Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany after Unification

By Hermann Kurthen; Werner Bergmann et al. | Go to book overview

3

HERMANN KURTHEN


Antisemitism and Xenophobia in United Germany
How the Burden of the Past Affects the Present

When in the early 1990s ugly pictures of xenophobic violence, swastika graffiti, and vandalism replaced the joyful and peaceful pictures of German unification, some observers speculated that the horrific past of Germany would surface again ( Sana 1990, Mead 1990). The fear that again an army of industrious and obedient Volksgenossen (members of the German national collective) would mobilize and overrun Europe was not stifled by reports of millions of marchers who protested the violence by candlelight. Continued antisemitic and xenophobic resentment in a nation that was responsible for the Holocaust has been viewed as an indication that postwar Germany's policy of dealing with the past has failed. 1 Events such as the so-called historians' debate about the uniqueness of the Holocaust in the mid-1980s were seen as an attempt to whitewash German responsibility for the Holocaust. Some were equally worried by the "tendency to pass over the terror and misery of the Third Reich and to focus instead on the normality and continuity of everyday life before, during, and after the Hitler years" ( Kushner 1991: 23). Similarly, it was feared that once the iron curtain was removed a formidable antisemitism would reappear in the former socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) nurtured by decades of anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli propaganda. Such fears and reservations led observers to ask whether postwar Germans in the East and West had drawn sufficient lessons from the failures of their past. It raised other questions such as: What do postwar Germans in the East and West know about the Holocaust and Nazism? What impact had socialist anti-Zionism on East German attitudes toward Jews and Israel? Was suppression of Holocaust remembrance a central cleavage for the political culture and self-perception of postwar Germany (see Bergmann and Erb 1991a)? Was antisemitism only disguised under a thin layer of philosernitic official statements (see Safran 1986: 278, Weil 1990: 136, Wisse 1994: 26), or was it merely replaced by a new scapegoat -- xenophobia

-39-

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Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany after Unification
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Contributors xi
  • I 3
  • Note 17
  • I - Facts and Findings About Antisemitism and Xenophobia in United Germany 19
  • 2 21
  • Notes 35
  • 3 39
  • Appendix 63
  • Notes 83
  • 4 88
  • Notes 105
  • 5 110
  • Appendix: Question Texts and Scale Construction 130
  • Notes 139
  • II - Movements, Groups, and Organizations Propagating Antisemitism and Xenophobia in United Germany 141
  • 6 143
  • Note 158
  • 7 159
  • Appendix: Statistics on Right-Wing Extremist Groups and Periodicals 171
  • Notes 172
  • 8 174
  • Notes 189
  • 9 190
  • Notes 206
  • III - American, Jewish, and German Perceptions of and Reactions to Antisemitism and Xenophobia 209
  • 10 211
  • Notes 220
  • 11 224
  • Notes 238
  • 12 242
  • Notes 256
  • 13 257
  • Appendix - Selected Chronology of Antisemitic and Extreme Right-Wing Events in Germany During and After Unification, 1989-1994 263
  • Note 285
  • References 287
  • Index 311
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