A brief journey through the long
Jewish history of Germany
Prof. Sebastian Wogenstein
400 BCE
The Jewish diaspora
A papal decree (1215)
forced Jews to wear
pointed hats
Jews being burned (1348)
Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak
Rashi-Chair at the
synagogue of Worms
In the Jewish quarter
of Worms
Rashi House
Speyer – Worms – Mainz: Three
cities with major Jewish
communities and yeshivot (religious
academies) in Germany – when
written in Hebrew letters, often
abbreviated as „shoom“ ‫שו''ם‬
because of the city names‘ first
letters – in Hebrew „shoom“ means
Darmstadt Haggadah (< 1391)
Ecclesia (church) and
Synagoga at the
Strasbourg cathedral –
Christian theology
propagated the image of
the Church as triumphing
over broken Judaism
(broken lance, blindfolded,
broken stone tablet)
Moses Mendelssohn
Philosopher and translator; with
his contributions to the
Enlightenment in Germany, one
of the founders of modern
German culture
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's drama
Nathan the Wise (1779) – dealing
with conflicts between Christianity,
Judaism, and Islam; suggesting a
resolution of these conflicts in
underscoring the equality of
humans regardless of their religious
Christian Wilhelm Dohm
demands full legal equality
for Jews in his treatise On
the Civic Improvement of the
Jews (1781)
Declaration of Human Rights
(French Revolution 1789)
Early 19th-Century Salons
Rahel Levin-Varnhagen
"Republic of free spirit" - Rahel Levin-Varnhagen's "Tea- and Conversation Society"
Henriette Herz
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
Rhine-Valley: The Loreley
Die Lorelei
Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt
Im Abendsonnenschein.
Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar.
Sie kämmt es mit goldenem
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
Gewaltige Melodei.
Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh'.
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn;
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
The Loreley
I cannot determine the meaning
Of sorrow that fills my breast:
A fable of old, through it streaming,
Allows my mind no rest.
The air is cool in the gloaming
And gently flows the Rhine.
The crest of the mountain is gleaming
In fading rays of sunshine.
The loveliest maiden is sitting
Up there, so wondrously fair;
Her golden jewelry is glist'ning;
She combs her golden hair.
She combs with a gilded comb, preening,
And sings a song, passing time.
It has a most wondrous, appealing
And pow'rful melodic rhyme.
The boatman aboard his small skiff, Enraptured with a wild ache,
Has no eye for the jagged cliff, His thoughts on the heights fear forsake.
I think that the waves will devour
Both boat and man, by and by,
And that, with her dulcet-voiced power
Was done by the Loreley.
Käthe Kollwitz – Der Weberaufstand (1897/98)
Die schlesischen Weber
Im düstern Auge keine Träne,
Sie sitzen am Webstuhl und fletschen die Zähne:
Deutschland, wir weben dein Leichentuch,
Wir weben hinein den dreifachen Fluch –
Wir weben, wir weben!
Ein Fluch dem Gotte, zu dem wir gebeten
In Winterskälte und Hungersnöten
Wir haben vergebens gehofft und geharrt,
Er hat uns geäfft und gefoppt und genarrt –
Wir weben, wir weben!
Ein Fluch dem König, dem König der Reichen,
Den unser Elend nicht konnte erweichen,
Der den letzten Groschen von uns erpreßt,
Und uns wie Hunde erschießen läßt –
Wir weben, wir weben!
Ein Fluch dem falschen Vaterlande,
Wo nur gedeihen Schmach und Schande,
Wo jede Blume früh geknickt,
Wo Fäulnis und Moder den Wurm erquickt –
Wir weben, wir weben!
Das Schiffchen fliegt, der Webstuhl kracht,
Wir weben emsig Tag und Nacht –
Altdeutschland, wir weben dein Leichentuch,
Wir weben hinein den dreifachen Fluch,
Wir weben, wir weben!
The Silesian Weavers
In somber eyes no tears of grieving;
Grinding their teeth, they sit at their weaving:
O Germany, at your shroud we sit,
We’re weaving a threefold curse in it—
We’re weaving, we’re weaving!
A curse on the God we prayed to, kneeling
With cold in our bones, with hunger reeling;
We waited and hoped, in vain persevered,
He scorned and duped us, mocked and jeered—
We’re weaving, we’re weaving!
A curse on the king of the rich man’s nation
Who hardens his heart at our supplication,
Who wrings the last penny out of our hides,
And lets us be shot like dogs besides—
We’re weaving, we are weaving!
A curse on this false fatherland, teeming
With nothing but shame and dirty scheming,
Where every flower is crushed in a day,
Where worms are regaled on rot and decay—
We’re weaving, we’re weaving!
The shuttle flies, the loom creaks loud,
Night and day we weave your shroud—
Old Germany, at your shroud we sit,
We’re weaving a threefold curse in it,
We’re weaving , we’re weaving!
Neue Synagoge Berlin (1866)
Neue Synagoge
Berlin (today)
Royal decree, abolishing restrictions based on religious affiliation (1869)
soldiers in the
War (1870/71)
Rosa Luxemburg
Sigmund Freud
Franz Kafka
Carl Laemmle (founder of Universal Studios) with Erich Maria Remarque
(author of All Quiet on the Western Front)
Bar Kochba sports club parading after a relay race, Munich 1932
Albert Einstein
Anna Seghers (Netty Reiling)
Racist “Nuremberg
Laws“ 1935
"Jews not welcome in Behringersdorf"
Jewish men deportet to the concentration
camp Buchenwald
Anti-Jewish pogroms in all
German cities and towns
November 9, 1938
Deportations after the defeat of the
Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943
Allied troops entering the concentration
camp Buchenwald in 1945
Murdered victims of the Holocaust
> 6 million Jews
> 1.9 million Gentile Poles & Russians
ca. 800,000 Roma & Sinti
ca. 300,000 people with disabilities
ca. 100,000 communists
ca. 25,000 homosexual men
ca. 2,000 Jehovah's Witnesses
Glasses of victims at the death camp Auschwitz
"For us Jews from Germany, an historical epoch has come to
an end. Such an epoch ends whenever a hope, a belief, a trust
has finally to be buried. Our belief was that the German and the
Jewish spirit could meet on German soil and through their
marriage become a blessing. This was an illusion – the Jewish
epoch in Germany is over, once and for all."
Leo Baeck in New York 1945, after his liberation from the
Theresienstadt concentration camp
According to the Central Council of Jews in Germany (http://www.zentralratdjuden.de),
Jewish communities in Germany have about 100,000 officially registered members
today. With the continuing immigration from Eastern Europe, the numbers are likely to
rise. Young German-Jewish writers, film-makers, and other artists are a distinctive
and important voice on the German, Austrian, and Swiss cultural scene. Many of
them immigrants themselves, their identity claims usually emphasize difference,
alliances with other migrants, multi-culturalism, and a critical evaluation of their
relationship with the State of Israel.
Topography and double vision: Contemporary German-Jewish literature
1) Significance of places for memory in general and in the Jewish tradition in particular
2) Topo-graphy
topos (Greek): place, topic, theme
graphein (Greek): to write, to inscribe
3) Place names and German-Jewish history: Landscapes/topographies of memory
4) Exterritorialities: language
5) "Topography of loss" – metaphors of loss; traces of history in the body; writing not
instructive, rather exemplary
6) Migrant literature
Katja Behrens (born 1942)
Collective memory of the Holocaust as foundation of tolerance and human rights
- Model function of trials on crimes against humanity: e.g. the Nuremberg Trials 1945/46,
Eichmann Trial 1961, Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial 1965 – International Court of Justice, The
Hague (Netherlands)
- "Second modernity" as a deterritorialized modernity – diaspora as the human condition
- "Universalization" of the Holocaust (Daniel Levy/Natan Sznaider) vs. particularization in
the national collective memory
- What is "home" ("Heimat")? – Henryk Broder's essay "Heimat? – No thanks!"

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