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Brothers and Strangers

The East European Jew in German and German Jewish Consciousness, 1800–1923

Steven E. Aschheim

Publication Year: 1982

Brothers and Strangers traces the history of German Jewish attitudes, policies, and stereotypical images toward Eastern European Jews, demonstrating the ways in which the historic rupture between Eastern and Western Jewry developed as a function of modernism and its imperatives. By the 1880s, most German Jews had inherited and used such negative images to symbolize rejection of their own ghetto past and to emphasize the contrast between modern “enlightened” Jewry and its “half-Asian” counterpart. Moreover, stereotypes of the ghetto and the Eastern Jew figured prominently in the growth and disposition of German anti-Semitism. Not everyone shared these negative preconceptions, however, and over the years a competing post-liberal image emerged of the Ostjude as cultural hero. Brothers and Strangers examines the genesis, development, and consequences of these changing forces in their often complex cultural, political, and intellectual contexts.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xxxi

This work examines the place of East European Jews in German and German Jewish consciousness. On a more general level, it attempts to delineate the fateful and complex role of "the ghetto" in modern self-understanding. The analysis is not primarily socioeconomic, demographic, or institutional, nor is the central focus...

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pp. 3-31

The idea of the Ostjude ("Eastern" Jew) was developed, in its essentials, over the course of the first half of the nineteenth century. To be sure, the generic term Ostjude did not gain popular currency until the early twentieth century.1 Nevertheless, a generalized negative thinking prevailed much earlier. East European Jews were held to be dirty, loud, and...

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2. THE AMBIVALENT HERITAGE: Liberal Jews and the Ostjuden, 1880–1914

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pp. 32-57

The year 1881 marked a crucial turning point in modern Jewish history; it was the year that heralded the great demographic redistribution of the Jewish People from East to West.1 Between 1881 and 1914, in the wake of successive pogroms and systemic poverty, millions of East European Jews made their way westward in search...

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3. CAFTAN AND CRAVAT: “Old” Jews, “New” Jews, and Pre-World War I Anti-Semitism

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pp. 58-79

When Hitler wrote the words above he was appealing to an established cultural tradition that was bound to have resonance for his German and Austrian readers. The historical memory of the "ghetto Jew" was never erased in Germany. Once German Jewry itself became modernized and no longer seemed to fit the traditional...

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4. ZIONISM AND THE OSTJUDEN: The Ambiguity of Nationalization

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pp. 80-99

The liberal Western Jewish relationship to the Ostjude was contained within the strictly delineated limits of the prevailing ideology of Jewish "denationalization." Ideas of an equal East-West Jewish partnership could have no place within this scheme, and the notion that the East European Jew could serve as a cultural model...

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5. IDENTITY AND CULTURE: The Ostjude as Counter-Myth

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pp. 100-120

The shift in German Zionism from a philanthropic approach to one of personal commitment challenged older, more conservative attitudes towards the Ostjuden significantly. Tension between the political and cultural modes had characterized the movement from its beginnings: early German Zionists had minimized, when they...

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6. FROM RATIONALISM TO MYTH: Martin Buber and the Reception of Hasidism

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pp. 121-138

In the minds of most nineteenth-century German Jewish intellectuals, progressive historical development had swept away remnants of unreason—the path toward a philosophically pure monotheism had been cleared. Jewish "irrationalism" was largely purged or was increasingly relegated to a superseded past. Kabbalah...

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7. STRANGE ENCOUNTER: Germany, World War I, and the Ostjuden

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pp. 139-184

The Ostjudenfrage underwent a metamorphosis during World War I, acquiring a significance and political urgency that were new and ominous. The war raged in the most heavily populated Eastern Jewish areas—Congress Poland, Calicia, and much of the Pale of Settlement. Germany's occupation of Poland in 1915 provided a radically new context for an old problem. Instead of the ghetto...

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8. THE CULT OF THE OSTJUDEN: The War and Beyond

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pp. 185-214

All Western attempts to recapture Jewish roots had to come to grips with Eastern Jewish being. However one regarded the Ostjude, all agreed that he was the embodiment of archetypal Jewish characteristics, the living link in an uninterrupted historical chain of tradition. In this sense, the glorification of the Eastern Jew was...

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pp. 215-245

The shock of defeat, fear of revolution, unparalleled economic collapse, and brutalization of political life were inescapable realities in the Weimar Republic between 1918 and 1923. The accompanying anti-Semitism was both an expression of the general crisis and an opportunity for previously outlawed sentiments to surface publicly. For the first time in twentieth-century...

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pp. 246-252

The romantic cult of the Ostjuden was a mood whose relation to social reality never ceased being tenuous. There was always tension between the idealization of Eastern Jewry and its actual condition. Certainly, it became increasingly difficult to sustain this ideology in the face of postwar breakdown. In 1920 Nahum...


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pp. 255


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pp. 257-305


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pp. 307-323


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pp. 325-331

E-ISBN-13: 9780299091132
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299091149

Publication Year: 1982