The Meaning of Ost und West: Jews and Germans, Identity and Self-Hatred
This study has been concerned with Ost und West’s promotion of Jewish ethnicity and its impact on Jewish identity in the Kaiserreich. The conclusion will assess how successful Winz and his colleagues were in promoting the idea of cultural pluralism for European Jewry. Sharing in multiple cultures, and thus identities, was perceived negatively by most German Jews in this period. What Ost und West accomplished was to create an alternative space for a minority culture within German culture and European culture at large.1 The journal may thus furnish a model for contemporary ethnic and nonethnic minorities: from African Americans and Latinos to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Seeing one’s minority—or minorities—anew inevitably means adapting and reclaiming images of one’s group that have been created by hostile outsiders. Taking older stereotypes and giving them new meanings is part of the process by which “new” identities are formed.
After the fall of the monarchy and the outbreak of revolution in November 1918, the political and social situation of Jews in Germany, despite great promise, improved little. Equality before the law in the new German democracy did not protect self-proclaimed “German Citizens of the Jewish Faith” against the proliferation of anti-Jewish myths, ranging from the idea of a Jewish world conspiracy (Weltverschwörung) to the stab-in-the-back theory (Dolchstoßlegende).2 Attacks on Jews were not only ideological but also physical, revealing how woefully thin the line between prejudice and bodily assault had become. Left-wing activity as a whole came to be associated with Jews, and the assassinations of a number of Jewish political leaders of all shades—Rosa Luxemburg, Kurt Eisner, Walther Rathenau, Eugen Leviné, Gustav Landauer—were only the most public reminders of anti-Jewish violence in the first five years of the new German republic.
Discrimination against Eastern Jews did not make the headlines, however. The large-scale deportations of Jews from Bavaria in October 1923 and the pogrom that took place in Berlin’s Scheunenviertel on November 8 and 9, 1923, were quickly forgotten.3 Clearly, Ost und West no longer could fight the propaganda battles of the Ostjuden by itself. New political organizations sprang up to fill the vacuum in leadership (such as the Jüdische Volkspartei), but efforts on behalf of the Eastern Jews in Germany came, for the most part, too late. In fact, it must have seemed to Winz and his associates as if history were repeating itself in this latest revival of anti-Ostjude sentiments—and deeds. Hatred toward Jews had never disappeared entirely from German society; it was always lurking beneath the surface. At the same time, the experience of wartime antisemitism had given Ost und West and other Jewish periodicals time to anticipate the extremes of German political life between 1918 and 1923. The promotion of stereotypes in the journal now yielded to a more pressing need for apologetics to stem the tide of Jew hatred. Antidefamation proved as necessary in a Weimar Republic struggling to assert its authority as in a Kaiserreich at war.
Justifying ethnic Jewish identity became, in fact, a more urgent desideratum as 100,000 Ostjuden migrated to Germany between 1914 and 1921, almost double the number that had lived in the country prior to World War I.4 In spite of repeated calls to close the border during the war,5 the German Military High Command imported Polish Jewish labor for jobs in manufacturing and agriculture. As a result, approximately 30,000 Jews from Poland moved to Imperial Germany after 1916.6 That these were the only Jews permitted to immigrate during the war—the other 60,000 to 70,000 arrived after November 1918—confirms that many were either attracted by false claims or forced into servitude.7 In fact, antisemitic excesses and unemployment in Germany compelled 40 percent (40,000) of these immigrants to return home to Poland. The long-standing policy of limiting Jews in Germany to certain occupations also applied (often with greater restrictions) to Jewish immigrants from the East. Under the monarchy, Jews with money or significant business interests were given preference over other would-be immigrants. The few Eastern Jewish proletarians who managed to enter the country were employed in cigarette factories (Berlin), the fur and tanning business (Leipzig), and, to a lesser extent, the textile industry. Jewish immigrants also were singled out for economic prejudice in Weimar Germany. The goal now was to keep out Polish Jews. A job requiring bodily labor became the precondition for all Jewish entry and residency permits.8 Even so, few Jews actually found work in heavy industry and mining, with the exception of pockets in Upper Silesia and in the Ruhr region. In short, German administrative decisions continued to dictate the situation of the Ostjuden in Germany as they had since the eighteenth century.
Because restrictions on Jewish immigration from the East were a staple of German history, it was senseless of antisemites to speak of an Eastern Jewish menace (Ostjudengefahr).9 There were simply no grounds to fear that Jews were overrunning German borders. That, however, did not stop citizens of the Weimar Republic from believing this canard. In fact, they were bombarded with all kinds of Jewish images that were palimpsests of older stereotypes. It became clear to Ost und West that the Ostjuden had become a metaphor for all Jews; moreover, few antisemites cared to distinguish between Eastern and Western Jews.10
Even though Jews and non-Jews increasingly came into contact in the 1920s, their prejudices toward each other apparently changed little. (By the same token, relations between Eastern and Western Jews were not always friendly.)11 In fact, antisemitism became more visible as non-Jews and Jews came into greater social proximity in the Weimar Republic. Resentment and envy were typical responses in the immediate postwar climate of inflation and unemployment. Yet, because of the stridency and political savvy of antisemitism, we tend to discount signs of a German-Jewish symbiosis all too quickly. To many Jews before World War I, antisemitism seemed less alarming in Germany than in other West European countries—most notably France. Is it true, then, that the Kaiserreich was somehow better to the Jews?
Nostalgia is a powerful sentiment, and it is understandable that some Weimar Jews yearned for the halcyon days of stability under the monarchy. But the preponderance of evidence points to a democratic Germany as a better place for Jews, if only on legal grounds. There were also hints that the situation had improved socially. Despite their tendency to attract attention, flare-ups of ethnic friction in post-1918 Germany can be read as a sign that Jews were becoming (somewhat) integrated.12 After all, that Jews could legally organize to defend their rights suggested progress, and the antidefamation leagues that had existed since 1893 achieved their highest profile in the Weimar Republic. As a result, antidefamation and Jewish nationalism now existed on a continuum, a development reflected in Ost und West’s editorial policy: after the war, it published as much political writing as it did fiction and art. Having already influenced other periodicals to define Jewishness as an ethnicity, Ost und West now could afford to give more space to countering slander against the Jews.
The cause of Ost und West’s ultimate demise was the horrific inflation of 1918–1923 which also obliterated other publishing ventures in Germany (including Buber’s Der Jude in 1924). Whereas the rate of exchange benefited Jewish journals such as Milgroym/Rimon (Berlin, 1922–1924) which had sponsors outside Germany, it effectively buried any Jewish journal that was financed with German currency. In July 1923, one dollar was worth 353,412 marks; in September, it was worth 98,860,000; in November, 4,200,000,000,000.
The creators of Ost und West, however, did not cease to promote ethnic Judaism after 1923. Segel, for instance, became a part-time propagandist for the Centralverein.13 Winz was more active than ever in Jewish publishing and in Palestine-related business ventures, including film production and distribution.14 Perhaps Winz’s greatest accomplishment was the Gemeindeblatt der jüdischen Gemeinde zu Berlin. By sprucing up its image, he built it into the most highly circulated Jewish newspaper in Weimar Germany.15 Although it was distributed freely to all households registered in the Berlin community, it no longer depended on subsidies from the Gemeinde thanks to Winz’s successful advertising strategies. What had functioned as little more than a news bulletin before he (and his wife) took over in 1928 rose in circulation from an average of 58,000 to 77,000 in less than three years. Winz, however, was only applying what he had learned in promoting the Ostjuden at Ost und West: attracting readers meant more illustrations, more fiction, better publicity, professional management—and stereotyping.
We shall now examine the implications of the thesis that Ost und West promoted Eastern Jewish culture and Jewish national identity in Germany by means of stereotypes. Winz, Segel, and their colleagues showed a high level of self-awareness in their understanding of the workings of stereotyping, an understanding that enabled Ost und West to change with the times and to attract three different Jewish audiences. As a contribution to the history of promotion, the history of minority culture in Germany, and the history of European Jewry, this study has called into question received notions about ethnic identity, particularly the notion that Jews were somehow self-hating or that they eagerly assimilated to German society.
Since it marketed models of Jewish identity, Ost und West is ideal for the study of Jewish self-stereotyping. Which kinds of stereotypes were the most popular among Germany’s Jews? Most striking in Ost und West was the journal’s reliance on older images of religious renegades. But eventually, it was the parvenu, a figure whose social position was at least as important as his religious status, who proved flexible enough to appeal to each of Ost und West’s audiences. Far from being a new creation, then, stereotyping in the magazine simply inverted aspects of both Western/enlightened and Eastern/traditional Jewish identity.
Most positive stereotypes of Eastern Jewry came from the wartime “cult of the Ostjuden.” Yet, since Winz and his friends at Ost und West saw themselves as the first German-based advocates of the Eastern Jews, they increasingly differed with the “cult.” The “cultists” were not only, with few exceptions, Jews from the West, but they were also naive and uncritical in their idolizing of the Jewish East.16 While Martin Buber, Fritz Mordechai Kaufmann, and others were writing paeans to Eastern Jewry in a neoromantic vein, Ost und West was dutifully fighting antisemitism—in the West and the East. While the new idealization of the East was expanding, actual Jewish life in Poland was on the decline. Socially and politically, there was little reason to romanticize the lives of Eastern Jews. Polish and other Jewries had been mired in poverty and malaise even under the German occupation.
The Polish contributors to Ost und West knew better than to accept any glowing accounts of life in Germany’s Eastern neighbor. Segel, for one, shrewdly demythologized the Ostjude in 1921 in an article in the Centralverein monthly, Im deutschen Reich.17 With characteristic invective, he criticized those who would revere the ignorance, economic helplessness, and lack of worldliness (Kulturlosigkeit) of Jews in Poland. Those who were investing the Ostjuden with a romantic aura had rendered their unkempt appearance “aesthetic,” their superstition “mysticism,” and their crudeness “poetic.” Hasidic rebbes and fashionable revolutionaries were being touted as heroes, instead of great German-Jewish intellectuals such as Mendelssohn or Abraham Geiger (1810–1874). Instead of fantasizing about Eastern Jewish liberation, Segel advocated a form of autonomism: Jews should stay in their present countries and participate in their democratization. Ultimately, Segel’s sobriety vis-à-vis his Eastern Jewish compatriots was so pronounced that he placed the word Ostjuden in quotation marks.
Ost und West was opposed to contrived mythologies and hagiographies of the Ostjuden, believing that the fight against antisemitism had become by 1918 the more urgent agenda. But people tend to prefer positive images, and although the post-1945 historical situation is quite different from that of Ost und West, positive stereotypes of the Ostjuden and their communities are still popular. (Even in the early twentieth century, the nostalgic antithesis to middle-class European Jewish life was embodied in the shtetl—an affectionate synonym for the negatively loaded ghetto.) Since the 1960s, Yiddish and East European Jewish culture have undergone a renaissance in America that includes literary anthologies, new editions, picture books, exhibitions, and films. This renaissance also extends to postwar Germany. Typical for the (mainly Western) German manifestation of this renaissance are publications on Eastern Jewish life in Germany in the 1920s in which Berlin—Ost und West’s hometown—has become romanticized as the last great holdout of Yiddish and Hebrew culture in pre-Hitler Europe. As in the United States, the memory of the Ostjude in Germany is highly sentimentalized, at once exotic and fascinating. But the German commemoration of the Eastern Jews—and the majority of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust were from Eastern Europe—is also an attempt to come to terms with the legacy of National Socialism. After the fall of the German Democratic Republic in 1989–90, Germans are now faced with their own internal divisions (Westdeutsche versus Ostdeutsche). These East-West problems are not only reminiscent of Ost und West but also raise the question of German self-stereotyping and the possibility of German self-hatred.
In Germany, positive stereotyping of the Ostjude has always involved a simple reversal of negative stereotyping of the Westjude. For average German Jews, such idealization was the prism through which they could reject negative self-images, images deriving from antisemitism. As a result of their Eastern origins, the editors of Ost und West knew how thin the line was between idolizing Ostjuden and vilifying them. The favorite stereotype of Western Jewish nationalists, the self-hating Jewish parvenu, was a distillate of calumnies about East European Jews.
Just because stereotypes of self-haters were preeminent in Ost und West did not mean that they depicted a reality. On the contrary, they were always distortions, incapable of representing actual individuals. The stereotype of the self-hater, Winz and his associates realized, might be put to new uses. In the specifically Jewish context of Ost und West, then, self-hatred became a tool for promoting Eastern Jewry while criticizing Western Jewry.
Precisely because Winz and company used it as a promotional tactic, self-hatred took on a dimension beyond its psychological definition as internalized racism. Ost und West shows that “self-hatred” is a label, indeed a slander, that can be affixed to any group or individual at any time. This means that the psychology of self-hatred is historically and culturally conditioned. At the same time, some critics fail to recognize that self-hatred can serve as a fictional device that is governed by the cultural and textual contexts in which it appears. Circulating images of self-hating Jews among a turn-of-the-century audience that was primarily Jewish is thus very different from publishing similar images twenty years later in the Nazi Der Stürmer. The ascent of the Jewish self-hater as a stereotype enabled the readers of Ost und West— who may or may not have been self-hating at moments—to project the stain of self-hatred onto Western Jewish parvenus and others. In short, Ost und West used self-haters as part of its rhetoric of social criticism. As already mentioned, the magazine’s images of self-haters were not always images of Jews from one group or another. For example, Ost und West stereotyped non-Jewish groups as self-hating after August 1914 as part of a wartime plan to suppress negative images of Jews that might fuel antisemitism.
Yet Ost und West was not always consistent in dealing with the idea of self-hatred. While using the concept as a cultural construct, Winz and Segel sometimes appeared to take self-hatred as a reality, perhaps hoping to “cure” readers of its scourge by externalizing it and projecting it onto other individuals or groups. Sander Gilman, despite historicizing the discourse of self-hatred in his Jewish Self-Hatred,18 offers no explicit guidelines for differentiating between cultural representations and historical individuals or between pathological and nonpathological stereotyping. As a result, the stain of self-hatred seems to linger on most of the personalities discussed in his book (even though the “self-splitting” of Jewish writers may be nothing more than a way to set up the distance prerequisite for artistic creation). In Gilman’s work, a critical-cognitive approach to self-hatred clashes with a simplistic psychological approach that conceives of Jewish identity before the Holocaust as preordained by antisemitism.19
It is one thing to examine professional writers, a group that provides the student of self-hatred with numerous test cases. But other historians of self-hatred encounter less self-hatred in the materials they examine. “Self-hatred may have been endemic to intellectuals; the majority of German Jews managed to exist without recourse to it,” writes social historian Henry Wassermann.20 Wassermann’s view flies in the face of the typical Zionist account of Jewish self-hatred that sees Diaspora Jews as trapped between conflicting cultures, a double bind that is typically resolved by repudiating one’s Jewishness. For extreme Zionists, then, Jews who challenge the view that all German Jews were (or are) self-haters are themselves either renegades or mentally ill. This amounts to a charge of dual loyalty which overlooks the fact that “German Jews, like other minorities, could adhere to conflicting positive reference groups for generations with minimal psychological damage.”21 As we have seen, Winz and Segel also lived poised between two cultures, indeed two identities, but the experience did not mar their psyches. Marion Kaplan explains: “What has become a paradox for historians appeared reasonable and consistent to the German Jews themselves: they were at one and the same time agents of acculturation and tradition and of integration and apartness.”22
The same analysis applies to antisemitism in the Kaiserreich. Owing to the influence of the Holocaust and thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Gershom Scholem, we today tend to think of antisemitism as something of an unchanging existential crisis. Nothing could be further from the reality of German-Jewish life at 1900. For most German Jews at this time, antisemitism became a mundane part of life, something one endured. As a result, not all criticism of Wilhelminian Jews was automatically antisemitic “hate speech.”23 At the same time, Wilhelminian Jews were not involved in wide-scale denial, nor were they bent on assimilation or self-hatred. Instead, much like their counterparts in France and Russia, they took new forms of Jew hatred at face value: as a continuation of older anti-Jewish prejudices prevalent since the Middle Ages. For this reason, some German Jews misrecognized the new quality of “racialistic” antisemitism, unable to see the vital ways in which it superseded traditional Jew hatred.
The responses of German Jews also closely resemble those of their Eastern Jewish cousins. Most of these Jews habitually took a degree of Jew hatred in their lives for granted. As mentioned in chapter 1, Chaim Weizmann and other Eastern Jewish students found antisemitism to be more latent in Germany than in Russia. In a similar vein, Binjamin Segel wrote in 1923: “Here in Germany pogroms were talked about; in Russia, they were carried out.”24 According to literary historian David Roskies, the Jews of the Pale “were overprepared for catastrophe, and nothing could really take them by surprise.”25 In fact, Eastern Jewry bequeathed to the West a “liturgy of destruction” that originated at the time of the Crusades and attempted to provide comfort to Jews after modern pogroms.26 Challenges to Jewish existence, far from being eradicable, became instead a way of life and were incorporated into traditional Judaism.
Ost und West’s promotional strategy is testimony to the power of this Jewish liturgy of destruction. The journal’s very last editorial, Segel’s “Philosophie des Pogroms,” shows how second-nature this tradition had become after the pogroms of 1881–82, 1903–6, and 1919–20. Since November 1918, Ost und West had been barraged constantly with anti-Jewish “pogrom propaganda,” and Hans Blüher’s Secessio Judaica (1922), the subject of the editorial, was no different. Segel’s attitude toward antisemitism, as it emerged in the essay, was surprisingly nonchalant in light of the escalation of violence and agitprop activity at this time. Since the purpose of his editorial was antidefamation, however, he was careful to respond with cool objectivity to Blüher’s accusations that liberalism and socialism were Jewish creations. With characteristic insight, Segel also debunked the foundations of Blüher’s ideology and its foreboding call for a “world pogrom” (89).27 By defining German Geist as “the factory where the weapons to destroy the Jews are produced” (90), he turned those weapons into stereotypes of German antisemites, who now became the prototypical assimilators. As in Segel’s war editorials, a number of these Jew haters were accused of having behaved like traitors and self-haters between 1914 and 1918, and, in the manner of renegades, they were said to be “mimicking” (80) the enemies of the fatherland.
Even as Segel denied in “Philosophie des Pogroms” that it was possible for those Germans to have a dual identity, he suggested that Jews could transcend competing allegiances. While insisting that the Jews never actually wanted to assimilate to German culture (83–84), he pointed out that no Westjude was ever exclusively “Jewish.” Segel, in fact, delved deep into the past to locate examples of German-Jewish interdependence that contrasted starkly with the rhetoric and reality of post-1918 Germany. He cited evidence of an ancient coexistence, if not yet symbiosis, of Germans and Jews, claiming that Jews had resided in Germany since Roman times (2,000 years). He also claimed, in an article following the editorial, that the medieval Minnesänger, Süßkind von Trimberg, was Jewish.28
“Never have two peoples, a very large and a very small one, permeated each other more deeply than the Jews and the Germans” (91). In this way, Segel concluded his editorial, which he knew would be Ost und West’s last. But lest he be thought of as an idealist, his last sentence challenged the idea of a German-Jewish symbiosis by suggesting that new influences, such as antisemitism, were corrupting the legacy of Lessing (92).29 In allying Ost und West with the great Enlightener and his friend Moses Mendelssohn, Segel affirmed just how central the German Enlightenment was in encouraging tolerance of different peoples. Without the Enlightenment, there also would have been no Haskalah or Wissenschaft des Judentums and hence no intellectual basis from which to launch a defense of Jewry, a defense that was grounded in a critical understanding of stereotyping.
Exposing the errors of antisemitism was an agenda that went beyond the intellectual call for ethnic Judaism in Ost und West, and in this final editorial of March–April 1923, Segel promoted an ethnic Judaism that combined the best of Haskalah with the best of Ashkenazic tradition. But what did the Eastern Jewish nationalism of Ost und West mean in political terms at a time when the fledgling Weimar democracy came under increasing attack? At best, one could hope for a pluralistic, or “multicultural,” polity, and Jewish cultural autonomy on a nonterritorial basis was considered by Segel and his allies the best way to combine rational universalism with ethnic particularism.30
Neither territory nor political sovereignty was a prerequisite for Jewish national longings. And, as Ost und West shows, neither was needed for a group to promote minority culture in a textual medium. The main accomplishment of the bicultural editors of Ost und West was to demonstrate that pluralism was feasible even in Imperial Germany despite a long-standing tradition of German monoculturalism. Ost und West’s idea of a common European Jewish culture, like the idea of a common German culture, had its sources in competing versions of European nationalism, one “conservative” (or “ethnic”) and one “liberal” (or “civic”). Because conservative nationalisms sought to exclude and dominate even the most integrated of minority groups, the journal rejected them. Instead, Ost und West’s liberal nationalism, like the German nationalism of Liberals and Social Democrats in the Kaiserreich, made it clear that nationalism was not synonymous with racism or antisemitism.31 Conservative and liberal nationalisms often coexisted within the same political framework: Zionism had political and cultural wings that corresponded to opposing factions in Bismarck’s coalition (the National Liberals and the Freethinkers), and after 1886, Bismarck rejected the Kulturkampf against Catholics—representing one third of the German population—in favor of a hesitant pluralism. In addition, there were other targets besides Jews and Catholics. The German “nation” always could vent its frustrations upon the Poles, the Danes, the Alsatians, and other minorities.
One important “minority” often overlooked is the bourgeoisie. Since most German Jews belonged to this socioeconomic group, their political fortunes often rose and fell with it, even though non-Jews had been emancipated before Jews. The price the German bourgeoisie paid to be integrated into the larger German state was unwavering German nationalism. Yet this group embraced not only conservative nationalism, which deviated into antisemitism, but also liberal nationalism. In support of this thesis, a new generation of historians have argued that the integration of the middle classes was more pervasive than previously thought. They insist, moreover, that recent German history has not followed a peculiar linear path since 1848.32 They thus oppose the so-called Sonderweg theory that Germany, prior to Nazism, had a strong antidemocratic tradition in comparison with other Western nations because it never went through a bourgeois political revolution. For it is difficult to argue that Germany did not assume a “normal” line of development as did Britain and France when the latter two also practiced imperialism and other forms of autocracy. The fact that the Prussian Junker or large landowners remained politically dominant into the industrial age does not ipso facto render other European nations more democratic; indeed, all of them had institutionalized antisemitism to some extent.
The prevailing conception of German Jewry as passive and assimilating overlaps, in many respects, with the Sonderweg view of the German bourgeoisie as having timidly abdicated political responsibility. But if the bourgeoisie could be integrated into the German mainstream, why were their loyal allies, the fewer than 1 percent of Jews living in Germany, still objectionable? What emerged was that antisemitism was different from class hatred (or “classism”), and German (bourgeois) antisemites were fundamentally opposed to admitting Jews into the ranks of “Germanhood” (Deutschtum). Since it offered an alternative to this antisemitism, the moderate Jewish nationalism of Ost und West appealed to many German Jews. In fact, these Jews were willing to integrate Jewish minorities, and foremost among them, the Ostjuden, into their own ranks—if not into their private lives, then at least into their public pronouncements. And by 1923, Ost und West was not alone in trying to bridge the gap separating European Jews from each other. Effective promotion, like that of Winz and Segel, could help build coalitions between opposing Jewish factions and their notions of Jewish culture. Ost und West thus merged the universal with the particularistic and espoused an Eastern Jewish nationalism that was compatible with Western liberal humanism. The realization of the journal’s ideas in Weimar Jewish politics shows that a qualified form of Jewish separatism was acceptable to German Jews, if not to Germans in general.
Resentments between different groups of Jews always have existed and will continue to influence attitudes. But instead of assuming that Westjuden could never be tolerant of Ostjuden, historians should inquire into the conditions that made German Jews favor ethnic Jewishness.33 By posing such questions, this study may enrich American and other contemporary Jewish communities that are struggling to sustain a distinctive culture in the face of a powerful majority culture.34 In Ost und West, Eastern and Western Jews were vocal and visible in overcoming the allures of assimilation. Their resistance to monoculturalism might serve as a model for the ethnic behavior of non-Jews.
As Reinhard Rürup, a leading historian of nineteenth-century German Jewry, maintains, it is unreasonable to demand that minority groups subordinate their cultural behavior (language, religion, culture) to every aspect of the majority culture. But if minority groups move too far to dissimilate themselves, they run the risk of being treated as separate or being cut off from participation in the mainstream culture.35 Winz and Segel, in their writings and life choices, recognized this danger. They thus staked their claim with the Rechtsstaat, the state governed by law. A diverse polity, so long as it guaranteed a range of individual rights, seemed less prone to antisemitism than a profusion of small “self-determined” states. Having grown up in the Austro-Hungarian empire, Segel believed in the larger multiethnic state ruled by law, not in some radical form of democracy. He and his colleagues thus pointed out how destructive self-determination could be: it involved a constant need to redraw territorial boundaries, resulting in wars with neighboring states and a constant need to limit its definition of who was a citizen. Restrictions on citizenship, in turn, could lead to the harassment and deportation of residents of other ethnicities.
The historical search for a balance of power between cultures has important implications for the study of ethnic groups and minorities today. The study of Ost und West can shed light on the tension between group identity and assimilation and thus on the debate between the idea of the multiethnic state and that of the national homeland. As events since 1989 have revealed, the terms of this debate have changed little in East Central Europe since World War I. The ideas of self-determination and minority rights influence political discourse as much today as they did after 1918, promising that national identities will not soon disappear from a “united Europe.” In addition, the call by national groups for “ethnic cleansing” in a disintegrating Yugoslavia (and elsewhere) has resurrected the specter of genocide in our time. An “antisemitism without Jews” also has emerged. Seeking to draw attention away from their national rivalries and feuds, extremists in Western and Eastern Europe yearn for the days when Jews were more convenient scapegoats.36
Only if nations with ethnic minorities are prepared to confront the presuppositions they have about the groups living in their midst, as well as the subgroups within their own groups, can the unique subcultures of Jews, Kurds, Palestinians, Bosnians, Armenians, and many others continue to survive.37 Presuppositions about such groups are still pervasive today, even in supposedly pluralistic societies such as the United States, where Jews, Blacks, Arabs, Hispanics, and nonethnic groups such as homosexuals continue to be stigmatized. The example of Ost und West suggests a way to overcome this stigmatization: to recognize both the contingency and the necessity of stereotyping. More often than not, stereotypes are forms of bias used to slander and to wound. But since stereotypes—understood in the perspectivist terms of cognitive psychology—are the wellsprings of human thinking, they also can serve as a means of bridging cultures and inverting received images. Stereotyping, impossible to do without, still might be elevated to a form of criticism used to promote an end to ethnic prejudice.