Philosemitism, as Alan T. Levenson explains, is “any pro-Jewish or pro-Judaic utterance or act.” The German term for this phenomenon appeared in the language at roughly the same time as its more famous counterpart, antisemitism, and its emergence signifies an important, often neglected aspect of German-Jewish encounters. Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism is the first assessment of the non-Jewish defense of Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness from the foundation of the German Reich in 1871 until the ascent of the Nazis in 1932, when befriending Jews became a crime.
Levenson takes an interdisciplinary look at fiction, private correspondence, and published works defending Jews and Judaism in early twentieth-century Germany. He reappraises the missionary Protestant defense of Judaism and advocacy of Jewry by members of the German peace movement. Literary analysis of popular novels with positive Jewish characters and exploration of the reception of Herzlian Zionism further illuminate this often overlooked aspect of German-Jewish history.
Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism reveals the dynamic process by which a generally despised minority attracts defenders and supporters. It demonstrates that there was sympathy for Jews and Judaism in Imperial and Weimar Germany, although its effectiveness was limited by the values of a bygone era and scattered across the political and social spectrum.
Levenson’s new afterword vividly surveys the past decade of philosemitism studies, and in a reading of Die Weltbühne, Weimar Germany’s most celebrated leftwing intellectual journal, he justifies the widely contested term of philosemitism.