America and the Newest Jewish Writing in German

by Sander L. Gilman
America and the Newest Jewish Writing in German
Sander L. Gilman
The German Quarterly
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University of Chicago

America and the Newest Jewish Writing in German

In a recent, highly controversial book, the Canadian sociologist Michal Bodemann argued that Jews in Germany are, or at least were for decades, virtual Jews.l There was such a need to imagine a Jewish presence in both the BRD and the GDR that both cultures "created" a new Jewish identity separate from the actual presence of Jews, but the model for the non-Jewish and Jewish Germans was as much the American and Israeli experience of Jewish life as it was the German Jewish past. But Bodemann, like Erica Burgauer, recog- nizes that since the mid-1980s, especially after reunification, something has shifted in the presence and awareness of German culture concerning an active Jewish cul- tural pre~ence.~

What they seem to draw into question is the "authenticity" of this experience. It is the question of who deter- mines what an authentic Jewish experi- ence is, and who the "authentic" Jews are, that stands at the center of this discussion. This is the oldnew question of "who is a Jew?"

There lies the rub. If Jewish is defined by ritual and by practice, one set of discus- sions can be generated; if identity and self-understanding, as well as reception, define Jewish, a totally different discussion takes place. Thus if one author has a Jew- ish mother and identifies herself as Jewish, there seems to be no problem, but if an- other has a Jewish father and does the same, he is seen as somehow inauthentic. And if this identification is generations earlier, it is somehow even more inauthentic. In religious circles one of the major debates has to do with mixed marriages. The key word is that in mixed marriages the child is "lost" to hislher Jewish origins. Given the rejection of children of mixed marriages by the religious establishment, this is of little wonder. It is surprising (to me) that such children do sometimes come back and learn to understand and cherish their Jewish identity. Germany is a space (at least after 1989) where the badge of a Jewish identity has, at least in some circles, an added cachet. One can make an analogy to the "gain from illness" that the sociolo- gists of medicine describe. The positive value of the status of the victim after the fact is part of the construction of the idea of the Jew in the German-speaking world. And yet it is the very victim status that pro- vides a critical edge for the cultural prod- ucts dealing with being Jewish in the con- temporary world which are written by those who self-label or are labeled as Jews. It has been striking (and now more schol- ars than myself recognize this) that there has been an explosion of such cultural manifestations of Jews in Germany, Aus- tria, and Switzerland. Here it is the self-definition as Jew in the public (cul- tural) sphere through the creation of a Jewish persona of oneself as a writer, film maker, artist, or photographer, and the dedication to the creation of artifacts that deal with what Dan Diner so insightfully called the "negative symbiosis" of being Jewish in Germany.3

The Goldhagen Debate: 
Setting the Stage 

The debates about Jewish "authentic- ity" in the German-speaking world can be

The German Quarterly 73.2 (Spring 2000) 151

framed by the complex relationship of this world to the very notion of the Jews. No- where was this more clearly differentiated than in the initial German critical response to Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners before its publication in Ger- man in August of 1996.4 This reception seems to be a litmus test of the new permis- siveness that exists since reunification over public expression concerning aspects of the Shoah and the image of the Jews in Germany. The ability to talk about Jews in contemporary Germany as part of a con- tested present, and in a complex and self-contradictory manner related to the past, provides a frame for the images of to- day's Jews. The fact is that before the pub- lication of the German translation in Au- gust 1996, there were more articles in Die Zeit (six) than in The New York Times (four). This is a mark of this new German fascination with the ability to finally get it off in public about the Jews, here defined as American Jewish scholars, and their "pre- occupation" with the Shoah. This is the context in which the most recent Jewish writing in German must be read. In the re- ception of Goldhagen's book it is not the '3ews" in general who bear the brunt of these attacks, but "American Jews" de- fined in such a way as to symbolize the ab- solute location of corruption and evil.

The linguistic taboos in place in the academy about Jews in general have been loosened since German reunification. When one German historianhistorian of Germany who is non-Jewish (Hans Mommsen) can call another German histo- rianhistorian of Germany who is Jewish (Julius Schoeps) a "well-poisoner" (Brun- nenvergifter) in the passion of a public de- bate about Goldhagen's book (FAZ,June 3, 19961, one knows the standards have shifted. "Well-poisoner" is an ancient libel about Jews and their general danger to the healthy non-Jewish body politic. And in- deed, the debates about Daniel Goldhagen in Germany seem to permit the unvar- nished use of a language of defamation rarely if ever heard in the halls of the Ger- man academy since 1945.

I find the new polemical discussion about Daniel Goldhagen's American Jew- ish identity, rather than about his book, much more revealing about the ability of the members of the German academic pub- lic sphere to face up to their own long-term sense of intellectual and moral inferiority to their American colleagues than it is re- vealing about any inherent desire to con- front the issues raised by Goldhagen. As Goethe wrote, "America, you have it better ...": at least you do not have to ask what your profession-the writing of history--did during the Holocaust! Claims by German scholars that Goldhagen's book is "unscientific" because it arises out of his biography are manifestations of the anxi- ety over the claims of objectivity and scientificity which haunt the writing of his- tory in Germany (East and West) after the Shoah. Eberhard Jaeckel, Professor of His- tory at Stuttgart, makes this charge in his condemnation of Goldhagen's book as us- ing "the most primitive of stereotypes" and reverting back to the primitive age of Ger- man historiography from the 1950s (Die Zeit May 17, 1996). If the debates in the 1950s about the meaning and the origin of the Shoah were centered around the ques- tion of "collective guilt," they were also about the role that intellectuals and pro- fessionals played in world of the Nazis. "What did you do in the war, Daddy?" "I wrote history, my son."

Biography seems to be quite important in Germany in the discussion of Gold- hagen's book, and it is "biography" that de- fines the role of the Jewish writer in con- temporary German-language writing. You write what you experienced, and therefore you have a claim to a personal identity as a Jew but not a professional identity as a his- torian. What strikes me is that the dis- course over Goldhagen is about the con- structed image of American Jews, not about the "Jews" in general. And this theme reappears in an interesting way in modern Jewish writing in German. Per- haps here we have living proof of Dan Diner's point in his book on the German image of thehericans, in which he argues that America becomes a surrogate for the '3ews" in the nineteenth and twentieth ~entury.~

In this debate the "American Jew" becomes the locus of anxiety in a com- plicated way.

We can begin with the enfant terrible of German right-wing culture, Frank Schirr- macher, who in two pieces in the FA2 (April 15 and 30, 1996) condemned Goldhagen's book as creating a biologically essential im- age of the "Germans," which Goldhagen certainly does not do. This clear misread- ing is echoed strangely by Eberhard Jaeckel's rather comic assumption (Die Zeit May 17,1996) that Goldhagen's evoca- tion of an "anthropological" model is a bio- logical one. Everyone knows that "anthro- pology is a sub-specialty of biology, which studies the inherited and not the acquired qualities of the human being." All anthro- pology is physical anthropology, because, of course, that is what the anthropology of race was in Germany before 1945. No other versions of anthropology seem to exist for Eberhard Jaeckel. (Actually, Ingrid Gil- cher-Holtey, professor of History at Biele- feld, quietly corrects this amazing gaffe in her intelligent and sober discussion of Goldhagen's book as a prime example of the history of images, in Die Zeit, June 7, 1996.)

But it is necessary for Schirrmacher and Jaeckel to turn Goldhagen into- what? By accusing him of using a biological model for the writing of history, he is trans- formed into "Daddy9'-those Nazi histori- ans who truly did use a (for them com- pletely "scientific") biological model to ex- plain the glories of the Third Reich and the inherent inferiority of the Jews. The Amer- ican Jew Daniel Goldhagen becomes the figure all historians of Jaeckel's generation fear-the "objective" Nazi historian, their own teachers and intellectual fathers. Goldhagen, imagined as the new Jew-ish-American Nazi, is a fascinating mo- ment in the projection of a generation's anxieties. (It is also nothing new. "The Jews," then the Israelis, were labeled the new Nazis after the massacres in the refu- gee camps in Lebanon and during the Iraq war!)

If Goldhagenis the new "Nazi," who are his compatriots? Who is at fault for the popularity of Daniel Goldhagen's book? Frank Schirrmacher attributes the popu- larity of the book to ?Jewish" critics in the United States. Here hejoins the owner and editor ofDer Spiegel, RudolfAugstein, who wrote (Der Spiegel 1611996) about the "mostly Jewish columnists" who were fueling the American debate on the book. His article was titled "The Sociologist as Executioner," inverting the image of vic- tim and murder, and a picture of Gold- hagen was subtitled: "'Hangman' Gold- hagen." Who are these "American Jewish murderers," and why are they conspiring together against the "Germans"?

I have before me the typescript of the distinguished historian Hans-Ulrich Weh- ler's reviewlcritique of Goldhagen's book (which then appeared in Die Zeit on May 24,1996). I am a great admirer of Wehler's work. Unlike Schirrmacher, Wehler, Pro- fessor of History at Bielefeld, is a serious historian of modern German history whose scholarship is the basis for research throughout the world. Yet given that, or precisely because, I admire Wehler's mind, I can read his essay as a space where the "American Jews" are indeed defined in ways similar to those of Schirrmacher.

Let me begin by noting that each of us creates the stereotype of the Jews she or he needs. Secular Jews such as myself tend to be dismissive of reactionary religious defi- nitions, and religious Jews contemptuous of cultural notions of Jewishness. Non- Jews create as many different Jews- smart Jews, national Jews, evil Jews, rapa- cious Jews-as they need. Such stereo- types are extensions of our ways of organiz- ing the world and reveal our sense of its in- herent order. But what sort of "American Jews" do the most recent critics in Ger- many need to have?

First, they are conspiratorial and vin-

dictive. Second, they lie. These are trademarks of classic anti-

Semitism. It seems to be impossible to con- struct the '3ews" without evoking such tropes. Let us look at Wehler's presenta- tion of this argument. Seeing Goldhagen as a prototypical vengeful Jew (Shylock with a Harvard degree), he writes:

Sollten wir die nahezu vollendete Ausrot- tung der nordamerikanischen Indianer nicht wenigstens aus sehr unterschiedli- chen Bedingungen und Motiven zu erkla- ren versuchen, sondern gleich aufgeben und es einem jungen Navajo-Historiker uberlassen, alles aus der Tradition "ame- rikanischen Killertums" seit der purita- nischen Brandmarkung der rothautigen "Kinder des Satans" abzuleiten-mit Folgerungen fur My Lai?

(Should we not attempt to explain the al- most complete extermination of the North American Indians from various dif- ferent conditions and motives? Or should we capitulate and allow a young Navajo historian to derive everything from the tradition of "American murderers" begin- ning with the puritan branding of the red-skinned "children of Satanv-with consequences for My Lai?)

This passage is remarkable for its con- struction of the vindictive American Jew as "Indian." It is only because of his Jewish nature, which is colored by his experience, by the prejudice he meets with, that he feels constrained to act out. He is a histo- rian, but only, of course, in name. Real his- torians have objective reasons for selecting their objects. The reason for such a per- sonal and vindictive approach to the "mur- derers" can be only the author's personal history. One of the most interesting ques- tions one must ask of every historian is how he/she selects hisher topic. Each historian or critic selects objects which are meaning- ful for himher-not only Jewish histori- ans of the Holocaust. Even German histo- rians of the Holocaust.

But even more, for me, is the selection of the Native American image as the basis for Wehler's analogy-for it is not the Sa- bra and the Palestinians who are evoked in this passage, but the American Jew. It is not that Wehler is creating a "you-areas-bad-as-us" scenario. He is too smart for that. But he does imply that the position of the American Jew is as little a part of the "real" American Holocaust, the murder of the native Americans, as he is part of the "real" Shoah. The American Jew was spared the Holocaust, as Philip Roth has shown over and over again, and now de- sires to have the gain from the status of vic- tim that the "real" victims have. It is not just that Goldhagen has the "blessings of a late birth," but that that birth was in the United States, where, unlike the Native American, he cannot claim victim status.

This trope reappears in odd places in the Goldhagen reception in Germany. Thus in the issue of Der Spiegel whose cover story is devoted to Goldhagen (21/1996), the German Jewish gadfly Henryk Broder writes:

Ware Daniel Goldhagen der Sohn eines texanischen Rinderzuchters und hatte er uber den Holocaust promoviert, so wie andere uber den amerikanischen Burger- krieg, ware die Sache einfach. Aber er ist der Sohn eines judischen Intellektuellen, der wahrscheinlich ein deutscher Profes- sor geworden ware, hatte Hitler nicht in- terveniert.

(If Daniel Goldhagen had been the child of a Texas cattle breeder, and if he had got- ten his doctorate writing about the Holo- caust as others have writing about the American Civil War, things would be simpler. But he is the son of a Jewish in- tellectual, who would most probably have been a German professor had Hitler not intervened.)

The move from Native American to Ameri- can cowboy is only a slight displacement. But it is a necessary one. This comes to be a Jewish reading of the Goldhagen "prob- lem" in a German context. Are American Jews real Jews? Or are they inauthentic because they are neither Shoah survivors nor Israelis? Are they really just like cow- boys or Indians? Is the survivor's child dif- ferent as the Native American historian would be different, not because of his own experience but because of his identifica- tion with the history of his father, who is a survivor? Why the Wild West analogies anyhow?

Jew and non-Jew alike share the "Ger- man" construction of the American Jew. It is Karl May's Amerika, with toy pistols and oversized cowboy hats. But this Wild West is read differently by Wehler and Broder. And yet for both, the American Jew becomes the powerful surrogate for the Amis-the intellectual occupying power that dominated (and dominates) German historical consciousness in its every mani- festation, from pop culture to academic dis- course. And it is the American historian who must therefore be seen as corrupt and unscholarly for German historiography to lay claim again to the objective writing of the history of-the perpetrator. Here too is a further violation of the taboo. Goldhagen has the temerity to write as a Jew about the murderers, not as he "should," about the victims. He becomes in this discourse the American as corrupt Jew, as Dan Diner has argued, and therefore the perfect enemy.

American Jews lie, and in that way they fulfill the expectations of the anti-Semitic trope. Wehler puts Daniel Goldhagen in the same camp as other "false" Jewish American academics, such as David Abra- ham, whose published dissertation on the role of capital in the funding of the Nazis was dismissed as based on invented docu- ments, and Liah Greenfeld, whose compar- ative study of European nationalisms was denounced because it evoked the specter of the German Sonderweg. What is this a canon of? Certainly not bad historical scholarship by graduate students-that list would have to include too many Ger- man dissertations. It is not the canon of bad or evil scholarship on the Shoah-that list would have to begin with David Irving, and would need to continue through a very long list of works from French historians before it came to the trinity of Abraham, Greenfeld and Goldhagen. What, oh what, could these three young AMERICAN JEWS have in common? They lie, of course, for ly- ing is the special skill of the Jew in this rhetoric. They seem to be smart. They go to Harvard or teach at Princeton. But their intelligence is simply a mask for their men- dacity. They are "smart Jews," within the age-old calumny that claims that Jewish "superior intelligence" is simply a clever- ness, designed to trick unsuspecting non- Jews.6

Wehler's selection is unconscious. He underlines this by including, in his list of good historians of the Shoah, Jews such as Alex Bein, George Mosse, Shulamit Volkov, Leon Poliakov, etc. But there is not one "American Jew" on his list. German Jew- ish emigres and Israelis, but not one Amer- ican Jew is to be found among a longer list of good, Jewish historians. Now George Mosse is, of course, more American than anyone I can know. He has shaped the study of Germany in the United States for five decades, and I am in his deepest debt, as are all American historians of Germany. But for Germans, as can be seen in Irene Runge's long interview with him, he re- mains a German Jew.7 The canon of lying Jews is all American Jews in this construc- tion.

The German response to Daniel Gold- hagen's book is a clear attempt to break with the hegemony that America has had in defining the "Germans." It is not just that the book is controversial, but that it permits a discussion to take place which has been lacking over the past four de- cades. How are the Americans seen? Are they indeed dominated by the Jews, as Ger- man right-wing propaganda has said all along? Why does The New York Times seem always to have a "German" page with anti-Semitic or xenophobic incidents next to essays on German accomplishments? We know, and we can see, how Jewish writers begin to relate to this set of anti-Semitic tropes well before Goldhagen's work ap- pears on the scene.

Three Young Jews Writing

Such a frame of cultural projection on the part of Diaspora Jews who find the re-emergence of Jewish culture imponder- able, and on the part of contemporary Ger- man intellectuals who are now able to lo- calize and articulate their anxiety about Jews and Jewishness, can frame the com- plexity of Jewish writing in contemporary Germany-and not surprisingly, a few of its themes. In this section I will turn to look at three first books by some of the youngest authors in German to make the claim of a Jewish identity and articulate it in their writing. Not by accident they represent three quite "different" national voices: that of Austria (read: Vienna), Switzerland (read: Zurich), and East Berlin (that arti- fact now called one of the "new states," Berlin, but still truly the mirror of West Berlin). All three have specific tales to tell, and all use a voice which is authentic and appropriate for their own fantasy of what it means to sound Jewish. All three of them are men. A variation on this theme is to be found if one looks (as I have done in my ear- lier publications on this theme) at first books by Jewish women writers who are writing on the negative symbiosis of the Jews in contemporary Germany.

One place to begin is the first novel of the new Jewish writing in German Swit- zerland. Daniel Ganzfried's first novel, Der Absender (The Sender) appeared in 1995.8 Ganzfried was born in Israel in 1958 and grew up in Wabern near Bern. His novel re- capitulates the theme ofAmerica as the to- pography (and antithesis) of Jewish iden- tity in the contemporary world. The first strand of the novel introduces the protago- nist who, having grown up in Zurich, now finds himself in New York working for a new Holocaust museum beginning to be developed in the city. His job is to listen to audio tapes made by survivors of the Shoah and use them to document the history of that event. One tape recounts the life of a Hungarian Jew from his childhood through his experience of the Shoah. The protagonist is convinced that he is listen- ing to the life story of his estranged father. The second strand in the novel is the auto- biography of the anonymous Hungarian Jew from his carefree childhood through the end of the Shoah. A third strand of the novel evolves as the son persuades his fa- ther to come to New York and confronts him on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. We never learn whether the "Absender" of the title was the father after all.

It is clear that Ganzfried is using "America" as the foil for the false con- sciousness of modern Jewry. The obsessive yet distanced relationship of his "America" to the Shoah (as opposed to the real rela- tionship of European Jewry) forms the central theme of the novel's first strand. America does have it better--on the con- trary, it is the superficiality and trendiness of American Jews which form the clear an- tithesis to the world of the Swiss Jews who are the children of survivors. American Jewish consciousness is represented by the planned Holocaust Museum in a city which never experienced the Holocaust except by viewingschindler's List. Indeed, themeet- ing at the top of the Empire State Building is taken from one of the classic 1990s ro- mantic products of Hollywood, Sleepless in Seattle, which concludes with the reunion of the lovers on the observation deck ofthat building. The iconography of Hollywood kitsch is transformed into the unresolved meeting of father and son, survivor and seeker. Authentic Jewish experience is that of the displaced European (whether displaced to America or elsewhere in Eu- rope), not the experience of "America."

One can contrast this text with other examples of the older Swiss-Jewish writ- ing. There is a tradition of Diaspora writ- ing in Swiss Jewish writing, perhaps best exemplified by the work of Andre Kamin- ski, especially his novel Kiebitz of 1988.9 Like the work of Edgar Hilsenrath, Kamin- ski's comic novels use the world of the Jew in exile as its theme. Born in 1923 and died in 1991, Kaminski lived in Poland from 1945 to 1968, when he was expelled. Fol- lowing his expulsion he lived in Israel and both northern and southern Africa. Over the final years of his life, he lived in Zurich and produced a wide range of works using the figure of the Eastern European Jew in the Western European Diaspora as his theme. Kiebitz is written as a dialogue in letters between a Swiss German psychia- trist and Gideon Esdur Kiebitz, a Polish Jew living in Switzerland who has lost the power of speech.

What is striking about both Kaminski's novel of 1991 and Ganzfried's novel of 1995 is how they deal with precisely the types of stereotypes which dominate the response to the Goldhagen affair. Certainly the cen- tral trope of the Goldhagen affair is that Goldhagen claims to be a smart Jew but is in fact a lying Jew. Kaminski bemoans the fact that God has damned the Jews as smart Jews:

Ein wahrhaft judisches Pech, stohnte er. Dabei sind wir doch ein auserwahltes Volk, die Gluckspilze der Weltgeschichte. Gott zeichnet uns unentwegt aus. Pianis- ten macht er aus uns, Schachweltmeister, Nobelpreistrager der Physik und Medi- zin. Aber hat man je einen judischen Meisterboxer gesehen? Einen judischen Schutzenkonig? Sind wir denn fur Kriegs- zeiten gerustet? Naturlich nicht. (99)

(It is Jewish bad luck, he moaned. Yes, we are a chosen people, the luckiest in the history of the world. God always distin- guishes us. He makes pianists out of us, chess world champions, Nobel Prize win- ners in physics and medicine. But have you every heard of a Jewish boxing cham- pion? A Jewish shooting king? Are we ready for war? Naturally not.)

Or, in an exchange with a non-Jew:

"Ich hab' was gesagt, Ariel." 
"DaB ihr Juden immer mehr wiBt als 
"Warum ist das natiirlich?" 
"Das ist unser Geheimnis." (231) 

("I said something, Ariel." 
"That you Jews always know more than 
we do." 
"Why naturally?" 
"That is our secret.") 

"Smart Jews" is a trope from the com- plex vocabulary of the world which fears and thus stereotypes the Jews. Daniel Ganzfried's comment reverses this theme. He describes the narrative of the anony- mous, taped speaker's schooling in Hun- gary and his teacher's conviction that there are "zwei Arten von Juden, die es gebe: entweder die sehr gescheiten oder die sehr dummen. Leider konnte ich mir darauf keinen Reim machen, denn von den Juden, die ich kannte, hatte ich niemanden eindeutig einer der zwei Gruppen zuor- denen konnen" (79). (There are "two kinds of Jews: either the very smart or the very dumb. Sadly, I could figure out what he was talking about, because of the Jews I knew none could have been placed in one or the other group.") The naivete of the school- boy immediately deflates the claims of the smart (and stupid) Jew. For being smart, as Ganzfried knows, is not a form of praise but of difference and of opprobrium.

Ganzfried plays with the complexity of a Jewish child's dislocation in trying to fit the model of the smart Jew to the experi- ences of his world. He is aware of the com- plex history of the meaning of Jewish dif- ference, specifically the meaning of the circumcised male body. Again, the anony- mous narrator on the tape recounts his baptism as a child by a Christian nanny (88), which, he is quite aware, does not change him. His Christian friend, follow- ing a sport hour in school, has him pull down his gym pants and remarks: "Na seht ihr, keine Spur von Christ!" (89) ("Now look, not a trace of a Christian!") His cir- cumcision remains unrecouped by the bap- tism. He remains a Jew no matter what his religion. Such a biological argument is the sort of image which Jaeckel sees in his im- age of Jews and anthropology. It is an affir- mation that such models are to be dealt with only retrospectively and still need to be undermined.

Thus the biological model of the Jew as a race is closely related in the 1930s and '40s to the parallel image of the Jews as the source of social and societal disease. Thus Ganzfried's taped narrator, embedded in the discourse of the 40s, turns this image around. When the Hungarian Jews are forced to wear theyellow Star, it is as if "ich trug die Marke wie eine Entstellung aus schwerer Krankheit" (147). ("I bore the mark as if it were a deformation from a ter- rible illness.") It is theyellow Star which is the sign of disease, and it deforms the healthy Jews. Ganzfried is quite aware that the world of the past, with all of its pit- falls, is parallel to the world of the present. The tape exists as an artifact of the present, not of the past. And the complex question of memory and identity raised by the anon- ymous narrator and his story needs to be the bridge through which father and son are to be reconciled. Ganzfried uses these images taken from the German discourse of the past, but present in the German dis- course of the present, to highlight that con- tinuity and the "negative symbiosis" that Jews experience (even) in the world of Swiss Jewry,

The Viennese parallel to Ganzfried's text is that of Doron Rabinovici, whose vol- ume of short stories Papirnik appeared in 1994.1° Rabinovici stands very much in the tradition of the contemporary Viennese Jewish writing best represented by the work of Robert Schindel (to whom the vol- ume is co-dedicated) and Robert Manesse. Born in Israel in 1961, he came to Vienna in 1964 and later did doctoral work in history there. This volume finds its authentic space not in America but in Vienna, a Vi- enna virtually completely masked in these tales but appearing with bits of local color, as in the image of the statue of the anti-Se- mitic mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, or the Plague Column in the middle of Vienna, which haunts the text.

The distinction between an authentic space (Zurich, Vienna) and an inauthentic space is important to these young Jewish writers in German. And the inauthentic space is, simply put, America. In the very beginning of the most telling of these tales, "Der richtige Riecher" (The Right Smel- ler), a complex tale about smart Jews and Jewish noses, the Austrian Jewish protag- onist, Amos, is confronted by a group of neo-Nazis who taunt him with the line: "Wenn es euch hier nicht pdt, dann geht doch nach Israel-oder nach New York" (61). ("Ifyou don't like it go to Israel--or to New York.") A Jewish Professor from Co- lumbia University later tells him, in Eng- lish, "New York is more fun," but Amos wants to do his Matura (high school leav- ing certificate) in Israel, not New York. For Israel is the authentic place of Jewish expe- rience. Israel, the Jewish professor from New York says, is indeed the place of purifi- cation for American Jews, who can travel to Israel to escape the conflicts in Brook- lyn, where the Jews hate the Blacks, to Is- rael, where the Jews can hate the Arabs "mit noch besseren Griinden" (63). ("[ ...I with still better reasons.") This ironic sense of an American Jewish inauthen- ticity highlights the reality of Vienna as the place of testing of "real" Jews.

Central to this story is the trope of the "smart Jew." For part of this image is the antithesis between "intelligence" and "strength." If you are smart, the trope has it, you cannot be strong. You must use your mind, not your fists. Who, as Kaminski's character notes, has ever heard of a Jewish boxer? (Many of us have, from Daniel Mendoza to Barney Ross, but that is not the point.) Amos does not make Aliyah. He remains in Vienna and is forced to confront the anti-Semites on a daily basis. "We don't hate the Jews," they say, "the Jews hate us" (63).This constant overt anti-Semi- tism presents a tone quite different from Ganzfried's sense of the Swiss world, which his narrator leaves for New York. When a fellow student, Helmut, tells Amos that they should have gassed him in Mauthausen, his response is to talk ratio- nally to him. Amos's mother's reaction is that he should beat him up. But he doesn't want to do so; he wants to rely on rational means, discussion and argument. He wants to be a smart Jew, not a tough Jew.

His non-Jewish "friend" Peter, tall and handsome, observes to him that all Jews don't stink, only Polish Jews (71), and when Amos says that his mother is a Polish Jew, Peter's response is "Oh, das tut mir leid" ("Oh, I am so sorry"). Anti-Semitic comments are the stuff of daily exchange in this masked city of Vienna. On his walk through the Viennese pedestrian zone, Amos is confronted by the plague column representing the medieval black death, and he thinks of the Jews driven from the city because of the accusation that they had poisoned wells and caused the plague. The well-poisoners, as we saw in the discussion of Goldhagen, today come again to be the Jews.

Peter continues the quasi-liberal, anti- Semitic line, saying that anti-Semitism is "naturlich unentschuldbar, aber wenn ich die Orthodoxen sehe: Warum mussen sie sich immer so absondern? Sie mussen nicht unbedingt so herumlaufen. AuSer- dem: Warum akzeptieren sie nur, wer beschnitten ist?" (72) ("[. ..I naturally not to be excused, but when I look at the Ortho- dox: why must they always separate them- selves so? They don't have to run around looking like that. Also: why do they only accept those who are circumcised?") Here the line has finally been crossed. As in Ganzfried's text, it is the response to these classic anti-Semitic tropes that the narra- tor uses to set his discourse apart from that of the past. At this moment, Amos finally stops his rational responses and punches Peter in the nose: "Die klassiche Gerad- linigkeit, die sein Riechorgan bisher aus- gezeichnet hatte, war dahin und genickt" (72). ("The classic straight line which had up to then marked his organ of smell was forever changed and bent.") And Amos be- comes the hero of his family "mit einem Schlag" (73). ("[ ...I with a single blow.") Peter's classic Aryan profile becomes a marked one, marked not with the Jewish nose but with the physical mark of his anti-Semitism. In a visible way Amos has marked him as an anti-Semite.

Rabinovici uses a style very different from Ganzfried's. Where Ganzfried adopts apseudo-realistic tone, Rabinovici uses the language of the young German Jewish short story writer Maxim Biller, always on the edge of a surreal moment. Space espe- cially becomes the point of contention. And yet in both realms, Ganzfried's New York and Hungary and Zurich, and the almost Borges-like image of Rabinovici's Vienna, the question of an authentic space for the expression of a Jewish narrative in Ger- man stands at its center. America may be "fun," but the experiences there (and per- haps also in Israel) are not those which con- front the daily topography of the Shoah on its own grounds. This is the authenticity which Ganzfried and Rabinovici claim for themselves, their characters, and for their readers, whether Jewish or not.

In Benjamin Stein's first novel, Das Alphabet des Juda Liva (The Alphabet of Juda Liva), published in 1995, the response to ideas of Jewishness and narra- tive space are overt.ll Stein was born in 1970 in East Berlin and now lives in Berlin and Munich. He has won a number of fel- lowships, including the prized Alfred Doblin Fellowship of the Academy of the Arts. His novel is seemingly shaped by the discourse of Latin American magic real- ism. It moves, through the creation of a Jewish narrator, from contemporary Ber- lin (after reunification) to late medieval Prague. The frame is that the protagonist hires a storyteller to come on weekly passes and provide his wife with an ongoing tale. It is storytellingin a Jewishvein which is at the center of this tale. The language of this novel seems to be shaped by the vocabulary of the Cabala, indeed so much so that, fol- lowing the model of many '3ewish" works of contemporary German fiction, it con- cludes with a glossary of terms for its evi- dently non-Jewish audience. Here the au- thenticity of the fictive topography seems to be guaranteed by the authenticity of the language of the narration.

But the '3ewishness" of this voice is suspect specifically because it makes such demands on the very idea of authenticity. Stein's novel stands in a narrative tradi- tion of the German Democratic Republic, continued here with a massive dose of Jew- ish mysticism. Beginning with Johannes Bobrowski's brilliant and original Leuins Miihle (1964), written by an avowed Lu- theran writer in the GDR, it continues through the first Yewish" novel in the GDR, i.e., a novel with a Jewish protago- nist written by a Jewish writer, Jurek Becker's Jakob der Liigner (Jacob the Liar) (1969). In both of these texts we have com- plex narrative strands which demand the presence of a palpable '3ewish" voice in the text. What makes the voice Yewish" is its claim to stand in a narrative tradition of a folkloric, Yiddish narrative, such as that of Sholem Aleichem. Indeed, it is the musical Fiddler on the Roof in its Felsenstein ver- sion at the East Berlin Komische Oper which has stood midwife to this novel as much as anything else.

Stein's novel, with its magical move- ments between levels of narrative, uses a self-combusting narrator who moves from contemporary Berlin to medieval Prague through his tale. He picks up these GDR traditions of representing a Jewish dis- course. But the physicality of the narrator also picks up on the image of the Jewish body and that of the smart Jew. For like the protagonist of Becker's novel, the narrator (not Jakob) is the smart Jew, insightful into the past and knowledgeable about the present. But Stein's narrator is also physi- cally marked as the Jew of the anti-Sem- ite's nightmares. The narrator describes him as "verwahrlost bartig und 0-beinig"

(11) ("neglectedly bearded and bowlegged") when we are first introduced to him. Again it is the physicality of the Jew which marks his difference and is used in the novel to delineate Jewish particularity.

Stein's novel uses, in a more complex narrative form, the idea of an internal Jew- ish narrative form taken from Cabala, but it reveals itself to be a German literary re- sponse to the world. Here it is Prague which is the antithesis of Germany. The space of non-authenticity is Germany; that of authenticity for Jewish discourse re- mains Prague. It would seem that the an- tithesis between modernity and the past, between Berlin and Prague, escapes the "American" curse. But it is actually a trope taken fromherican Jewish writing of the 1980s. BothPhilip Roth (The Prague Orgy) and Saul Bellow (The Dean's December) place the search for Jewish authenticity in the present in Prague.12 Thus the Prague which Stein's novel represents is not only that of Der Golem (both Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel and Paul Wegener's 1920 film), but also the American recapitulation of this theme in the 1980s of the notion of Prague as the Jewish space of experience as seen from the world of American Jewish letters. The authenticity of Prague is a place of Jewish trial. This is certainly the case in Stein's novel, even with its move- ment into the Middle Ages as a contrast to

the Berlin of post-reunification Germany.

"America, you have it better ..."-certainly these three writers reverse this claim while honoring it. America is fun for the Jews-they become powerful, win No- bel prizes and engage in the building of cul- tural institutions such as video archives of the Holocaust. They are smart Jews but they are not tough Jews. They have it easy. They are superficial and not engaged in the reconstitution of a new Jewish culture, for %Jewish" culture in America has become mainstream culture. Since the American Jewish culture has never been destroyed, these young writers in Zurich, Vienna, and BerlidMunich confront the literary tradi- tion of American Jewry as well as the anti-Semitism present in their own cul- ture. These three first books show a new level of awareness among the youngest Jewish writers in German of the complex world of images and texts in which they live and which they employ in complex ways in their texts. Is there a new Jewish culture developingin the German-speaking world? -evidently so!


lY. Michal Bodemann, Gedachtnistheater: die jiidische Gemeinschaft und ihre deutsche Erfindung (Hamburg: Rotbuch, 1996). Pub- lished in English as Jews, Germans, Memory: Reconstructions of Jewish life in Germany

(Ann Arbor: U of Michigan 1996).

2Erica Burgauer, Zwischen Erinnerung und Verdrangung-Juden in Deutschland nach 1945 (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlts Enzyklopadie, 1993).

3The term is from Dan Diner, "Negative Symbiose: Deutsche und Juden nach Auschwitz," Babylon 1(1986): 9-20. On its ap- plicability to the present context see Jack Zipes, "Die kulturellen Operationen von Deut- schen und Juden im Spiegel der neueren deutschen Literatur," Babylon 8 (1990): 34-44; Klaus Briegleb, "Negative Symbiose," Gegenwartsliteratur seit 1968,ed. Klaus Briegleb and Sigrid Weigel (Munich: Hanser, 1992), 117-52; Hans Schiitz, Juden in der deutschen Literatur

(Munich: Piper, 1992) 309-29. 4Daniel Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Execu- tioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust

(New York: Knopf, 1996). To frame any discus- sion of the meaning of the Jews in the cultural life of the new Germany such projections and attitudes on the part of the German intellectu- als must be taken seriously. However, let me begin by stating my own views about the vari- ous theses represented by Goldhagen's book and then, I hope, my "hidden agenda" will be- come evident. Like Goldhagen, I believe that mass education can inculcate negative images or stereotypes into various cultural groups and that individuals in such groups can respond to these images. However, I believe that the re- sponse can be either affirmative or critical. Thus the universal presence of negative im- ages can potentially create as much resistance as it does advocacy, but it rarely does.

Unlike Goldhagen, I believe that there is a complicated history of anti-Semitism (for me a blanket term for Jew Hatred) in the Christian West which is different from simple ubiquitous xenophobia. I see this as stemming from the very origins of Christianity and its constant need to distance itself from Judaism and the Jews. What Goldhagen views as eliminationist anti-Semitism is present in the early Church. Yet given the specificity of the self-conscious construction of a Staatsnation (in the sense of Friedrich Meinecke) in the place of aKulturnation,and the movement from the status and power of religious anti-Semitism to the new status of scientific racism at the close of the nineteenth century, the function of anti-Semi- tism in Germany is different from that in France or Austria. The Sonderweg debate, whether Germany and "the Germans" -how- ever defined-were different in their specific- ity at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, whether in their understanding of colonialism or the 'Sewish Question," is not resolved. Indeed, compara- tive studies are beginning to pinpoint specifi- cally the function of such stereotypes in under- standing "German" culture in contrast with other self-consciously constructed national and local cultures in Central Europe. This is not to say that nineteenth- and early twenti- eth-century "German" culture, in its construc- tion of "Germanness," the "Germans." and the 'Sews," was better or worse than in other na- tional cultures, only that it fulfilled a different function. All of this means that, in my reading, the presence of what Goldhagen labels "eliminationist" (rather than exclusionist) anti-Semitism in Germany was necessary but not sufficient for the Shoah to take place.

5Dan Diner, America in the Eyes of the Ger- mans: An Essay on Anti-Americanism (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1996).

6Gilman, Sander L., Smart Jews: The Con- struction of the Idea of Jewish Superior Intelli- gence at the Other End of the Bell Curve (The Inaugural Abraham Lincoln Lectures), (Uof Nebraska T: 1996).

7George Mosse, "Ich bleibe Emigrant,"

Gesprache mit George L. Mosse 1Irene Runge, Uwe Stelbrink (Berlin: Dietz, 1991). 8Daniel Ganzfried ,Der Absender (Zurich : Rotpunkt, 1995).

9Andre Kaminski, Die Garten des Mulay Abdallah: neun wahre Geschichten aus Afrika (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1983); Herzflattern: neun wilde Geschichten (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1984); Nachstes Jahr in Jeru- salem (Frankfurt a. M.: Insel, 1986); Schalom allerseits: Tagebuch einer Deutschlandreise (Frankfurt a. M.: Insel, 1987); Kiebitz (Frankfurt a. M.: Insel, 1988); Flimmergeschichten (Frankfurt a. M.: Insel, 1990); Der Sieg iiber die Schwerkraft und andere Erzahlungen

(Frankfurt a. M.: Insel, 1990). 1°Doron Rabinovici, Papirnik (Frankfurt

a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1994). The stories are: "Papirnik-in Prolog," "Die Bank," "Noemi," "Sech~neun~ech~~ech~neunneun,"

"Der rich- tige Riecher," "Ich schreibe Dir," "her die Saure des Regens," "Die Exekution," "Der Schauer und die Seherin," and "Lola--ein Epi- log."

llBenjamin Stein ,Das Alphabet des Juda Liua (Zurich: Ammann, 1995).

12Saul Bellow, The Dean's December (New York: Harper, 1981), and Philip Roth, The Prague Orgy (London: Cape, 1985), the latter also published as the epilogue to Zuckerman Bound (New York: Farrar, 1985), comprised of The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson, and Epilogue: The Prague Orgy. See also Sepp L. Tiefenthaler, "Ameri- can-Jewish Fiction: The Germanic Recep- tion," Handbook of American-Jewish Litera- ture: An Analytical Guide to Topics, Themes, and Sources, ed. Lewis Fried, Gene Brown, and Louis Harap (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1988) 471-504.

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