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180 SHOFAR Fall 1999 Vol. 18, No. 1 Jews in Germany after the Holocaust: Memory, Identity, and Jewish German Relations, by Lynn Rapaport. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 325 pp. $22.95 (p). A few years back I received a DAAD grant to do research in Germany. I told an older colleague the news and his reaction surprised me. He said that Jcould take such a grant, I was young enough, but he couldn't take money from Germans or spend a year in Germany. The reason for the difference in our attitudes was the Holocaust. For him, it was an event of first-hand experience, whereas for me it was inevitably history. This story is relevant, since the difference in attitudes oftwo generations frames the subject ofthis book, which focuses its attention on the views ofGermany, Germans, and Jewry in Germany of second-generation Jews, i.e., children of survivors. From interviews carried out by Ms. Rapaport, we find a similar pattern. The parents, who experienced the Holocaust and are now in their sixties and seventies, have a more restrictive conception ofrelations between Jews and Germans. They do not want their children to socialize with Germans, preferring their children to take Jewish spouses and bring up Jewish children. Nevertheless, the majority of young adult Jews living in Germany have friendships with Germans and interact with them extensively, often intermarrying. Despite the dramatic title, which evokes stirrings of anxiety and consternationJews , Germany, Holocaust-the issues brought up here are actually mundane. One reads the testimony of a man who wonders ifhe got good grades in school because he was a Jew (p. 114), a man who bickers with his parents over going out with non-Jewish girls (p. 210), and a woman who feels embarrassed about her Jewishness in front of strangers (p. 181). The narrative gets a wee bit racier with the statement of a Jewish man who found out his girlfriend's father was in the SS, and the viewpoint ofa Jewish girl who prefers non-Jewish guys for sex (p. 229). Outside of these unusual testimonies, the vast majority tell a repetitive story: parents do not approve of socializing with non-Jews; young Jews, despite their successful entrance into German life, harbor feelings of alienation, feel uncomfortable with German citizenship, and desire Jewish spouses. The rigor ofthe author-interviews with 84 individuals in 1984 and reinterviewing in 1994-is praiseworthy. Although she apparently tried to elicit controversial subjects, again and again the interviewees return to issues from their daily life. Thus, instead of a problematic, dangerous, and diseased society in which neo-Nazis run amok or Germans humiliate their Jewish neighbors, we see a sanguine picture ofnormality. We are introduced to very nice people facing the uneventful problems ofliving as a national minority in a very rich but ethnically homogenized land. Furthermore, this book seems to show that the denazification ofWest Germany (the interviewees are from Frankfurt) enjoyed success; most of the stories about German colleagues and friends reflect Book Reviews ',:,' 181 positive values-condemnation of German aggression, guilt for the Holocaust, and a healthy tolerance of Jews. Thus, while the Holocaust hovers below the surface subtly influencing attitudes and emotions, it is only one factor in the creation of attitudes and values, and it blends with many others as Jews in Germany resolve concrete problems, such as finding a mate, sustaining friendships, and building careers. The interviewees prefer the paraphrastic name "Jews in Germany" to "German Jews," and the uncomfortableness of the latter title reflects the influence of the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, the interviewees confess to difficulties sharing German patriotism and love for the state and its interests. The German state apparently understands the quandary; institutionally, Jews are not obliged to serve in the armed forces and may do volunteer service instead. But the impression of the state this book projects is of a gentle, concerned parent. Frankfurt Jews have their Gemeinde and cultural center; they have their synagogue (Orthodox) and have every opportunity to worship freely. Unfortunately, just as for the majority ofyoung American Jews, Jewish identity for this group in Germany is not attached to religion or ritual (attendance in synagogue), but rather merely...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 180-181
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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