The Return of German Jews and the Question of Identity

John Borneman and Jeffrey M. Peck

Texts and Contexts Series

309 pages


October 1995


$70.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

“A firsthand confrontation with the inner fears and the outer realities of [German Jews] as they themselves reflect post-Shoah history and experience. This is not merely lived ‘history,’ it is ‘history’ with a living face.”—Sander L. Gilman
This absorbing book of interviews takes one to the heart of modern German Jewish history. Of the eleven German Jews interviewed, four are from West Berlin, and seven are from East Berlin. The interviews provide an exceptionally varied and intimate portrait of Jewish experience in twentieth-century Germany. There are first-hand accounts of the Weimar Republic, the Nazi era, the Holocaust, and the divided Germany of the Cold War era. There are also vivid descriptions of the new united Germany, with its alarming resurgence of xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
Some of the men and women interviewed affirm their dual German and Jewish identities with vigor. There is the West Berliner, for instance, who proclaims, “I am a German Jew. I want to live here.” Others describe the impossibility of being both German and Jewish: “I don’t have anything in common with the whole German people.” Many confess to profound ambivalence, such as the East Berliner who feels that he is neither a native nor a foreigner in Germany: “If someone asks me, ‘Who are you?’ then I can only say, ‘I am a fish out of water.’”
Uncertain, angry, resolute, anguished—the diverse testimonies of these people provide startling evidence that “the history of German Jews is not over.”

Author Bio

John Borneman, an associate professor of anthropology at Cornell University, is author of Belonging in the Two Berlins: Kin, State, Nation and After the Wall: East Meets West in the New Berlin. Jeffrey M. Peck, associate professor of German at Georgetown University, is author of Hermes Disguised: Literary Hermeneutics and the Interpretation of Literature.

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