Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism


Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism

Defenses of Jews and Judaism in Germany, 1871-1932

Alan T. Levenson
With a new afterword by the author

230 pages
1 appendix


July 2013


$25.00 Add to Cart

July 2004


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

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

Author Bio

Alan T. Levenson holds the Schusterman Professorship for Jewish Intellectual and Religious History at the University of Oklahoma and is the author of An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thinkers: From Spinoza to Soloveitchik and The Making of the Modern Jewish Bible: How Scholars in Germany, Israel, and America Transformed an Ancient Text.


“Whether addressing voices in the German peace movement, authors of works of fiction, missionaries, or supporters of Herzlian Zionism, Levenson detects a common thread of otherness preventing any mutually constructive German-Jewish symbiosis from emerging. In the shadow of the Holocaust, Levenson demonstrates that all shades of anti-semitism were present in the German culture . . . the complex matrix of social interaction that made the Holocaust possible.”—D. A. Meier, Choice

“A vigorous defense of philosemitism as a moral and intellectual category in the history of German-Jewish relations from Bismarck to Hitler.”—Central European History

“Levenson presents a balanced picture that is neither apologetic of the German intellectual tradition nor indulges in the simplistic construction of an antisemitic German ‘national character.’ . . . The book is very interesting throughout, carefully argued and documented, and well-written. It should be widely read.”—Marcel Stoetzler, German Studies Review

“Levenson’s analysis is penetrating and his conclusions . . . are well worth considering.”—Daniel J. Rettberg, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

Table of Contents

Part 1. Philosemitism in the Public Arena
1. Philosemetic Discourse in Imperial Germany
2. The German Peace Movement and the Jews
3. The Problematics of Philosemetic Fiction
4. Missionary Protestants and the Defense of Judaism
Part 2. Philosemitic Tendencies and Individuals
5. The Gentile Reception of Herzlian Zionism
6. Christian Author, Jewish Book?
7. An Adventure in Otherness
8. The Apostate as Philosemite
Appendix: The Case for Philosemitism
Selected Bibliography
Source Acknowledgments

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