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Reviewed by:
  • Democratization and the Jews: Munich, 1945–1965
  • Lynn Rapaport
Democratization and the Jews: Munich, 1945–1965, Anthony D. Kauders (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), 326 pp., $60.00.

The military defeat of Nazi Germany, followed by its subsequent occupation by Allied forces, was the sine qua non of democratic development in the Federal Republic. Germany's economic recovery and the establishment of the German constitution helped provide order and stability—paving the path for legitimacy of the idea of a [End Page 321] West German democracy. Within this context, how did West Germans come to terms with the past, and what role did this play in the democratization process?

Using Munich from 1945 to 1965 as a case study, Anthony Kauders explores how West Germans became liberal democrats. Arguing against the notion that Germans "repressed" their past, either consciously á la Adorno, or unconsciously as with the Mitscherlichs (The Inability to Mourn), Kauders illustrates the lively discourse about National Socialism and the Second World War that took place in both German popular media and political life. Kauders illustrates the variation, continuity, and change in ideas about democracy among Eastern European and German Jews, among the various political parties—Christian Social Union (CSU), Social Democratic Party (SPD), Free Democratic Party (FDP)—and among Catholics and Protestants.

In 1933, Munich's Jewish community numbered about 9,000. By March 1946, 796 members of the original community resided in Munich. Nearly 300 had survived Theresienstadt, and others returned from exile or other concentration camps. These Jews were a distinct minority. By 1947 nearly 60,000 Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe were registered in the Munich area, of whom almost 35,000 lived in sixty-one displaced persons camps. Others were in children's homes, city-owned housing, hospitals, and sanatoriums.

During the initial postwar years, the Jewish community was rife with internal turmoil and friction. Kauders shows that many German Jews rejected the idea of integrating displaced persons (DPs) into the social and political life of the community. He also shows that many DPs rejected the idea of Jews remaining permanently in Germany. Conflicts between religious and secular Jews continued unabated well into the 1950s. Munich's Jews rarely, if ever, noted any Gentile "repression" of the Nazi past: on the contrary, one of the issues Jews agreed upon was the unreconstructed lack of compassion they encountered among Germans, and the continuing presence of antisemitism in Munich and elsewhere. Jews applauded members of the Gesellschaft für christliche-jüdische Zusammenarbeit (Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation), who took it upon themselves to educate the public on the Shoah. By and large, the Jewish community felt obligated to remind the public of its responsibility to teach future generations the lessons of the past.

So little had minds changed that in a 1948 public opinion poll, 57 percent agreed that "Nazism was a good idea" that had been "executed badly," while only 28 percent disagreed and 15 percent had no opinion. In a second survey in 1949, 70 percent of the sample admitted they would not marry a Jewish man or woman, while 22 percent were unsure and only 8 percent could imagine doing so. Many political parties, and the Protestant and Catholic communities at large, welcomed protection of individual rights after 1945, given their violation under Hitler. Yet, with the exception of many Social Democrats, most clerics did not see Wiedergutmachung (restitution) as part of the democratization process. Kauders shows how many Germans in Munich remembered Nazi terror being directed [End Page 322] against them rather than the Jews. Indeed, they distinguished between Eastern and German Jews, and cultivated prejudices against the former by comparing Eastern Jewish agitation in 1918 with Eastern Jewish racketeering in 1945, as if the years 1933–1945 had never existed.

Historians are divided on the character of the Federal Republic in the 1950s. Some have argued that the decade was characterized by "silence," the "burden of a national memory," and the success of West Germany's economic miracle. Kauders discusses the merits and limitations of this argument by illustrating how West Germans ceased to contemplate the meaning of democracy; except for the Social Democrats, most parties were...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1476-7937
Print ISSN
8756-6583
Pages
pp. 321-324
Launched on MUSE
2006-08-30
Open Access
No
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