German-Writing Authors in Israel
Israeli authors writing in German have been and still are facing a difficult situation: they are not just authors writing in a different language; the language they use to express their prose and poetry is not frowned upon anymore but is still invariably tainted with associations of inhumane cruelty, piles of helplessly murdered humans, and the symbol of horror: Ausschwitz. Thus for the German-speaking immigrants, the language problem, being the most difficult adjustment, turned out to be a threefold problem: a practical, a cultural, as well as an emotional problem. 1
After many quarrels and considerations in this little country, declared in 1917 as the mother country of the Jews by the Balfour Declaration, Irvit (modern Hebrew) had succeeded over Yiddish; the objections of the Orthodox against the ordinary daily use of the sacred language were countered with convincing arguments especially by pointing at oriental immigrants to whom the Bible and its language were an emotional haven. The holy language became the language of the pioneers. Words and expressions used for centuries to convey religious beliefs were now used on an everyday basis. The immigrants from Eastern Europe did not have a language problem since they had been exposed to the language by their traditional upbringing, the religious schools. The situation was somewhat different for immigrants from Central and Western Europe, who had to overcome existential difficulties, came from diverse language backgrounds, and could therefore only rarely pursue intensive studies of this rather difficult language, which was in its syntax and its alphabet so different from their own languages.
To learn Ivrit was encouraged and an occasional fallback into the mother tongue was tolerated as a transition phase -- as long as it was not German. Since 1933 German was a frowned-upon language in this country and this image stuck with it for decades. Often this view was shared by German immigrants too, for whom the language triggered bad memories.
The spiritual and cultural isolation of the new immigrants, including those to whom German was only the best-known foreign language, was the result