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The Renaissance of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany by Michael Brenner (1998-09-10;Well Before the Nazis, the German Jews Were Already Moving Away From Assimilation and Into Separatism (a Jewish VOLK),

jan peczkis|Sunday, January 15, 2017

This book contains much interesting information. For example, the Talmud (Makkot 10a) states that one learned much Torah from one’s teachers, but more from one’s colleagues, and the most from one’s students. (p. 69).

Many widely-believed "Nazi" features were not specifically National Socialist. Interestingly, the Jewish youth movement, KAMARADEN, around 1925, commonly used the greeting HEIL, although this became partly replaced by the Hebrew SHALOM in later years. (p. 47).

The most interesting part of this book is the fact that, long before the Nazis had codified the difference between non-Aryans and Aryans, Germany’s Jews had voluntarily retreated from a purely assimilationist mindset, and had revived a modern form of Jewish particularism and separatism. Furthermore, German Jews were developing a quasi-racial concept of Judaism that anticipated that of the Nazis (a Jewish VOLK distinct from the German VOLK).


Author Michael Brenner uses the term “post-assimilated” Jews for German Jews who, increasingly, starting about the time of WWI, wanted a “third way” between the increasingly-obsolete religious identification as Jews, and the complete assimilation to German society. (p. 4). In addition, the younger generation of German Jews began to frown upon what they considered their parents’ shallow and bourgeois spirit of Judaism. (p. 47).

Brenner describes what he calls the cultural Zionists, and Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginzberg) was the leading spirit of cultural Zionism. (p. 23). The cultural Zionists de-emphasized Jews moving to Palestine, and they also de-emphasized the physical threat to Jews that came from anti-Semitism. Rather, they were concerned about the alienation of Jews from Judaism, and warned that Jews as Jews may disappear because of assimilation. The cultural Zionists believed that Jews needed a spiritual center. (p. 23).


Famous Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and his fellow Zionists believed that German Judaism and its 19th-century confessionalism had caused the atomization among German Jews, and had reduced Jewishness to a private religious faith of individual German citizens. Buber, instead, thought of the Jews as a “community of blood.” (p. 37). The Zionists thought of Jews as not a religion but a nationality, and wanted to transform the GEMEINDE from a RELIGIONSGEMEINDE or KULTURSGEMEINDE into A VOLKSGEMEINDE. (p. 50).

Nor was the foregoing a marginal opinion. To the contrary. Brenner comments, (quote) The most important party to emerge after World War I was the JUDISCHE VOLKSPARTEI (JVP), an alliance of Zionists, Ostjuden, Orthodox, and lower-middle-class Jews. The principal goal of the JVP was to transform the Jewish community into a VOLKSGEMEINDE. (unquote). (p. 51).

“…Richard Koch…believed that Jewish characteristics were visible even among the most assimilated German Jews…” (p. 89).

(quote) Erich von Kahler, a Jewish historian and philosopher…believed that Jews should admit that they were a distinct Stamm, different from the German STAMME. Unlike the anti-Semites, however, Kahler denied that this difference should lead to the exclusion of Jews from German society. (unquote). (p. 41). [But how could it not?]

(quote) The German word STAMM literally means ‘tribe’ or ‘race’ and was often used as self-identification by German Jews who disliked the terms NATION and RELIGION. It is related to ABSTAMMUNG (descent) and STAMMESGEMEINSCHAFT (community of common descent). The popularity of its use can be partly explained by its vagueness. Assimilationists interpreted it in the sense of a German STAMM analogous to Bavarians or Saxons, but for Zionists it became a synonym for a Jewish VOLK. (unquote). (p. 228).


Unlike those who portray Kurt Tucholsky as some kind of marginal German Jew over whom the Nazis got all worked up about, author Brenner does not. He characterizes Tucholsky as “the most pungent political satirist of Weimar Germany”. (p. 132).

Kurt Tucholsky’s HERR WENDRINER features the archetypical German Jew striving to become a German. Brenner comments, “HERR WENDRINER advocated an authoritarian education for his children, talked about betraying his wife, and favored a nationalist German policy”. (p. 132). Brenner considers Tucholsky as one that is poking fun at “the restless, self-centered, materialistic, ‘non-Jewish’ German Jew.” (p. 132). However, Brenner does not consider other implications of HERR WENDRINER. It suggested that German values are base, and that they are not good enough for Jews to emulate.


Brenner quips, “Nazis authorities were willing to tolerate, and to some degree even support, Jewish culture, as long as it promoted the segregation of Jewish and non-Jewish Germans.” (p. 213).

Even after Kristallnacht, the Jewish Kulturbund continued to function. In fact, (quote) …Goebbels ordered the Kulturbund to continue its plays. Kulturbund actors and assistants were released from concentration camps to perform comedies and operas. And the show went one, even after the outbreak of war and the beginnings of the deportations. (unquote). (p. 218).

The Nazis did not force German Jews to wear the Star until September 1941. (p. 219). Soon thereafter, they dissolved the Kulturbund. However, the remnants of the Kulturbund continued to function in the Nazi concentration camps.
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