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In Times of Crisis

Essays on European Culture, Germans, and Jews

Steven E. Aschheim

Publication Year: 2001

The nineteenth- and twentieth-century relationship between European culture, German history, and the Jewish experience produced some of the West’s most powerful and enduring intellectual creations—and, perhaps in subtly paradoxical and interrelated ways, our century’s darkest genocidal moments. In Times of Crisis explores the flashpoints of this vexed relationship, mapping the coordinates of a complex triangular encounter of immense historical import.
    In essays that range from the question of Nietzsche’s legacy to the controversy over Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners, the distinguished historian Steven E. Aschheim presents this encounter as an ongoing dialogue between two evolving cultural identities. He touches on past dimensions of this exchange (such as the politics of Weimar Germany) and on present dilemmas of grasping and representing it (such as the Israeli discourse on the Holocaust). His work inevitably traces the roots and ramifications of Nazism but at the same time brings into focus historical circumstances and contemporary issues often overshadowed or distorted by the Holocaust.
    These essays reveal the ubiquitous charged inscriptions of Nazi genocide within our own culture and illuminate the projects of some later thinkers and historians—from Hannah Arendt to George Mosse to Saul Friedlander—who have wrestled with its problematics and sought to capture its essence. From the broadly historical to the personal, from the politics of Weimar Germany to the experience of growing up German Jewish in South Africa, the essays expand our understanding of German Jewish history in particular, but also of historical processes in general.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title, Copyright and Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This work explores flashpoints of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century relationship between European culture, German history, and the Jewish experience. Here was a complex triangular encounter that proved to be of immense historical import. ...

Part I: The Crisis of Culture—Then and Now

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1. Friedrich Nietzche, Max Nordau, and Degeneration

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pp. 3-12

Max Nordau (1849–1923) was a household name to educated late- nineteenth-century Europeans. It is a telling fact that most late-twentieth- century readers will have little or no idea who he was or what he represented. ...

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2. Thinking the Nietzche Legact Today: A Historian's Perspective

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pp. 13-23

To speak of “Nietzsche today” perforce alerts us to the historicity of the topic.1 For, presumably, the Nietzsche of today differs from the Nietzsche or indeed, the Nietzsches, of the past and—if you believe, as I do, that his protean relevance remains strikingly alive—of the future as well. ...

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3. Against Social Science: Jewish Intellectuals, the Critique of Liberal-Bourgeois Modernity, and the (Ambiguous) Legacy of Radical Weimar Theory

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pp. 24-43

W. H. Auden coined that delightful injunction: “Thou shall not commit social science.”1 But much of its animating spirit, its diverse theoretical articulations and various ideological impulses, seems to emanate from a number of Jewish thinkers whose intellectual worlds were molded in and...

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4. Nazsim and the Holocaust in Contemporary Culture

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pp. 44-56

Within Western sensibility, Nazism and the atrocities committed in its name have over the years become endowed with a peculiarly powerful and distinctive status. Since World War II, Treblinka and Auschwitz (and, I would add, Hitler and Himmler) have evolved into what Jean Amery has called “symbolic code words.”1 ...

Part II: (Con)Fusions of Identity—Germans and Jews

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5. Excursus: Growing Up German Jewish in South Africa

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pp. 59-63

I was born in South Africa, and it was in that shaping context, as a child of German Jewish refugees who had come to the shores of that country during the 1930s, that some of the sensibilities associated with the German Jewish legacy were transmitted to me.1 ...

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6. Assimilation and Its Impossible Discontents: The Case of Moritz Goldstein

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pp. 64-72

In March 1912, a young Zionist, Moritz Goldstein, published an explosive article, “The German-Jewish Parnassus.” There he proclaimed that “We Jews are administering the spiritual property of a nation which denies our right and ability to do so.”1 ...

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7. Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem

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pp. 73-85

In the intellectual discourse of our day, Hannah Arendt has become something of an icon. The climate of postmodernism and identity politics, and the search for a non-ideological, post-totalitarian posture, has endowed her work with renewed relevance and vitality. ...

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8. German History and German Jewry: Junctions, Boundaries, and Interdependencies

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pp. 86-92

I offer the following scattered reflections in the form of a quite unsystematic, indeed playful, Denkschrift.1 It is intended as a means of generating and exploring ideas and examining new directions of thought and research, rather than as a polished, fixed product. ...

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9. Archetypes and the German Jewish Dialogue: Reflections Occasioned by the Goldhagen Affair

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pp. 93-102

We Israeli and German historians regularly assemble in Jerusalem to discuss matters of mutual concern.1 These meetings are usually conducted in impeccably polite and scholarly, almost other-worldly tones—leaving largely untouched and unacknowledged the emotional and existential...

Part III: Understanding Nazism and the Holocaust: Competing Models and Radical Paradigms

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10. Nazism, Normalcy, and the German Sonderweg

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pp. 105-121

The atrocities committed by National Socialism have always called for special modes of explanation.1 From the 1960s through the early 1980s the ruling conventional academic wisdom invoked, as almost self-evident, the thesis of an overall German exceptionalism to account for Nazism. ...

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11. Nazism, Culture, and The Origins of Totalitarianism

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pp. 122-136

The intense intellectual and emotional impact exerted by Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism1 upon a whole generation of readers during the 1950s and through the 1960s has been well documented and is in no need of rehearsal here.2 ...

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12. Post-Holocaust Jewish Mirrorings of Germany: Hanah Arendt and Daniel Goldhagen

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pp. 137-143

Since 1945 the image of Germany has been inextricably linked to that of Nazism and the Shoah.1 Tied as they are to core questions of national self-definition, of personal and collective identity, latter-day representations of Germans and Germany have perforce...

Part IV: Historians, History, and the Holocaust

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13. Reconceiving the Holocaust? Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners

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pp. 147-154

The study of the Holocaust is a visceral and cognitive minefield. Poised in our consciousness at the crossroads of history, myth, and memory, no matter how carefully and responsibly constructed the narrative, it elicits the most powerful emotions. ...

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14. George Mosse at 80: A Critical Laudatio

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pp. 155-170

George Mosse’s Europe has always been peopled by strange and powerful forces threatening to engulf its precious but fragile humanist heritage. His cultural history is animated by a complex but unabashed commitment to that heritage; his work over nearly the last 40 years has also made clear...

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15. On Saul Friedlander

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pp. 171-194

There are few arenas of Western cultural and intellectual life where the ethical, interpretive, and political stakes are more charged than in the ongoing analyses and debates concerning the nature and implications of Nazism and the Holocaust. ...


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pp. 197-264

Index [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 265-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780299168636
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299168643

Publication Year: 2001