianism for another (Novak 221-22). Their collapsing of Judaism into Christianity serves a proselytizing purpose that is counterproductive in any kind of interfaith discussion.

The point of the conversion narratives by Hirsch and Stern is, of course, not to plumb the depths of Judeo-Christian relations nor to bring about interfaith discussion, but to express their own experiences as converts and emigres. Their framing of their experience as Jews and Christians, however, cannot be separated from the precarious post-war and post-holocaust discourses about the future of Judaism and Christianity. In an earlier correspondence that gained much attention after the Second World War, Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig takes his Christian colleague Eugen Rosenstock to task for telescoping Judaism and Christianity. It is their absolute, irreconcilable, and stubbornly-held difference that allows the two religions to complement and be useful to one another, Rosenzweig argues, not a nullifying synthesis. (36) Because of the power dynamics of two thousand years of history, the attempt to collapse the religions into each other will, David Novak argues, inevitably come out in favor of Christianity and to the detriment of Judaism (27). Hirsch and Stern's inclusion of Judaism as a part of their conversions, then, actually creates as many ethical problems as it avoids.

While Hirsch and Stern both portray their conversions to Christianity as the next logical step in their pursuit of Jewish spirituality, Doblin does not connect his own spiritual search to Judaism. Although, as discussed earlier, he has a tender spot for his mother's piety, he portrays himself without any connection to the Jewish religion beyond general social and political interest. Though Doblin does not portray himself as a religious Jew in his narrative, he goes to great lengths to portray himself as a kind of wandering Jew. He places his conversion experience firmly within the context of his own spatial displacement, his harrowing experiences and his bodily suffering. Doblin's conversion narrative is simultaneously the story of his own via Dolorosa, a catalogue of the pains he suffered that brought him to the cross. As Doblin describes it, the suffering and loss were the very things that made the conversion possible: "Here I am sitting now, and I realize: I was actually not robbed by the catastrophe, rather I was revealed. In truth, I gained much through my poverty" (37) (Schicksalsreise 214). Doblin bases his conversion on experiences that he has in common with most of the exile community, for they too were uprooted and exposed to the pain and confusion of displacement. This similarity underscores the difference in their respective responses to the "catastrophe": whereas Doblin was turned toward religion, others in the exile community estranged themselves further from any sort of spiritual ideal. Ethically, he can stand as a fellow sufferer when he questions and challenges their secular ideas.

Even though Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern placed their conversions into less-threatening contexts and identified with their fellow intellectuals in exile, the accounts of their conversions received very little tolerance from center of the secularized political and aesthetic movements of the exile community. In the academic receptions of Schicksalsreise, Heimkehr zu Gott: Briefe an Meinen Sohn, and The Pillar of Fire, scholars have often relegated the works to lesser categories of "personal belief" that exist outside of the core of the aesthetic and political movements of other German-speaking authors in exile. (38) Doblin's Schicksalsreise and other autobiographical accounts of his conversion are often polarized as either a completely personal experience to be treated as biographical background, (39) as a folly (as can be seen in Brecht's "Peinlicher Vorfall" and other reactions (40)), or drained of their spiritual content and brought back into the acceptable secular realms of politics (41) or aesthetics. (42) Upon his return to post-war Germany, Doblin recalls how often he was asked to speak as the author of Berlin Alexanderplatz and how his audience was surprised and enraged at his piety, his mysticism, and his Christian reverence:

   Their newspapers ... ridiculed me. One journal wrote: "we
   experienced a complete surrender to mysticism, and a dangerous one
   at that, when a person like the author of Berlin Alexanderplatz
   frees himself from party, organization, state and Socialist class
   warfare, takes ten steps back, and--prays." (43) (Schicksalsreise

While the press lamented Doblin's fall "from the path of an avant-gardist who belonged to the anti-religious radical left" (44) (Schicksalsreise 410), Doblin reminds the reader that he never was antireligious. The religious aspects of his work, like much of his creative process, had been in inner exile long before the Nazis came to power.

A similar marginalization happens in the reception of Hirsch's conversion account. Commenting upon Heimkehr zu Gott: Briefe an meinen Sohn in an introduction to an exhibition of Hirsch's artwork, his erstwhile friend Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt separates Hirsch's beliefs from the other autobiographical information in the book which might prove useful to the secular world of the academy: "In his self-profession that he titled 'Heimkehr,' many of the phases of his life's journey seem to be repressed by his new piety" (45) (Huder 11). Stuckenschmidt also presents the rest of Hirsch's autobiographical accounts as being "repressed" by his spirituality, and in the exhibition catalogue that follows Stuckenschmidt's forward, the editors try to salvage the supposedly untainted autobiographical sections of the work, removed from their spiritual context. (46) While Hirsch's work is ideologically purified for a secularized aesthetic discourse, the scholarly reception of Sterns The Pillar of Fire has gone to the other extreme, relegating the work to the marginalized realm of personal belief by treating it as a "spiritual autobiography." (47)

In one sense, the marginalizing of these works as "spiritual autobiographies" is justified. Schicksalsreise, Heimkehr zu Gott, and The Pillar of Fire are not avant-garde in form; each is a more or less a chronological personal narrative encompassing a certain period of each author's life. While formally conventional, however, these texts share a nuanced description of the subjective experience of the upheavals of mid-century European and American modernity. Religious conversion stories such as these are often seen as regressive, reactionary, and irrational, for, as Talal Asad explains, they deviate from the prescribed rational progression toward "modern ways of being" (263). The three texts do not, however, return uncritically to a paradisiacal childhood. Instead, they follow the three authors on the journey prescribed by Kleist in the passage from On the Marionette Theater quoted at the beginning of this article: Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern each attempt to reapproach their lost spirituality by entering paradise from behind, after walking around the whole world.

When the reader moves beyond the ethical questions raised by these conversion narratives and listens to the spiritual / aesthetic polemics of these three authors, a whole new set of ethical questions arise: If truth and morals have been relegated to the realm of personal belief, are they then irrelevant to society? Might some kind of spiritual ethics potentially be able to serve as a space from which one could criticize such soulless acts as the individual horrors which made up the Shoah? At one point in Schicksalsreise, Doblin wonders if his attempt to address his fellow wanderers has been appropriate: "Countless people float along in life unknowing, relaxed--day in, day out--like young animals. They live as if there were no guilt or knowledge. They wander through existence. They are asleep. Should they be awakened?" (48) (Schicksalsreise 424). Doblin, Hirsch, and Stern, three exiles in America, found themselves suddenly very awake spiritually and chose to write autobiographical accounts of their conversions as an attempt to rouse others: not only to awaken them to the teachings of Christianity but also to awaken them to a sense of the potential power of spirituality in the face of an overwhelmingly secular and politicized community. They felt that the genre of the Apologia pro vita sua, as they redefined and appropriated it, might have the potential to cause such an awakening.

Brigham Young University


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Asad, Talal. "Comments on Conversion." Conversion to Modernities: The Globalization of Christianity. Ed. Peter van der Veer. New York: Routledge, 1996. 263-73.

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--. Schicksalsreise. Autobiographische Schriften und letzte Aufzeichnungen. Freiburg im Breisgau: Walter Verlag, 1980. 103-426.

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Fruhwald, Wolfgang. "Rosa und der Satan" Internationale Alfred-Doblin Kolloquien: Basel 1980-New York 1981. Ed. Werner Stauffacher. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1986. 239-56.

Goldstein, David. The Autobiography of a Campaigner for Christ. Boston: Catholic Campaigners for Christ, 1936.

Hirsch, Karl Jakob. Heimkehr zu Gott. Briefe an meinen Sohn. Munich: Kurt Desch, 1946.

Hoehn, Matthew. Catholic Authors: Contemporary Biographical Sketches. Newark: St. Mary's Abbey. 1952.

Huder, Walther, ed. Karl Jakob Hirsch: 1892-1952. Austellungskatalog. Berlin: Akademie der Kunste, 1967. 11.

Kiesel, Helmuth. "Doblins Konversion als Politikum." Hinter dem schwarzen Vorhang: Die Katastrophe und die epische Tradition. Festschrift fur Anthony W. Reily. Eds. Friedrich Geade, et al. Bern: Francke, 1994. 193-208.

--. Literarische Trauerarbeit: Das Exil-und Spatwerk Alfred Doblins. Tubingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1986.

Kleinschmidt, Erich. "Man lasse uns den ganzen Menschen und die ganze Welt: Alfred Doblins literaturgeschichtliche Uberlegungen im Exil." Internationale Alfred Doblin-Kolloquien: Marbach a.N. 1984-Berlin 1985. Ed. Werner Stauffacher. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1988. 43-58.

Kleist, Heinrich von. "Uber das Marionettentheater." Samtliche Werke und Briefe Band 2. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1987. 338-45.

Levy, Rosalie Marie. Thirty Years with Christ. New York: Rosalie M. Levy, 1943.

--. "Von der Synagoge zum wahren Messias." Menschen die zur Kirche kamen: Selbstdarstellungen moderner Gottsucher aus einundzwanzig Nationen. Ed. P. Severin Lamping. Munchen: Kosel und Pustet, 1935. 198-204.

Maloney, Stephen R. "Tongues of Flame: A Study of Five Modern Spiritual Autobiographies." Diss. U of Rochester, 1971.

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Moore, Erna M. "Exile in Hollywood: Leben und Haltung deutscher Exilautoren nach ihren autobiographischen Schriften." Deutschsprachige Exilliteratur seit 1933. Band 1: Kalifornien. Tell 1. Eds. John M. Spalek and Joseph Strelka. Munich: Francke Verlag, 1976. 21-39.

Muller-Salget, Klaus. "Alfred Doblin und das Judentum." Deutsch-judische Exil-und Emigrationsliteratur im 20. Jahrhundert. Eds. Itta Schedletzky, et al. Tubingen: Max Niemeyer Veralg, 1993. 153-63.

--. Alfred Doblin: Werk und Entwicklung. Bonn: Grundmann, 1972. Novak, David. Talking with Christians: Musings of a Jewish Theologian. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2005.

Pfanner, Helmut. "Doblin's Schicksalsreise: Wessen Schicksal?" Internationales Alfred-Doblin Kolloquium Paris 1993. Ed. Michael Grunewald. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1995. 85-93.

--. "Karl Jakob Hirsch." Deutschspachige Exilliteratur seit 1933. Band 3: USA. Tell 1. Ed. John M. Spalek, et al. Munchen: Saur Verlag, 2000. 203-214.

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--. "Karl Stern" International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigres 1933-1945 II/2. Munchen: Saur, 1983. 1126.

Rosenstock-Huessy, Eugen, ed. Judaism Despite Christianity: The Letters on Christianity and Judaism Between Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and Franz Rosenzweig. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1969.

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Spalek, John M. and Joseph Strelka, eds. Deutschsprachige Exilliteratur seit 1933. Band 1: Kalifornien. Munich: Francke Verlag, 1976.

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--. The Pillar of Fire. 1951. Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1959.

Strelka, Joseph P. Des Odysseus Nachfahren: Osterreichische Exilliteratur seit 1938. Tubingen: Francke, 1999.

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(1) The original German quotes are included here for comparison. All of the translations of these passages are mine. "Doch das Paradies ist verriegelt und der Cherub steht hinter uns; wir mussen die Reise um die Welt machen und sehen, ob es von hinten irgendwo wieder often ist...."

(2) "mottenzerfressenen Pfaffenhut ...", "die Plattform, die den Kunstlern gehort.

(3) "jeder Schritt vom Weg dieser Ideale als Verrat empfunden und entsprechend gebrandmarkt wurde."

(4) For a description of Doblin's interaction with American security organizations, see Stephan "Personal and Confidential."

(5) For a historical discussion of specific exiles and their conversions, see McFarland 416-21.

(6) For an overview of recent scholarship about German and Austrian literature in exile, refer to the works of Spalek, Trapp, and Strelka.

(7) For insight into the number and variety of German-speaking emigres refer to the "Kalifornien" and "New York" volumes of Deutschsprachige Exilliteratur seit 1933 (Spalek and Strelka).

(8) "Es war keine Reise von einem franzosischen Ort zu einem anderen, sondern eine Reise zwischen Himmel und Erde. Bei dieser Reise von ihrem Anfang bis zu ihrem Abschluss (ist er erfolgt?) reiste 'ich.' Aber der Reisende war kein gewohnlicher Passagier mit seinem Billet. Die Reise verlief zugleich an mir, mit mir und uber mir. Nut weil es sich so verhielt, begebe ich mich daran, die Fahrt, die Umstande, aufzuzeichnen."

(9) I have chosen to work with Heimkehr zu Gott: Briefe an Meinen Sohn instead of his later autobiography Quintessenz meines Lebens because, of the two works, Heimkehr zu Gott treats his conversion experience more centrally. For a comparison of the two works see Pfanner "Karl Jakob Hirsch" 208-09.

(10) I identify the genre with the term "Convertitenbilder" based upon the use of the term in the titles, introductions, or epilogues of many collections of texts that are typical for the genre, including those in Eberle's Unser Weg zur Kirche.

(11) See, for example, David Goldstein's The Autobiography of a Campaigner for Christ and Rosalie Levy's Thirty Years with Christ.

(12) See Hirsch's Heimkehr 180-81: "At that time the supreme Rabbi of Rome happened to convert to Catholicism. The indignation among practicing and nonpracticing Jews was equal. He was called a traitor who left the faith of his fathers at the time of its greatest need." ("Es erreignete sich damals, dass der Oberrabbiner von Rom zum Katholizismus ubertrat. Die Emporung unter glaubigen und unglaubigen Juden war gleich gross. Man nannte ihn einen Verrater, der den Glauben seiner Vater in der Notzeit verlassen habe.")

(13) "In Anbetracht des gesellschaftlichen und politischen Antisemitismus in seinem Heimatland zwischen einer Erneuerung der ethnischen Bindungen im Sinne des Zionismus und einem dem deutschen Nationalismus entfliehenden, aber nirgendwo Wurzeln fassenden Diasporitenleben zu wahlen hat."

(14) "Kurzschluss in die Politik."

(15) "Helfer, Vorkampfer, Fechter und Krieger des Menschen."

(16) "die Gestaltung, Formung, ja die bewusste Setzung des Subjektiven, des Ichs gegenuber der Realitat."

(17) Was in der Welt vorgeht, erkenne ich als meine Sache, und meine Sache ist etwas, das die Welt angeht."

(18) "Ich erinnere mich nicht, je zu irgend einer Zeit meines Lebens so wenig 'ich' gewesen zu sein. Ich war weder 'ich' in den Handlungen ... noch war meine Art zu denken und zu fuhlen die alte."

(19) "Ich musste eine geheime Tur offnen und in einen stillen, vollig mir gehorenden Raum eintreten, die Tur fest hinter mir zuziehen, und nun war ich ganz allein, und es begann etwas, was von Erregung und Spannung begleitet mir wohltat und mich oft wie Rausch und Gluck erfullte, ein stiller Vorgang hinter verschlossenen Turen."

(20) "Als nun die Emigration von 1933 Amerika erreichte, kamen zum erstenmal judische Einwanderer ins Land, deren Zusammenhang mit der Religion sehr gering war ... Ihre Beziehungen zum Judentum waren durch den grausamen Antisemitismus in Europa ins Rassisch-Nationale gedrangt."

(21) "die Fahigkeit, ein Scheinleben zu fuhren, das man so oft mit dem wirklichen Dasein verwechselt."

(22) "Ich schreibe Dir diese Briefe, damit Du siehst, wie Dein Vater gelebt hat, wie er den rechten Weg suchte, oft in die Irre ging, und doch heimkehrte zu Gott."

(23) "Keinerlei Gefuhle kamen dabei auf, keine Bindung stellte sich ein"

(24) "Da hielt sie eines ihrer Bucher in der Hand und las eine Weile darin, hebraisch mit halblauter Stimme. Manchmal war es nur ein Gemurmel. Wenn ich an Judisches denke, steht dieses Bild meiner Mutter vor mir.... So war mein Gemut an sie gebunden, die still fur sich in der Stube sass, das Buch in der Hand, und betete."

(25) "Die judische Frommigkeit war Sinn und Inhalt der taglichen Bemuhungen."

(26) "Ein guter Jude, das bedeutet, ein Mensch zu sein, der in jeder Stunde vom Gottesbewusstsein erfullt ist, Der Gottesdienst bestand nicht nur im Besuch der Synagoge, er war der tagliche, ja stundliche Dienst des Knechts Gottes. Gottes Gegenwart war in den kleinsten und unscheinbarsten Dingen, und fur den frommen Juden wurden diese Dinge durch Gott geheiligt."

(27) "Ich wollte Jude sein, fromm und gottesfurchtig, abet man zeigte mir nicht den Weg."

(28) "So verlor ich jedes Interesse an Gott.... Es war fur mich Religionsschulen-Zwang und das zur-Synagoge-gehen-mussen ... Das Kunstlertum verlockte mich als ein Weg in die Freiheit. Es war eine Freiheit von der burgerlichen Fessel, die mich nicht allzusehr gequalt hat.... Die Beschaftigung mit Problemen der Kunst liess mich vergessen, dass ich eigentlich mein Judentum wie einen Schatten dahinschwinden sah ... Man hatte Gott ebenso uberwunden wie die Familie."

(29) "Aber ... wie flammte ich auf, als mir die <> von H. v. Kleist begegnete ... Kleist und Holderlin wurden die Gotter meiner Jugend. 'Du sollst keinen anderen Gott neben mir haben, ich bin der Herr, dein Gott,' das hatte ich gelesen und gehort, abet dabei war es geblieben ... Kleist und Holderlin wurden meine geistigen Paten. Ich stand mit ihnen gegen das Ruhende, das Bugerliche, Gesattigte und Massige."

(30) "Im damaligen Deutschland war es ohne jede Bedeutung, zu welcher Religion jemand gehorte. Besonders in den sogenannten Kunstlerkreisen ... Man hatte nicht umsonst Friedrich Nietzsche gelesen und befand sich jenseits von Gut und Bose."

(31) "Wieviele grosse Bucher hatte ich ubereinander geturmt und hatte mich auch im Tageskampf bewegt in dieser Stadt, gegen die Ruckstandigkeit, den unausrottbaren militarischen Geist, gegen die anrollende nazistische Welle, gegen das verraterische Bonzentum ... Und besonders waren mir zuwider jene Literaten ... welche die Grossstadt nicht gelten lassen wollten,--sie lebten dabei meist in der Grossstadt und schwarmten fur Provinz und Kuhglocken, wahrend rings im Lande, und gerade in diesem Deutschland, moderne und modernste Wissenschaft, Technik und Industrie machtvoll die Szenerie beherrschten."

(32) "Ich machte Illustrationen zu Buchern wie "Die Legenden des Baal Schem" von Martin Buber. In diese Radierungen legte ich meine ganze verschuttete religiose Inbrunst ... Hier war eine Art von Judentum, das jenseits von allen Synagogen oder Gebrauchsjudentum sich befand."

(33) "Ja, ich war da und habe zum ersten Mal in meinem Leben Juden gesehen. Ihr Anblick ruhrte mich tief.... Ich sah auf der Strasse eine Schar von Schulern, von 10 bis 12 Jahren, mit Hangelocken geringelt zu beiden Seiten des Gesichts ... Sie hatten ihre Sprache, ihre Umgebung.... Nach diesem Besuch wurde mein Interesse am judischen Schicksal rege."

(34) "Es war das grosse Judenerlebnis, das uber mich gekommen war, denn niemals fuhlte ich das Ausgewahltsein starker als in jener Nacht, in der ich vom Tode zum Leben auferstand.... Ich erlebte die Notwendigkeit der Erlosung, die ein jeder Jude anstrebt."

(35) "Ich glaube, ich war niemals ein besserer Jude als heute!"

(36) See the introductions by Harald Stahmer, Alexander Altmann, and Dorothy M. Emmet in Rosenstock-Huessy's Judaism Despite Christianity.

(37) "Hier sitze ich nun und stelle fest: Ich bin eigentlich nicht beraubt durch die Katastrophe, sondern ich bin aufgedeckt worden. Eigentlich habe ich in meiner Armut gewonnen."

(38) Guy Stern mentions at least Schicksalsreise and Heimkehr as a part of "Der judische Beitrag zur Exilliteratur," but he dismisses these works as being reminiscent of "Pogromen vergangener Zeiten" which resulted in conversions to Christianity (60).

(39) In his discussion of Doblin's "weltanschauliche und religiose Entwicklung," Helmuth Kiesel, for example, tries to distance himself from parts of Doblin's spiritual writings, which, as he describes it, "all too often are downright embarrassing (nicht selten peinigend wirken)." He does, however, give careful textual consideration to Doblin's religious development and especially to Doblin's claim that his works can be seen as "prayers (Gebete)" (147-48). Notable exceptions that try to show the aesthetic potential of spiritual questions in Doblin's works include Pfanner's "Doblin's Schicksalsreise" and Emde's Alfred Doblin.

(40) See other contemporary receptions of Schicksalsreise in Schuster 417-24.

(41) See, for example, Kiesel's "Doblins Konversion".

(42) In Alfred Doblin: Werk und Entwicklung. Klaus Muller-Salget, for example, sees Doblin's conversion as "a completely possible and sensible consequence of his philosophical efforts (eine durchaus mogliche und sinnvolle Konsequenz seiner philosophischen Bemuhungen)" (386). See also Matthias Wegener's treatment of Schicksalsreise (158-60).

(43) "Ihre Zeitungen ... Verhohnten mich. Ein Journal schrieb: "Wir erlebten eine vollendete Hingabe zur Mystik, gefahrlich noch dazu, wenn sich der Mensch, wie es der Autor des 'Berlin Alexanderplatz' tat, lossagen will von Partei, Organisation, von Staat und von klassenkampferischem Sozialismus,--um zehn Schritte zuruck zu tun und--zu beten."

(44) "vom Wege eines Avantgardisten, der zur anti-religiosen, Radikal-Linken gehorte."

(45) "In dem Selbstbekenntnis, das er 'Heimkehr' betitelt hat, erscheinen viele Stufen seines Lebenswegs verdrangt durch die neue Glaubigkeit."

(46) See Huder 19-45 for examples of the salvaged excerpts of Hirsch's autobiography, freed from their religious context.

(47) See Maloney, Tongues of Flame.

(48) "Zahllose Menschen leben hin im Nichtwissen, entspannt, von Tag zu Tag, wie junge Tiere. Sie Leben, als gabe es nicht Schuld und Erkenntnis. Sie schweifen durch die Existenz. Sie schlafen. Soil man sie aufwecken?"

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