In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Zeitenbruch: Jüdische Existenz in Rheinland-Westfalen
  • Dean Phillip Bell
Zeitenbruch: Jüdische Existenz in Rheinland-Westfalen, 1933–1945, edited by Marina Sassenberg. Essen: Klartext Verlag, 1999. 102 pp., with extensive illustrations and CD-ROM. DM 32.71.

This thin catalog is a publication of the Jewish Museum of Westphalia. It includes images and text (written by the Hamburg historian Arno Herzig) from the exhibit Zeitenbruch (on the 60th anniversary of the November 10, 1938 pogrom), focusing on the phases of disruption, in general and for the Jewish communities, within Rheinland-Westphalia between 1933 and 1945. The exhibit offers particular detail for the years 1933 (National Socialist assumption of power), 1935 (the Nürnberg Laws), 1938 (the November pogroms), and 1941 (with the first deportations which ended with the murder of the majority of European Jewry).

The catalog begins with a brief essay by Herzig assessing the question of continuity of antisemitism in the Rhineland and Westphalia. Herzig begins by engaging Daniel Goldhagen’s provocative book and the public debate surrounding it. Put briefly, Herzig asks whether the years between 1933 and 1943/45 did not represent a rupture, but were rather the logical consequence of an elimationist antisemitism long rooted in German culture. Herzig argues that the virulent antisemitism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did not carry the “deadly potential” maintained by Goldhagen. Still, this does not change the fact that the majority of Germans after 1933 expressed no resistance against National Socialist racist separation. In the remainder of the essay, Herzig outlines the discussions of emancipation and the antisemitism of the mid-nineteenth century on, while emphasizing the changes after 1933. [End Page 143]

The catalog is divided according to the three sections of the exhibit. The first section of the catalog treats the general history of the Jews in Rheinland-Westphalia from its beginnings until 1933. Included are brief details of the earliest traces of Jews in the Rhineland (Cologne, 321), the important exemptions granted to the Jews of Worms by the emperor Henry IV in 1074, the plague and pogroms of the later Middle Ages; rural Jewry and the court Jews in the seventeenth century; the effects of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s occupation; brief information about Heinrich Heine, Salomon Ludwig Steinheim, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartplague and pogroms of the later Middle Ages; rural Jewry and the court Jews in the seventeenth century; the effects of the French rural); modern antisemitism (and antisemitic imagery); German-Jewish patriots in the German-French war of 1870/71 and the First World War; Jewish involvement in Weimar government and culture (including entertainers and sports figures; and the process of acculturation). A host of illustrations of individuals and institutions accompanies the brief notes.

The second section focuses upon the National Socialist period (1933–1945) and pays particular attention to the early Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses and antisemitic legislation, as well as the development of Jewish communal organizations (imposed from outside and developed from within), of cultural and political natures; the deportation of eastern European Jews beginning in later 1938 and the November pogroms in Germany and the accompanying mass emigration of Jews in 1938 (indeed, between 1933 and 1939 the Jewish population throughout Westphalia and much of the Rhineland shrank by more than half); increased stigmatization of the Jews, the prohibition of emigration, and the beginning of deportation in 1941, as well as the subsequent murder of the Jews until the end of the war.

The last section examines the remaining traces of the historical rupture of the National Socialist period and ends with the current situation of the Jewish communities in North Rhine-Westphalia, including the reemergence of a number of Jewish communities since the 1950s.

The catalog concludes with a timeline covering events in the Jewish existence in Rhineland-Westphalia between 1933 and 1945 and a very brief bibliography. The accompanying CD ROM is no more than an electronic version of the three sections of the exhibit (text and images), a glossary of a handful of terms such as assimilation, and some selected timeline entries.

Overall, the exhibit is well organized and clearly focused. It brings together a number of compelling photographs...

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pp. 143-145
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