Academic journal article German Quarterly

Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism: Defenses of Jews and Judaism in Germany, 1871-1932

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism: Defenses of Jews and Judaism in Germany, 1871-1932

Article excerpt

Levenson, Alan T. Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism: Defenses of Jews and Judaism in Germany, 1871-1952. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 194 pp. $55.00 hardcover.

With the recent publication of highly controversial-and many say highly flawed -historical works like Paul Lawrence Rose's German Question/Jewish Question: Revolutionary Antisemitism from Kant to Wagner (1990) and especially Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners (1996), attempts have been made to demonstrate a virulent but latent antisemitism particular to German society before and during the Shoah. Works like these seek to capitalize on the undeniably substantial evidence that Jews and the Jewish religion were widely maligned by non-Jewish Germans and, to some extent, even by German Jews themselves. More than twenty years earlier, historian Shmuel Ettinger, in his foreword to Uriel Tal's Christians and Jews in Germany: Religion, Politics, and Ideology in the Second Reich, 1870-1914 (1975), summarized the historical opinion on this topic which was to remain prevalent until today; Ettinger writes, "the bulk of German society was either unwilling or unable to accept the existence of Jews as a distinct entity with a group consciousness of its own" (10).

Alan T. Levenson sees his Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism as a corrective to what he deems the "flattening-out effect" of approaches like Goldhagen's which disavow gradations between non-existent, latent, and overt antisemitism in Germany (ix). Focusing, like Tal, on the period beginning with the unification of the German states in 1871, a year which also brought the official emancipation of Germany's Jewry, Levenson shifts the focus of his historical contextualization from antisemitism to philosemitism. In doing so, the author turns a critical eye on those parties who worked at the edges or outside of Tal's societal majority, people who promoted Jewish identities in Germany (Levenson's philosemites), or, at least acted against those who would vilify that identity (Levenson's anti-antisemites). Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism, drawing heavily-but not completely-from Levenson's previously published works on philosemitism, gathers a significant amount of material on this relatively underresearched topic into one volume.

Levenson in no way wishes to chart out a philosemitic "tradition" or "movement" in Germany, because, he claims, German philosemitism in the Second Reich and the Weimar Republic never existed in such a systematic form (144); instead, the author seeks to provide evidence of philosemitic behavior wherever and however it may have occurred. …

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