The Best of Both Worlds? Jewish Representations of Assimilation, Self, and Other in Weimar Popular Fiction

by Vibeke Rützou Petersen
The Best of Both Worlds? Jewish Representations of Assimilation, Self, and Other in Weimar Popular Fiction
Vibeke Rützou Petersen
The German Quarterly
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Drake University

The Best of Both Worlds? Jewish Representations of
Assimilation, Self, and Other in Weimar Popular

In view of the horrors of the Third Reich and the Holocaust, it is safe to assume that the systematic, negative inscription of dif- ference between self and other in the early part of the twentieth century was nowhere in the West as strongly manifested as in Ger- man culture. The years 1918-1933, in parti- cular, that period which leads up to the dic- tatorship of the NSDM constitute the historical and cultural period whose cultural stereotypingwould turn an entire peopleinto an "Other" to be exterminated during Na- zism. There was certainly a wide enough variety of stereotypical portrayal of "other- ness," as Weimar culture abounds with types: the proletarian mother (as exempli- fied by %the Kollwitz), the prostitute (best known as portrayed by Otto Dix), the new woman, the "Negro," the homosexual, and "the Jew," all of which are ubiquitous in the cultural texturn of the German 1920s.

Popular novels from the Weimar period strike the reader as revealing a somewhat remarkable lack of sensitivity towards their fictional Jewish characters. Jewish and non- Jewish alike, the writers seem to have created stereotypes of the worst kind-the greedy Jew, the power-hungry Jew, and the separatist Jew, for instance. Upon further reflection, however, it becomes clear that such asentiment places me historically after the Holocaust and that the urgent need I feel to warn the writers to abstain from their frivolous stereotyping is based on the horri- fied hindsight of someone who has been reading these texts after 1945. On the one hand, it is not possible to look back upon the Wei- mar years in an untroubled fashion--doing so would, in fact, constitute afrighteningca- pacity for instrumental reasoning. On the other hand, the texts examined were not privy to our post-Holocaust knowledge, and thus this paper may be understood as an ex- pression of my spatial and historical locality Likewise, the texts themselves must be strin- gently historicized, for they are part and par- cel of the Weimar discourse on Jewishness and Germanness and as such engage histor- ical and ideological contexts that cannot be ignored. Consequently, my examination will necessarily move between the realms of before and after while constantly taking stock of its historical whereabouts. The two strands of reading may throw some light on emerging paradigms of assimilation, the Other, and on the location of popular fiction in the discourses of German and Other that circulated in the Weimar Republic.

Henry Giroux's recent statement that "the struggle over identity can no longer be seriously considered outside the politics of representation .. ." (22) applies precisely to the Weimar Republic and the proliferation of representational media of the time, among them popular fiction, film, and illustrated weeklies. How were these typological percep- tions mediated through contemporary popu- lar fiction, and did they modify the way in which some of those Weimar citizens ima- gined themselves and/or were imagined? While we can trace textual stereotypes with relative ease, proof of direct causality is less available to us, if at all, and we can thus only speculate on their effect in materiality In-

The Gerrraa~s Quarterly 68.2 (Spring 1995) 160

stead, because this article inevitably is em- bedded in a "privileged" knowledge of the Holocaust, I cannot fail to consider, as does Sander Gilman, the "catastrophic potential" of those stereotypes as abasis for communal understanding and action (Giman 12).

Since much has already been said and written about Jewish intellectuals in Wei- mar, I shall turn my attention to repre- sentations of "the Jew" in those cultural ma- nifestations that reached the widest reading audience, namely popular fiction. l Moreover, in all of the texts examined here, assimilation issues are thematized through amale narra- tive, possibly (even probably) expressing traditional notions of the universality of the male subject or, closely connected, those of agency as a male prerogative. Thus, the in- vestigation in this paper does not mean to ignore the different issues pertaining to gen- der and antisemitism. Indeed, such is the subject matter of the literary representation of Jewish women that it deserves a separate examination which, in this case, space does not permit.

Popular fiction is a cultural marketplace where textual interpretations, prescriptions, and norms intermingle and percolate in a mediated fashion into other texts, the inter- textual discourse among them, and into the publidprivate spheres in general. In Ger- many of the 1920s, popular culture was in- creasingly the cultural terrain where the struggle for ideological agendas was fought; to comprehend this, one only needs to look a few years down the road to the Nazi party's hegemonic use of media representations of collective memory, power, tradition, and national identity. With this in mind, then, major tendencies of the Weimar literary economy may be understood as attempts to make order out of a chaotic post-war world, sometimes through adherence to the Wilhel- minian patriarchal tradition and at other times by rejecting the cultural authority em- bedded in that tradition. Such an ideological playingfield was, of course, huge, and its con- tours often vague, but within it, popular lit- erature was awild card subjected to few rules other than a shared contempt by the Bildungsbiirgertum. Thus, in spite of its puta- tive aesthetic shortcomings, this corpus of texts was eminently suited to mediate the multitude of ideologies tacking the troubled waters of Weimar Germany.

Popular texts of the period resonate with discrepant interpretations of orthodox and reformed Judaism, each responding to--as well as constituting-cultural discourses in circulation at that time. At this point, it is crucial to emphasize the heterogeneity of the Jewish population in Weimar Germany, for not to do so would be dangerously close to essentializing Jewishness. Here, however, I canexamine only afew of the many positions concerning Jewishness, cultural behavior, and representation, which doubtlessly leaves a great deal unsaid.

These many Jewish representations ex- hibit great variation in subject, form, and idea, and the fact that some writers of popu- lar fiction were Jewish themselves does not reduce the complexity of the issue. For ex- ample,Vicki Baum, areformed Jew who con- sidered her works as belonging to the domi- nant culture, wrote a short story in 1922, entitled "Raffael Gutmann," which tries to demonstrate the cultural demise of Jewish Orthodo~y.~

Joseph Roth delineates some outstanding Jewish characters in Efrusi (and his exotiderotic wife), Goldscheider, and Lenz in his first major literary effort, Das Spinnennetz, published in 1923; and Joseph SiiR and Isaac Landauer are two Jewish rep- resentations in Lion Feuchtwanger's Jud Siib from 1926.3 These and other literary depictions of Jews form the basis for the two- fold examination I undertake of the Weirnar inscriptions of Jewishness: first, that of the Jews as Other; second, of the problematic attempts at assimilation of Jewish charac- tersasportrayedinpopular fiction. Since this fictional, and increasingly nervous, discourse arises out of cultural and political circum- stances that are specific to Weimar, what fol- lows is a short review of the material condi- tions of actual Jewish communities in the German Republic.

The Material Conditions of the Jewish Community

An emancipatory and assimilatory rheto- ric on behalf of the German Jewish commu- nity had been in circulation since the En- lightenment and by 1850 there was-at least on paper-no legal distinction drawn be- tween Jews and Gentiles in Prussia; this ex- tended to the Second Reich as a whole upon its creation in 1871 (Niewyk 5). While such political emancipation met with much resi- stance from many Christian communities, it was also not without problems for the Jewish cornrnunitie~.~

As Bluma Goldstein points out, German, or most European Jews for that matter, now faced the predicament of assim- ilating into societies which had always con- sidered themselves superior, while at the same timemaintaining their Jewish identity (4). I want to argue that versions of that di- lemma and "thisvery difficult, often destruc- tive transition and unresolved assimilation" (Goldstein 45), aggravated by growing anti- semitism and the politics of a national Ger- man identity, are played out repeatedly in Weimar cultural texts.

In the course of the Griinderjahre, Jewish participation in economic and professional activities grew at a rate considered alarming by conservative and/or antisemitic seg- ments of the population. During the period 1919-1933, the German Jewish population was calculated to number approximately 600,000, amounting to 1% of the population in Germany. During the Weimar years, the figures concerning the integration of Jews into the German economy were high, ac- counting, for example, for 3.5% of all trade positions, and 40% of all German textile firms had Jewish owners. Of retail and wholesale clothing businesses, 60% were in Jewish hands, and in 1932,79% of German department stores had Jewish owners. Among the professionals in Germany, 11% of doctors and 16% of lawyers were Jewish. It is also worth mentioning that two of the largest publishing houses, Ullstein and Mos- se, were Jewish (Niewyk 12fT). Jews were also numerousasmembers oftheintelligent- sia and the artistic community.

Despite these figures, there was another, and growing, segment of the Jewish popu- lation which did not feature in the widely heralded success story of Weimar Jews. Claims that the inflation had hardly affected Jews were blatantly fallacious. During World War I, and after, in the subsequent years of growing inflation-from 1912-1924--the number of Jews with a taxable income of 5000 Marks ormore fell from 10.6% to 5.8%.5 Concomitantly, the number of Jewish people with a taxable income of less than 1200 Marks rose by 10% from 73.3% to 83.6%.6 This is to say that around 1923-1924 approx- imately 500,000 Jews, five-sixths of the entire German-Jewish community, were among the working poor. By 1923 the Jewish community in Berlin had found it necessary to establish 19 soup kitchens, seven shelters, one employment and one placement office for members of their community. Also, at this time such numbers translated into some even darker statistics: in 1922,61 Jews com- mitted suicide; and by 1925 that number had risen to 117, amountingto 12% of all suicides in Berlin. The ratio of suicides in 1925 for Catholics was 32 per 100,000, among the Protestants it was 45 per 100,000, but it was as high as 65 per 100,000 Jews (Niewyck 6fT).7 So divergent were the realities and per- ceptions of German Jews in the Weimar Re- public.

Perceptions of "the Jew"

Such disparate (and often desperate) con- ditions should for all intents and purposes have brought into conversation a set of diverse perceptions and representations of Jewishness, Germanness, and of class con- stitution during the Weimar years. Yet, there was little, if any, improvement in the quality ofthediscourse, but quantitatively speaking, the intensity of the debate grew and with it, the question of national and other identities. The long-formed habits of German antisemi- tisrn were, not unexpectedly, stronger than any incipient new paradigm. Defeat in the First World War and the ensuing economic chaos inflicted psychic as well as material wounds that had their horrible and only too visible manifestations in the maimed and torn-apart bodies of a large section of the male population^ Such daily reminders of a defiled German honor were an excellent me- dium for the sustained growth of a particularly virulent strain of German nationalism, which recalled the war as, among other things, a conflict in which Germany had fought united as a nation. The desire for the return of such anational union reintroduced the Romantic notion of freedom as the relin- quishing of individual personality and total subjugation of oneself to acollective author- ity-the state (Greenfeld 349). This longing was becoming increasingly noticeablein con- temporary discourses about solutions to the German crisis, and Hitler coopted it into his speeches as the notorious call for "Ein Volk, ein Fiihrer, ein Vaterland."g

Weimar constitutes the nexus of many, often opposing discourses, and Jews were the subject, and object, of one of the most crucial of these debates. In the years just after the war, quite a few small-often secretrightwing groups sprang up, existing side by side with large groups of Jewish artists, intellec- tuals, and influential business people. In ad- dition to hating Jews in particular, these groups also tapped into and added their voice to other dislikes flourishing in the German Republic at the time, for example, hatred of the Weimar constitution, of Liberalism, of the Versailles Treaty, of Berlin (the urban phenomenon), and of modernity in general. It was common to find one or more of these realms of concern or fear embodied in the fictional Jewish figure. An article in Morgen- rot, a monthly magazine for "cultural and social reform," collapses Jews, Socialists, and Freemasons under the rubrics of "Rotjuda" and "Weltjuda."1° These rather undifferen- tiated categories weremeant to cover abroad range of adversaries to petty bourgeois, con- servative, or antisemitic political positions.

The "red" Jew and the "world" Jew were part and parcel of the stereotypical views of Weimar Jewry as Communists or liberals, big-time Capitalists andlor members of se- cret, world-wide organizations sworn to bring Christianity and Western culture to their knees. The terms clearly divulge how the psychological undercurrents, mobilized by the fears of general disempowerment, converged upon the Jew, in particular, as the common scapegoat for all that was perceived to be wrong. Thus, Hitler's statement in Mein Kampf: "a, es kann so weit kommen, dalj grol3e Teile des Wirtsvolkes ...glauben werden, der Jude sei wirklich . . . ein Deut- scher" (335) once more lends aweighty voice to the split between Jewishness and Ger- manness that was in fact an agenda of long standing among many Germans. Embedded in the same question is also a search for the markers of a national character or identity. Not only would such markers identify those who deserved to be members of the Volk, but it would, of course, also conveniently isolate those who did not. In a perverse way, Hitler, on the one hand, articulates one of the cruxes of assimilation as perceived by the Jews, while, on the other, he exacerbates the dis- lodging of those national and cultural psi-

tionalities that Jewish communities had painfully gained since the emancipation.

Raceand Nation

In 1922Vicki Baum's short story "RafFael Gutmann" was serialized in the Leipziger Illustrirte over two October issues and one in November. In it Baum puts forward the predicament of assimilation in the shape of a struggle for greater cultural freedom from the Jewish orthodox tradition, here conside- red antiquated and ~nada~table.11

Through the hopeless struggle of its protagonist, "Raffael Gutmann" also becomes a story about the unacceptability-if not impossibility-of cultural migration in Weimar, the outmoded hostility of Orthodoxy towardmodernity, the closing of ranks by the bearers of those elu- sive markers that constitute Germanness, and the cost of departingfrom one's own cul- tural position, even if it does bear the stigma of Otherness.

Mael, a Jewish adolescent of orthodox origin, ardently wants to participate in the gentile world: "Da drauljen war eine Stadt, da waren Strden . . . keine Weiber standen auf den Schwellen und riefen, da waren Kinder ohne Kaftan" (307). But Raffael's culture has in turn, within its own confines, de-cen- tered the dominant culture--the unorthodox realm-by excluding that world and de- nying it any validity There is no bridge between the orthodox Judaic and Christian cultural terrains but the one Mae1 is trying to force. He shares the fate of the young Jewish authors whom Kafka describes thus: " den Hinterbeinchen Mebten sie noch am Judentum des Vaters und mit den Vor- derbeinchen fanden sie keinen neuen Bo-den" (337). l2Indeed, in this text,Raffaelcannot occupy both positions anymore than he can cross over, caught as he is " vergit- terten Fenster, so unheilbar gefangen und verstrickt . . ." (354). Any option for change dies with him when he lies down on the rail- way tracks just as (unbeknown to him? the text leaves this question pending) an oncoming express train approaches in the dis- tance.

"Mael Gutmann" appeared three and a half months after the murder of Walter Rathenau, the Jewish foreign minister of the Weimar Republic, who, villified as the Jew responsible for the depths of shame of a de- feated Germany, was attacked and murdered in Berlin-Griinewald on June 24, 1922, by assailants who used a submachine gun and a hand grenade.13 I do not mean to suggest that the story was written in the wake of this murder, or even as a result thereof. During this period, Baum prided herself too much on being apolitical and "sachlich" to have been provoked to turn such an event into fiction.14 Still, the fact remains that "Raffael Gutmann" was conceived and written under thosevery same material circumstances that lead to Rathenau's Fememord, a period of (often) right-wing terror that culminated in the Beer-Hall Putsch of 1923. Raffael's sui- cide appears remarkably in step with the growing suicide rate among the Jewish pop- ulation at the time, although this does not imply any similarity between the reasons for the fictional and the real suicides. Neverthe- less, the fact remains that Baum's story is a very timely constituent in the debate about nationality and identity and the growing schism between "true" Germanness and German Jewry as it unfolded in Weimar cul- ture.

In itsownmodest way, then, Baum's text, as part of the nervous activities linked to de- fensive or assimilationist discourses that cir- culated in Weimar, is a manifestation of the crisis which is the Weimar Republic. In this discourse, the body of antisemitic literature was expanding, as was the number of anti- semitic organizations. The thought that Jewish culture had contributed positively to the Western (i.e., Christian) world was ex- tremely provocative. Partly in response to that notion, so well articulated in Heine's comment a century earlier that "sogar die Geschichtsurkunden der Juden, die Bibel, wurde das Nationalbuch im germanischen Norden" (1861, Chamberlain's work sepa- rating the Jewish and Aryan elements in Eu- ropean culture and the Christian faith had become one of the basic arguments in racist and antisemitic discourse. This conceptu- alization was heartily embraced and fur- thered by the Freikorps and such organiza- tions as theDeutsche Schutz- und Trutzbund (Hamburg), the Deutschvolkische Bund (Hamburg), the Reichshammerbund (Ham- burg), and the Deutschbund (Gotha), which had sprung up since the turn of the century, espousing and promoting essentially anti- semitic principles (Bea 177).

Discourses on race in Weimar Germany differed to a degree from those circulating in other Western nations. Whereas in the United States and Great Britain, for in- stance, race frequently was the property of the Other, this was not the case in Weimar Germany Here, race was as important apro- perty for the Germanic Christian or Aryan community as for the Jews, Slavs, or Afri- cans, for that matter. A racial discourse was very much part of everyday life: "The Ger- man public is possessed by the Jewish Ques- tion," complains the 1929 introduction to a re-issued work on the nature of antisemitism (Coudenhove-Kalergi 12). Doris, the eight- een-year old protagonist in Irmgard Keun's very popular work from 1932, entitled Dm kunstseidene Ma'dchen, articulates the pro- minence of the "race question" succinctly in acomment about one of her beaux: "Und er

. . . stellte sich heraus als Nationaler und hat- te eine Rasse-und Rasse ist eine Frage . . ." (Keun 46).

In this context it is important to keep in mind that the Jew as the emblem of alienness is a cultural construction affected by socio- economic and politico-historical power-rela- tions. However, as Elaine Grosz points out, there are embedded in marginal and outsider positions not only oppressions but also stra- tegies of resistance to those very oppressions (77). Freud comments in an interview he gave while in exile in England: "My language ... is German. My culture, my attainments are German. I considered myself a German intellectual, until I noticed the growth of anti-Semitic prejudice in Gemany.... Since that time, I prefer to call myself a Jew."15 Freud's observation about his own reaction to antisemitism offers the perspective of a move from a perceived Germanness to a position of perceived marginality After a fashion, it represents an agency, a resistant alternative to the victimage which has be- come so attached to the position of margina- lity, and especially to the Jewish position as the Outsider. Isaac Landauer, a character from Feuchtwanger's Jud Sup,embodies a similar resistance: "In seinem Kaftan staker wie in seiner Haut. So trat er in das Kabinett der Fursten und des Kaisers . . . Man brauch- te ihn, und dies war sein Triumph, auch in Kaftan und Haarlockchen" (16). Even Sufi himself, the title character of Feuchtwan- ger's novel, openly turns his back on Christi- anity during the final days before his execu- tion. His celebration of Judaism thwarts any possibility of a commuted sentence, but it redeems him in the eyes of the (novel's) Jewish community While it signifies the ul- timate resistance to oppression, embedded in SiiS's gesture and its consequences lie also the difficulties and complexities of Jewish identity and assimilation, even the notion of the improbability of assimilation.

In comparison, many segments of the German Jewish community thought it ne- cessary to demonstrate their Germanness, their adherence to modernity, and its con- comitant faith in science and enlighten- ment.16 In the Weimar polarization of cul- ture, GeorgeMosse claims, Jews wereat least perceived as playing "a visible and crucial role in encouraging the modern rather than the traditional" (Mosse, German Jews 22). "Raffael Gutmann" serves as a perverse ex- ample of this. Perverse, not only because Raffael's support ofmodernityhaslessto do with enlightenment than with his participation in the Christian high arts in general-Wagner's music in particular-but also because the protagonist fails to realize his desire. In con- trast with Feuchtwanger's treatment of his characters, the desire for modernity-here read assimilation-ccurs in this case as a separation of self and Other that, due to Raffael's suicide, compels an inscription of a quasi-demonic, death-wishing rigidity onto the Traditional.

This inscription occurs through the story's apparent corroboration and support of existing stereotypes that in and of them- selves constitute elements of the increasing isolation experienced by German Jews dur- ing this period. In this sharpening conflict, many discursive formulations of the Right insisted on severing all purported links be- tween Christianity and Judaism-a compelling move considering the success of many nonlfictional texts bearing antisemitic mes- sages at this time.l7

Taking the actual and growing isolation of Jews into consideration, it becomes clear just to what extent Baum's tale is caught in the web of the intensifyingdebate about GermanicIChristian culture versus Judaism. Tradition in "Raffael" is more than an en- cumbrance, it is the prison that holds the protagonist captive and the leech that in the longrun bleeds him of allhope of future hap- piness: "Stuck fur Stuck sank sein Eigenes von ihm, das Leuchten, die Sehnsucht, das, was er selbst war" (354). The overpoweringly negative qualities attributed to the Mosaic tradition in this text have the curious effect of sounding like a voice from the antisemitic camp. In fact, the story's "catastrophic po- tential" lies in this narrative's paradoxical positioning of voice. After all, the more per- suasive a member of the oppressed group is in speaking on behalf of the oppressors, the more this persuasion facilitates the re-pro- duction of the oppression.

Joseph Roth, for his part, satirizes the assimilation trope in Das Spinnennetz by way of the Jew Goldscheider, and by his exaggerated efforts to assimilate. Goldscheider is a locus of the perceived identities of the Feind, for through him Roth characterizes the stereotypical collapse of the twin ideolo- gical properties of the alien, namely socialism and Judaism, to create the "Rotjuda" More- over, pushing his character to extremes, Goldscheider invades essential territories of Germanness by plagiarizing Luther through his opportunistic quotations of the New Testament. There is a sense of witnessing a (perhaps not so exaggerated) Jewish percep- tion of gentile cultural criteria for assimila- tion. Simultaneously, the character incor- porates and emphasizes the intrusion into a perceived sacred cultural terrain and, by ex- tension, the outrageousness of assimilation- ist desires.

Power and Otherness

The culmination of such outrageous- ness-a successful (and hateful) assimila- tion-is found in Das Spinnennetz in the fig- ure of Efrusi, a wealthy jeweler and as such the prototypical "Weltjuda." The protago- nist, Lohse, is a poor, gentile lieutenant who has returned unscathed from World War I. Roth conveys true German patriotism through Lohse's mother and sisters who cannot forgive Lohse for not having done his duty as aGerman and an officer by dying for his country. To add insult to injury, Lohse, who "einen Hal3 gegen Sozialisten und Juden n&rte," must earn his living upon his return as a tutor in the Jew Efrusi's house (6).There he is served "weiBen Kaffee mit Haut . . . [und] eine Schinkensemmel" every day and, furthermore, in these fmancially troubled times, he also receives a salary every month (5). Roth's bitterly ironic comments on as- similation are inescapable, but so are the an- guish and schizophrenia of the assimilated Jew. The ham sandwich and the richness of the cream as the agony and the ecstacy of trespassing Mosaic law and occupying astrategic position of power in the hegemonic ter- rain are embedded in that daily ritual. Furthermore, it exemplifies widely held Christian beliefs concerning the luxury of Jewish life when, in fact, Efrusi's character belongs to the small, top percentage of Jews who were members of the upper class. Nev- ertheless, Efrusi's power and wealth are en- viable, and there was plainly amaterial basis for his character among the aflluent Jews. Only, according to cultural prerogatives, such power and wealth must be had without the taint of Jewish alienness. Lohse, for his part, fantasizes about telling his employer: "Herr Efrusi, ich bin ein armer Deutscher, Sie ein reicher Jude. Es bedeutet Verrat, ei- nes Juden Brot zu essen" (23). He wants wealth like Efrusi's but concurs with the criminalization of Efrusi's wealth. The prin- ciple is clear: power is desirable in any shape, but it belongs rightfully only to the gentile


Lion Feuchtwanger discusses assimila- tion by means of ahistorical figure, Josef SiiR Oppenheimer, in his 1925 novel, Jud Sup. The fictional-as well as the historical- SuR7sfatherwas Christian, but Sufi's zealous climb to power within the Christian ruling classes takes place with sole emphasis on his Jewish heritage. His character seems to ex-


emplify Mosse's observation that Jews were often perceived to play a crucial role in pro- motingmodernity SWsmodernity frequent- ly operates on the visual level as it manifests itself in an up-to-date, almost foppish, fashionableness: "Schlank, elegant, gemes- sen stand SiiR den Schwerfdigen, Schnau- fenden, Sich-bewegt-Wiegenden gegeniiber" (277). In this passage, the writer sets Sulj off against orthodox Jewry and makes him fit into a Western cultural landscape. This is so much more interesting since Jews had long been subject to sumptuary laws, even to the point where the earring was ashared marker between prostitutes and Jews (Garber 224). Dress, in other words, marks identity, and in presenting SiiR in different-distinctly mod- ern-garb, the text is not only distinguishing him from his fellow Jews, but it is also desta- bilizing the viewers' (and readers') notion of identity and social hierarchies so tightly bound up with appearance (Garber 223), even as it perpetuates the stereotypical asso-

ciation of the Jew and modernity.

Throughout the texts examined here, intertwined with the stories of assimilation and identity, is a narrative of power and powerlessness, a dynamic that is and has been central to the arenaof antisemitism and the image of the Jew. Theodor Lohse, Joseph Roth's antisemitic protagonist in Das Spinnennetz, perceives the Jews as omnipotent. Lohse is Roth's portrait of the Fascist char- acter, and this figure's perception of the world is organized in accordance with all the (then) current stereotypes. Consequently, if, in the world of racism and antisemitism, the pathology of reversing the hunter and the hunted is standard, it therefore makes emi- nent sense to believe :". . .dal3 sie [the Jews] die Weltherrschaft erstrebten. Sie hatten die Polizei in Hiinden und verfolgten die natio- nalen Organisationen" (9). The bizarre per- secution complex, of course, has been one of the crucial elements in the elaborate justifi- cation for persecuting the Other.

"Mael Gutmann" exposes the complex nature of power. When the text denies Raffael his desires to participate in the cultural terrain outside the Judengasse, it divests of power those Jews who want to assimilate. By extension, it confers tremendous power on the Traditional, the orthodox culture. It would be erroneous to deny that orthodox Judaism is powerful; adherence to the Mo- saic Law and its cultural legacies has sus- tained Jewish communities throughout cen- turies and thus endorses the premise of its culturalvigor and authority. In "RaffaelGutman," however, it is overwhelmingly the darker side of this power that is exhibited: while the text acknowledges orthodox au- thority, it has assigned to it the authority to prohibit, to forbid, and even to kill. It is in the tension between the authority and its execution that this text mediates the heavy quandaries of Jewish-German assimilation particular to Weimar.

In Mael, hum has created an alterna- tive to the popular notion of Jewishness as the malignly powerful Other: "Er spurte die Ohnmacht. Seine Hiinde waren ohnmachtig, seineAugen,dieSchritte.. ."(308). Inreturn, however, the text's paradigms also serve to inscribe stereotypical perceptions of dark and destructive powers onto Orthodoxy and, through Raffael's demise, to reinforce the same: "Die Judengasse ist eng und gewun- den . . . drunten stehen graue Pfiitzen, Abfd- le liegen umher, die Luft ist schwer wie schlammiges Gewkser" (308). Consequent- ly, to belong to the world of light asopposed to the dark Judenviertel, to the enlightened rather than to the orthodox universe, would be to walk erect, "aufrecht zu gehen." Such activity on Mael's part, such a break with tradition, would be in direct opposition to the "kriechen" or "kauern" mentioned in hum's text (307), the way in which the in- habitants of the Ghetto are said to perambu- late. Those verbs connote a body language of subservience, signifying the perception of how inhabitants of Mael7s part of town ne- gotiate life in the damp and winding passages of the Judenviertel, physically as well as metaphorically Thus, both the content and the aesthetic of the text, at certain moments, drive the wedge more deeply between the desirous Western culture and the feared and ungraspable, "seltsame" (307, 354), alien- ness of conservative Judaism.

For all that, it is puzzling that Raffael's desire to participate in modernity does not parallel that of his gentile peers. His is not a dream of joining the throng on the Kur- furstendamm, strolling, watching, being watched, like the people featured in Jeanne Mammen's urban drawings; nor doeshe long to be frivolous and speed in an automobile, fly a plane, or go to the movies. Instead, it is the partaking of German "high" culture that Raf'fael craves as the experience of his "Out- side." This is made clear in the passages referring to Raffael's thorough and proud knowledge of Beethoven's Fidelio and Wag- ner's Gesarntkunstwerk, Die Meistersin.ger.18 What such passages communicate is that true proof of Germanness lies in the adherence to the sacred Germanic culture of Beethoven and Wagner rather than in reli- gion. The young man becomes an exemplar of the striving towards a Germanic utopia, a sort of renaissance man, who struggles-in this case, in vain-to transcend or even to free himself of the circumscriptions of his local culture. It is almost as if Raffael tried to achieve what Baum thought she herself had become: a person who had risen above political, ethnic, and gender issues and who operated in amodern world as an unmarked member of an enlightened universe of cul- ture.

To exercise his (artistic?) potency, Raffael must leave the Judengasse, for here, Baum writes, even the houses look Jewish: " . . . sie haben eingesunkene Briiste, vorgeneigte Schultern und blinzeln mit kleinen geizigen Augen" (404). It is difficult not to be taken aback by what now reads as such egregious, stereotypical images of Jewishness. It is, nevertheless, crucial to recall the often ex- cruciating decision Jews were forced to make regarding their political loyalties and the politics of identity in Weimar. If, indeed, Baum intimates the measure of strength ne- cessary to leave Orthodoxy behind, it is hard- ly surprising that its cultural location ispain- ted in paradigms nobody would want to own. And yet, today, with the benefit ofhindsight, one can assume that it is precisely here that the "catastrophic potential" of these images is generated.

Bodies of Evidence

The images of Jews-indicated by means of their ghetto housing, "hollow chests, bent shoulders, and small, greedily twinkling eyes," have yet another effect. By implica- tion, they evoke that which they are not, namely muscular, lithe, tall,and upright bodies with forthright blue eyes. In late eighteenth- century Germany, Winckelmann's works on Greek art had brought to his contemporaries an idealized Greece. By the end of the nine- teenth century, such a figure with its "passionless beauty" became the ideal Germanic body and a symbol of the nation (Mosse, Nationalism 10m. The on-going Korperkul- tur throughout the Weimar years attests to an unabating interest in not only a healthy body but, more significantly yet, in the beau- tiful body and in a particular kind of beauty, at that.

The spectacle of the Nordic/Germanic body, and simultaneously of the un-Nordic, is highly visible in Gustav Frenssen's 1931 novel Der Pastor von Poggsee. The rhetorical measures differ, but the effects are similar, for here, too, the body of the Other is called forth. In Der Pastor, a very popular, volkisch novel, the inhabitants of Poggsee demon- strate their Germanness through the patrio- tic tradition of holding village athletic festi- val games. In the Poggsee games "[els sollte keiner erscheinen, der gemein von Gesicht war oder schief an Gliedern oder duckig von Figur" (593). The words serve not merely as another tribute to the cult of the body so central to the contemporary Korperkultur, but are also constituents of the growingnar- rative concerning the body-politics of anti- semitism. The popularized visualization of this discourse can be found in all its artistic glory in Leni Riefenstahl's 1938 hymn to pure Germanic beauty, her film Olympia.

The phrenological notion of a direct cor- respondence between body typology andper- sonal characteristics has longbeen common- place in racist discourse. In the strictest sense, phrenology applies specifically to the skull but, as is most often the case, public use of "science" tends to blur the perimeters. (In "RaEael" there is, furthermore, a synechdocal process at work. The physical environs described in the text come to stand for Jewish communitiesin toto.)In quasi-phrenological fashion, the physical environment becomes a stand-in for an emblem of the psychologi- cal/physiological state of the dwellers of the ghetto (although that word is never em- ployed). The palelight that appears to trickle down sickly from the sky, the heavy air that makes it difficult to breathe, the grey, stag- nant water in the puddles, the Jew in his kaftan, and therefuse in the Gasse,all occupy positions in the material, psychological, and the spiritual spheres. It becomes clear to the readers that the ghetto, and by extension or- thodox Judaism, is something to abhor, to fear.lg

Of course, Baum is by no means the only one to describe a Jewish ghetto. Das Spinnennetz dwells briefly on the Lodz ghetto, and its gaze encompasses more than the ne- gative aspects. Roth's novel does indeed describe the dirt and poverty present in the ghetto, but the physical deprivations are not transferred onto the mental health of Juda- ism. The description of the squalor is medi- ated by an immediate reference to the dignity and wisdom, even the humor and lau&ter, of some of the inhabitants of that community (130). There is a sense, here, of what Gold- stein has described as "the power of Jewish religionltradition to maintain cohesion of generations and to sustain life itself' (Gold- stein 46). A century earlier, Heinrich Heine hadcharacterized theghetto asaplace where the great treasure and vitality of Judaism is preserved.20

These sentiments notwithstamding, one may ponder whether their origin is not somehow tied to the fact that theview is from the outside. Said differently, neither Heine nor Roth were ghetto dwellers. They had assimilated (at one point, Heine even converted to Christianity) and may have expressed a certain longing for the Viertel as the non- secularized space in modernity less fraught with malevolent strife than the one they had chosen. Baum, too, came from a "carefully" assimilated family-"verfeinert und . . . sorgsam angepal3t . . ." (Baum,Es war alles ganz anders 85Gbut her text conveys no nostal- gia for that position. The ghetto, Orthodoxy, is assuredly a place of strength, but for her, as for so many others who wanted to sever any perceived link with the Jewish commu- nity, that power is seen largely in a negative light. It is a cultural location she perceived as having taken little notice of the changes occurring around it; perhaps the most active power of Orthodoxy is the power to ignore, to say no.

At the same time, a perception of and fascination with (orthodox) Judaism as a realm of "fanatische Seltsamkeit" (Baum, "Raffael" 354), alien and incomprehensible in its habits, pursuits, and interests to Chris- tian Western civilization (Trachtenberg 3) pervade these and other popular Weimar texts.21 Zwischenfall in Lohwinkel (1929), another of Vicki Baum's many Weimar nov- els, exoticizes the local grocer by way of his desire for knowledge through books "... die der entgleiste Student Markus in Haufen las und die ihn hochtrabend, befremdend und auf diese undefinierbar jiidische Weise ge- scheit machten" (50). Less benevolent is the use of gentile images of and myths about Jews, such as the vampire, and the question must be asked: who could or would benefit from such a paradigm? Both Joseph Roth and Lion Feuchtwanger make overt use of the vampiric discourse in which Orthodoxy or even merely "the Jew" takes on the bestial form of a vampire drawing the vital juices out of its prey In Roth's novel, the blood of decrepit Europe is greedily sucked away by the lurking eyes of Lenz, a Jewish counter- spy, "sein 1auenldesAuge trank das Blut Eu- ropas"-a mixed metaphor, the oddity of which intensifies the unholy and frightening action (97). Moreover, it moves over into another paradigm, that of the "evil eye," a superstition common among Jews but also something Jews have historically been ac- cused of possessing and casting at innocent Gentiles andlor their possessions.

In Jud Sup,Joseph brags to Gabriel Landauer that "Heut liegt er, der Jud, uber dem Land und saugt von seinem Blut und wird fett von seinem Mark" (287).And let us not forget Nosferatu, Murnau's 1922expressionist rendition of the Stoker novel, in which the vampiric figure, Count Orloc, is a vehicle for the collective hgste of the Wei- mar Republi-ne of which was world do- mination by the Jews. Such use of metaphor easily forefronts the Jew as an "alien, evil, antisocial, and antihuman creature, es- sentially subhuman . . ." (Trachtenberg 6). Moreover, the images almost inavoidably lock into place myths held over from the me- dieval imagination, one of which, for exarn- ple, held that the sole effective therapeutic remedy for the secret afflictions of Jews (loss of blood through male menstruation or hemorrhoids, for instance) was human- read gentile-blood (Trachtenberg50).

The question I raised earlier about who would be served by this usage is somewhat rhetorical, since history records precisely its benefits and injuries, those who profited and those who were injured. But it is perhaps through insisting on this question that my own post-Holocaust position becomes most obvious. To those who share my temporal location, there is little doubt about the catastrophic potential of such cultural rep- resentations of the Jew in the Weimar Republic. However, if we consider Feuchtwan- ger and the literary context in which his Jew-as-vampire image appears, other possi- bilities open up. In the case of Joseph SUB, his leech-like and bloodletting behaviors manifest themselves the more he is caught in the web of the power strugglesof the Chris- tian Prince whomhe serves. It isSuB'serrant ways, his loss of Judaism that misdirect him and cause his wickedness; thus it would ap- pear that it is the dangers of assimilation and the loss of Judaism that is one of the novel's major concerns.


I neither can nor want to second guess authorial intentions. It is, nonetheless, pos- sible to unpack ideological and cultural as- sumptions circulating in aparticular histor- ical moment. The mechanisms at work in texts and readers on the terrain of Jews, Ju- daism, assimilation, and antisemitism are too complex to reduce to a tidy bundle. In- stead, the effort must be directed at exposing and examining the discursive politics opera- ting in these texts. And what becomes visible, almost as a bas-relief, is the process of struc- turing the "Outsider" and, by extension, the process of shoring up one's own identity through the denunciation of this Other.

The discourses of assimilation and Self1 Other are inextricably intertwined in the texts I have discussed. Assimilation, the ad- aptation and adoption of the characteristics of an-Other group, implies choice and rejec- tion. It should not be forgotten that the process takes place by way of extremely hier- archical frameworks, fraught with often deadly power struggles, as was the case for the Weimar Jews. The choices and rejections made, when seen in their historical contexts, are seldom free but contingent upon the fu- ture viability of the minority group as under- stood and constructed at the time. Moreover, as we have seen, literary stratagems are not innocent. They are constituents not only of the literary texts, but of the larger contexts in which (in this instance, popular) fiction plays apart.

The systematic line of demarcation be- tween self and other is an essential charac- teristic of national cultures. The confirming of categories of that which is desirable and the fixing of boundaries in order to keep out the polluting non-desirable are both mecha- nisms that serve to separate "them" from "us." Thus, by projecting attributes of unde-

sireabilitv onto the Other, we conf" and stabilize bur sense of identity The Weimar ~~ ~~b li~

was synonymouswith deep and the creation of stereotypes simultane- ously functioned asa protective zone against fears beyond individual control. The nu- merousreferences to an undesireable Jewish b~dy-~~~eservesasaremindertha~

the body is a visible symbolic field "for the reproduc- tion of dominant values and conceptions" (Crawford 95). It is on the body that we inscribe our messages of difference, and Elaine Scarry's observation articulates the main but at times covert dynamic at work in the texts discussed above: ". . .when there is within a society a crisisof belief.. .the sheer materialness of the human body will be bor- rowed to lend that cultural construct [the beliefl the aura of 'realness' and 'certainty"' (14). In the crisis that was Weimar, the Jewish body was the Other, both signifying and constituting one of the most unheimlich aspects of this crisis in German national identity


*The roots of this paper are in a 1991 NEH seminar at the University of California, Berkeley For its completion, I am grateful for a Drake Uni- versity Faculty Development Grant and the helpful staffof the Princeton libraries. Special thanks go to the Humanities Bibliographer, Dr. Jochen Twele, for his expert assistance.

lAmong the best known works are Dagmar Barnouw,Weimar Ir~tellectunls cud the TI~rent of Moderr~iCy;Peter Gay, Weinw Culture: Tl~e Outsider as Insider; Anthony Phelan, ed., The Wei- mar Dilemma: Ir~tellectuals ir~ the Weinucr Republic; and John Willett, Art cu~d Politics iu the Weirnor Period The Nau SobrieQ .

2"Raffael Gutman" appeared in thekipziger Illustrirte 12 Od. 1922: 30748; 19 Oct. 1922: 353-54; 2 Nov. 1922: 40345. The page numbers in my text refer to these editions.

3Both Roth and Feuchtwanger considered themselves assimilated but Jewish. 4According to David Sorkin, incomplete emancipation and partial integration of Jews

into society were indeed crucial constituents of a new Jewish identity.

5Figures from 1910 show that more than 21,000 Eastern Jews lived in Greater Berlin, most of them orthodox and in a low income bracket. Cf. Wertheimer 4 and 187.

6AS a of a general typist

wodd earn 140-1700 Marks 7The source does not clarify whether all these numbers pertain to Berlin.

8Although the numbers of dead and wounded German soldiers vary, well over two million men died while almost six million crippled male bodies survived the war. Robert Weldon Whalen has compiled these and many more frightful statis- tics in his fascinating and compassionate work

Bitter WouiLCIS: Gernm~ Victin~sof tlw Great War,


Gorge Mosse goes a step further when he claims that in the early nineteenth century, "Manliness meant freedom from sexual passion, the sublimation of sensuality into leadership of society and the nation" (Nati'oiudisn~13).

1°Morger~rot(Advent 1922): 185-86.

1lIt is important to remember that the Or- thodoxy at issue in Baum's and the following popular works are the writers' perceptions. In some cases, such fictions bear little resemblance to historical Jewish orthodox life.

121.etter to Max Brod, June 1921, Briefi 337.

'SRemmling 8. Cf. also Kessler.

141n 1926, however, Baum published a novel with Ullstein entitled Fen~e:Bussfd~rt einer uer- irrtei~ Jugend, which is loosely based on Rathenau's murder.

15An interview with George Sylvester Vier- eck (Freud 34). Discussed in Goldstein 183. 1% Ai~tisen~ite

aid Jew, Jean-Paul Sartre articulates his interpretation of this as the Jew being one who strives toward assimilation and who would probably succeed were it not for anti- semitism. This passage is quoted and discussed in Grosz 79-82.

17ArturDinter's novel Die Sur& ~o&r dm Blut, a cautionary tale of intermarriage, is a case in point. Published in 1917, it had already reached its twelfth edition in 1920; also, Theodor Fritsch's pamphlet Mein Bezueisn~aterial gegeii Jnlcue (1911) was reprinted in 1916 as Der fnl- scl~eGott Beweismaterial gegerL Jahve and ap peared in its second edition in 1919; cf. also Chamberlain.

18Vicki Baum was an accomplished musician

and married to a conductor. Hence music often features as a code for culture in her works.

Iwertheimer pints to another association linked to East European and, by extension, or- thodox Jews, namely vermin and plague. Jews traveling from the East during the Second Reich underwent obligatory delousing procedures, and their trains were steamed after use in the East (24-25).

2OAs quoted in Goldstein 46. 21Cf. also Joshua Trachtenberg's explanation for this fascination.

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.Es waralles gwzz alders: Erin~u?rz~ngen.

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.Zwisclu?nfall in hl~~uinckel.

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