“Intellectuals” Reading “Parvenus”: The Intellectual Nationalist as Ostjude and the Assimilating Parvenu as Westjude in Ost und West
This chapter explores how the creators of Ost und West used their knowledge of Jewish identities to appeal to a specific Jewish subgroup in Germany: the intelligentsia sympathetic to Eastern Jewry. This almost exclusively male audience was made up of students, journalists, literati, rabbis, and educators. They were the avant-garde of ethnic Jewry in the West, and from its earliest days, the journal drew its editors and main contributors from their ranks.
Assuming the loyalty of Eastern Jewish readers, Ost und West set out to attract their Western counterparts. To appeal to German-Jewish intellectuals was no easy matter, however, particularly since Winz and his colleagues eschewed the romanticized images of the Ostjude (and the Oriental Jew) that had begun to emerge in Western literature of the nineteenth century. To begin with, they felt that those who idealized the Ostjude might overlook the dire social and political conditions under which Eastern Jews lived. They also knew that positive imagery could not by itself spark an ethnic Jewish renaissance. They thus sought negative stereotypes of a specific group of Jews—Jews who were neither Eastern nor Jewish nationalist. On the one hand, this meant criticizing a number of Western Jews, a move that might offend some German-Jewish readers. On the other hand, it meant caricaturing Jews without somehow slipping into the all-too-pervasive clichés of the Ostjude as dirty, loud, unmannered, and culturally retrograde.1 For antisemites in Germany were only too happy to come across such images and take them out of context.
Ost und West needed a different type of Jew to stereotype, one that its elite readers could really disdain—and in good conscience. The most persistent stereotype of all, a stock figure of German letters since the early nineteenth century, was the Jewish social climber, alternatively known as the “parvenu,” “arriviste,” or “nouveau riche.”2 This character was a distant relative of the court Jews (or Hofjuden) granted special privileges by German royals since the sixteenth century. Perhaps because many such “exception” Jews came from Poland, this figure came to be more strongly associated with East European Jews.3 Designated as a Geldprotz after 1873, the parvenu was presumed to have a tendency to “show off” (protzen), a behavior attributed to his Eastern Jewish descent.4 Since he threatened to become indistinguishable from non-Jews, the parvenu’s Christian colleagues branded him as different. This did not go unnoticed by the editors of Ost und West, who were looking to redefine Jewish identity and community. They turned to this more interesting stereotype in an effort to transcend older simplifications which their avant-garde readers mistrusted.
The negative image of the parvenu thus became the main stereotype in Ost und West. Yet, as we shall see, the Protz of the journal was not simply new; he was, in fact, diametrically opposed to the Eastern Jewish parvenu encountered in belles-lettres prior to the twentieth century. In Ost und West, the Eastern origins of previous Jewish arrivistes were now either effaced or specified as “Western.” As a result, the Western Jewish parvenu was suddenly held up as a cautionary figure. When publishing literary and historical narratives about Jewish origins, then, Ost und West pinpointed the Western Jewish parvenu as the source of acculturation, not the Ghettojuden of the East. As this stereotype gained momentum, owning up to one’s ethnic background became the essence of authentic Jewishness in Ost und West. In the meantime, the ultimate term of opprobrium remained Assimilant (“assimilator”) or Abtrünniger (“apostate”). In league against “bad” Jews, “good” Eastern and “good” Western Jews might find some common ground. The Jewish fold was defined anew so as to exclude those Jews who, like the social climbers, were taken to be wealthy and less educated.
To clarify how Winz and his circle promoted this specific stereotype, this chapter first will describe the intellectual, pro-Ostjude audience of Ost und West, the readers who were socially and culturally inclined to recoil at the sight of nouveau riche Westjuden. The character of the arriviste, as we shall see, became the special target of the journal’s short satires set in Berlin. These short satires were calculated to play on both the religious and enlightened loyalties of Jewish intellectuals. Just which loyalties were brought to bear—Eastern or Western, traditional or modern—was not always apparent, however. Even as the journal rejected an assimilated lifestyle in favor of historical Judaism, it accepted modern, Western criticisms of the lopsided professional structure of Jewish Germans, “enlightened” arguments that promoted artisanry and farming over commerce and banking.
This analysis of the Jewish parvenu image rests on the assumption that German-Jewish students, intellectuals, and artists were a major audience of Ost und West. But how do we actually know that this was true? And how did Ost und West’s editorial team approach them as a unique market?
We can answer these questions by reconstructing Ost und West’s audience of Western Jewish cultural elites. It is true that such an undertaking is risky in the absence of precise distribution statistics, detailed letters to the editor, and reader protocols.5 Yet the stereotypes used by Ost und West provide the information needed to fill these gaps. Indeed, the image of the Western Jewish parvenu that pervades the first years of Ost und West suggests that Jewish intellectuals—antipodes to the parvenu—were the pioneer subscribers to the magazine.
German-Jewish students and intellectuals, unlike other Westjuden, were also more likely to have contact with bona fide Ostjuden. As we have seen, the rapprochement of Eastern and Western Jews first began around the turn of the century under the auspices of groups such as the Russischer jüdischer wissenschaftlicher Verein. In the 1890s, Birnbaum, Loewe, and others laid the groundwork for pan-Jewish nationalism. These leading lights of the Young Jewish Movement (die jungjüdische Bewegung) worked to bring about a synthesis of the German youth movement with the incipient Jewish “Renaissance.”6 The Democratic Faction of the Zionist party was only the most famous offspring of this new alliance of Jewish writers, artists, and journalists. Although small and more Eastern than Western Jewish in composition, this group made up the new ethnic Jewish vanguard in Europe. In selecting its editorials, literature, and art, Ost and West shared the Faction’s agenda, promoting Jewish nationalist thinkers and thus achieving notoriety for itself. Despite hailing from Russia and Galicia, the editors of the magazine were determined to galvanize the support of Jewish intellectuals in the West—both the Western and Eastern Jewish nationalists.
As in Eastern Europe, pointing the young elites in Central Europe toward ethnic Judaism was a new response to growing economic and racial antisemitism. In an epoch of mounting prejudice in the universities and academic professions, the anti-parvenu narratives of Ost und West could be aimed at the German-Jewish Bildungsproletariat. This new “proletariat of the educated” consisted of Jewish men (and a handful of women) in their twenties who saw their career prospects turning more and more dismal.7 Almost all Jews seeking or holding elite positions in Germany were affected by discrimination. After the stock market crash of 1873, rivalries among students in the Kaiserreich grew fiercer and were influenced by racialist thinking. Eastern Jews, as the most conspicuous group of foreigners at the university, soon became easy targets for their conservative peers.8 Denying Jewish access to higher education became a major thrust of organized antisemitism and climaxed in the Anti-Semitic Petition of 1881–82.9 What is more, protests against Russian-Jewish students in Germany implicated their more acculturated German-Jewish cousins.10 A new East-West Jewish ethnic alliance, it was thought, could combat such threats.
Restrictions on Jewish immigrants helped strengthen this new alliance. In the Kaiserreich, foreign Jews were rarely offered citizenship and were subject to deportation if they were deemed burdensome (lästig) or of no tangible benefit to the German economy. These laws reflected the centuries-old practice of limiting Jews to the commercial and banking sectors. In fact, Jews from the Habsburg Empire were preferred by the German authorities over other foreign Jews, precisely because it was believed that they would stimulate trade and investment.11 And one major reason Winz and his colleagues chose journalism was to preclude being expelled from the Kaiserreich.
The culture industry thus became a main outlet for university-educated Jews from both Europes. Owing to job discrimination, many native-born Jews in Germany (and Austria) who had trained as lawyers or humanists were forced into journalism. (A comparison reveals that Jews in England and France enjoyed more career mobility in the nineteenth century than their coreligionists in Germany.)12 In an irony of history, the limits placed on Jewish occupations actually led to a preponderance of Jews in the press, that most visible of fields. The best-known publishers in all of Germany, the Ullsteins and the Mosses, were Jews. Out of these circumstances arose the myth that the Jewish press was all-powerful and conspiratorial. But in discussions among Eastern and Western Jews, the crisis of the Bildungsproletariat received the most attention—not the realities of prejudice, as one might expect.13 Jews, like other ill-treated groups, looked upon antisemitism as a hazard of the marketplace, even though many were aware of its deleterious potential as an ideology. Without diverging into self-hatred, leading Jews agreed that the newest wave of antisemitism was a plausible consequence of the depressed professional job market of the 1870s which had made the competition for most “academic” metiers keener than ever.
But competition between Jewish and non-Jewish students (together less than 1 percent of the population) and the general retrenchment of German conservatism after the 1880s also can be read as a sign of progress. The social gains German Jews made as the result of emancipation became more elusive as they moved closer to political parity. In practice (though not in law), they were excluded from the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the professoriate, and the officer class. To advance socially demanded one basic sacrifice: getting baptized. The high number of Jewish conversions after 1871—higher than at any other time in German history—shows the relative ease with which this step was taken.14 Even though baptism (like intermarriage) did not translate into full acceptance, its popularity suggests that acceptance was no longer impossible, at least for those Jews more loyal to Western-enlightened Judaism. Not surprisingly, Jewish university students were highly susceptible to conversion.15
As part of a wide-scale outreach program, Ost und West and other purveyors of ethnic Judaism tried to limit such damage and frequently appealed to the loyalties of unaffiliated Jews who refused to convert, the so-called Trotzjuden (“defiant Jews”). Unlike parvenus and other renegades, Trotzjuden or “dissidents” were regarded by many Jews as exhibiting integrity (Charakter), and their numbers increased in the Kaiserreich.16 In fact, statistics suggest that conversions were on the decline by 1901, when Ost und West began publication.17 Some Western Jews were thus prepared to reject an assimilated German identity for the Jewish ethnic identity being fashioned by Eastern Jewish students in Germany.
As argued above, the delayed entry of Jews into academic professions pushed many intellectual Westjuden in the direction of Jewish nationalism. While the Trotzjuden did not fully embrace Jewish nationalism of either variety, others went several steps further, attempting to “re-judaize” or “re-ethnify” themselves through contact with Eastern Jewish life. These young German Jews, whose chances to succeed as Bildungsbürger were waning, reacted to the threat of becoming déclassé by portraying their fathers (and the rest of the German-Jewish propertied bourgeoisie) as assimilationists. The Jewish nationalist challenge to the leadership of the established Jewish communities (Gemeinden) is but one manifestation of a widening generation gap after 1900, which, as we shall see in Ost und West, became a frequent literary motif of the epoch.18
Western Jews responded to the lure of ethnic redefinition for a mixture of professional and familial reasons. Having come of age in the 1890s and 1900s, young Jews in Germany had had a very different experience from the previous generation. Their fathers, who subscribed to an ideology of emancipation, had been raised in the hopeful Nachmärz period (1848–1871) and had not been subjected to the same degree of academic or professional antisemitism.19 On account of the demise of liberalism, the new generation was also willing to avow its Jewishness publicly. Starting around 1900, a small group of “returners” (baalei teshuvah; Hebrew for “penitents”) tried to reverse the acculturation patterns of their elders, some of whom were first-generation immigrants from the East. As Aschheim observes:
There was a delicious irony in this: whereas before, German Jews had been shamed by the presence of their cousins from the East, their own children were now profoundly embarrassed by the affluence and philistinism of their parents and looked East for a source of renewed pride. The great problem of Jewish life, bemoaned one Zionist, was the fact that all Jews were judged by the behavior of a small bourgeoisie. The cult of the Ostjuden was one way of attempting to escape this damning judgment by association.20
Overcoming the stereotype of the parvenu or “capitalist” Jew, whom they felt their fathers embodied, became a major agenda for these younger Jews, and a number of them after 1900 renewed their ties to Judaism. Some, like Nathan Birnbaum, made full-scale returns to Eastern-style Jewish Orthodoxy. Later prominent examples of Western Jewish elites who “dissimilated” in this way include Fritz Mordechai Kaufmann, a Jew from the Rheinland who became a Yiddishist and married a Polish-Jewish woman, and Kafka’s friend Georg (Jírí) Langer, who became a disciple of the Belzer rebbe, to the chagrin of his liberal Prague Jewish family. In his biography of Birnbaum, sociolinguist Joshua Fishman documents how the “re-ethnification and accompanying re-linguification [of elites] is a common process in the early stages of very many modern ethnicity movements” and how this process shows a “proto-elitist return to (or selection of) roots—often after failure to transethnify ‘upwardly’ in accord with earlier aspirations.”21
At its worst, this kind of re-ethnification could decline into elitism. But the elitism that marred fin-de-siècle Jewish nationalism was not confined to Western Jewish groups. The members of the Democratic Faction, for instance, were parodied for their avant-garde intellectualism. Not only Buber, the standard-bearer of the group, but also Weizmann, Motzkin, and Aḥad Ha24 Winz and his team were also “doubly exposed.” Ost und West mined the past with an eye toward the present and thereby showed the value of promoting both traditional and modern components of ethnic Jewishness. Winz, then, found himself attracting to his project Jews who bridged East and West.
Because the audience of Jews who lived both Eastern and Western forms of Judaism eclipsed the tiny elite of dissimilators, the Western audience of Ost und West soon grew beyond activists and elites. “Metaphorical returners” to the fold, of course, far outnumbered “genuine returners.”25 Even the Zionist movement could not encompass them all, and, according to Winz, the readership of Ost und West was largely non-Zionist by 1903.26
Few young German Jews circa 1900 were adherents of Jewish nationalism, much less ba27
Despite their image of uniformity, the Wandervögel and other such groups were split down the middle into Besitz- and Bildungsbürger (propertied and educated bourgeois) an internal class division echoed in the Jewish youth movement.28 The Jewish Besitz- and Bildungsbürger were also prepared to stereotype each other if necessary. Just as German Jews had traditionally stigmatized Ostjuden, so, too, did young Jewish Bürger try to create distance between themselves. Many were aware that the Jewish middle class, which included three quarters of all Jews in the Kaiserreich, was divided into subclasses: the upper segment included well-to-do entrepreneurs, doctors, and lawyers; the middle segment included retailers and independent tradesmen; and the lower segment included less-monied artisans and businesspeople, white-collar and communal officials, teachers, and bookkeepers.29 Short of inventing some new common cause, it was difficult to build consensus within this sizable middle class. The only shared ideals were the norms of respectability observed by more affluent and established Jews. Lower-class Jews in Germany (even some first-generation Easterners) recognized that these ideals were their ticket to status, whereas most middle-class Jews used the idea of respectability to bracket themselves off from the Jewish lower classes and Eastern Jewish immigrants, on the one hand, and from the Jewish upper classes and parvenus, on the other.
Ost und West sought to make ethnic Judaism part of broader middle-class Jewish identity by tapping into the scruples of the Wilhelminian Jews. These Jews, like middle-class Germans, were subjected to the dictates of enlightened morality: respectability, hard work, cleanliness, and so on. These dictates, in fact, encouraged Ost und West to use stereotypes of parvenu Westjuden who had (conventionally) Eastern Jewish defects.30 Such a strategy ultimately accommodated the journal’s intellectual audience, enabling Jews between twenty and forty to break with their parents’ Westjudentum while also distancing themselves from the negative side of Ostjudentum.31
Young German-Jewish intellectuals were thus unwilling to abandon the upper-middle-class status they had inherited. And they were the only ones likely to have the leisure (or the finances) to support Jewish nationalism. In the end, the decision to identify ethnically was often a luxury for the Jewish middle class, helping elites maintain their political leverage over Ostjuden and lower-class Jews. The alliance that Winz and his circle tried to forge between Eastern and Western Jewish elites was shaky. It could not be realized on one or the other’s terms. Only one avenue remained: to craft a synthesis of traditional and enlightened Judaism under the banner of Jewish ethnicity. But this, as we shall see, meant creating new stereotypes.
This section will explore one type of Jewish self-representation in Ost und West, namely the discourse of the Jewish parvenu as a deficient Westjude. Whereas much research has focused on the portrayal of Jews—Eastern and Western—in the modern age, little has been written about parvenus.32 Ost und West’s stereotypes of the Jewish parvenu, as suggested earlier, promoted ethnic Judaism to Western and Eastern Jews active in the cultural sphere. At the height of Ost und West’s “corrective” stereotyping between 1901 and 1906, the Western Jewish Protz was promoted as the embodiment of all Jewish parvenus throughout history. But the magazine did not invent this stereotype; it only marks a transition in the diverse and colorful history of this character in German (and Western) culture. Ost und West drew on a long history of attitudes toward socially mobile Jews, attitudes stemming from both Jews and non-Jews. Again, the innovation of Winz and his colleagues was to redefine the origins of the parvenu characters as Western, not Eastern.
Attitudes toward lapsed Jews almost always have demarcated the perceived boundaries between “Jew” and “non-Jew.” Yet prior to their emergence from ghetto life in the 1700s, European Jews could disaffiliate from their community in only two ways: through conversion and through heresy. In the wake of the Haskalah, Jews were compelled to redefine their identities, a process that entailed disguising their common origins, be they linguistic, territorial, ethnic, or historical. Most Jews preferred the deliberate pace of acculturation over assimilation, since it was a less radical adaptation to non-Jewish society, but some still chose to repress their recent past.33 Indeed, the raison d’être of Jewish parvenus was the concealment of their social and/or cultural origins.
In Germany, where Jews did not attain many rights and legal freedoms until 1869, many Jews camouflaged their Jewish ancestry. After this time, antisemites—even the Jewish ones—reveled in opportunities to humiliate Jews who masked their origins, which led both Jews and Christians to form antidefamation organizations (Abwehrorganisationen) in 1890s Germany. Yet an open profession of Jewish belief or ethnicity was unusual until the emergence of political Zionism, which itself never strayed from Western liberal universalism. But since it was created by Eastern Jewish nationalists, Ost und West was alone among German-Jewish journals in openly acknowledging its Jewish roots (indeed, its Eastern Jewish patronage) by featuring the history, literature, art, and folklore of Ostjuden. In summary, the magazine’s conspicuous displays of Jewishness touted ethnic pride as an antidote to antisemitism.
In urging European Jews to overcome their self-censorship and to “come out of the closet,” the myth makers at Ost und West used a conspicuous foil: the German-Jewish parvenu. Shame or embarrassment about this figure, defined in Webster’s as “a usually crude or pushing person who has recently reached a position of prominence, power or wealth,” was meant to make Jewish readers identify with their ethnic roots. When presented in Ost und West, representations of Jewish social climbers had a didactic function: they were intended to educate German Jews. Above all, they served as negative exempla in the journal’s cautionary tales.
Ost und West’s anti-parvenu narratives evolved in response to specific historical developments. The rate of apostasy in Germany was staggering (if belated) when compared to other Western nations. In Berlin, the center of gravity of German Jewry, at least 100 adult conversions to Protestantism (or one for every 600 to 650 Jews) were registered per year in the period from 1882 to 1908. In England, the figures were significantly lower. “Jews were ceasing to be Jewish in England because resistance to their incorporation into society was weak; in Germany, their ties to Judaism were being sundered because the resistance was strong,” notes one historian.34 Narratives of Jewish parvenus—who themselves may or may not have been baptized—were thus attempts to come to terms with the high degree of acculturation that German society required of the Jews.35
What, then, did the standard German-Jewish parvenu character look like? Arguably the most powerful and widespread representation of the Jew to be found in post-Enlightenment Germany, the image of the Jewish parvenu derived its archetypal impact from medieval stereotyping of Jews as greedy and usurious.36 As a social upstart, the Jewish arriviste was depicted as prideful (thus committing the Christian sin of hubris). He became, at the same time, the object of envy and projected guilt; he had no right to be in the position he held. In addition, he was frequently portrayed as a lapsed Jew or a convert to Christianity.
The upstart Jew was also marked by wealth and ostentation; not coincidentally, the Jewish parvenu of the Kaiserreich was most typically designated as a monied show-off. Western secularism also shaped the typical Jewish arriviste character, even if the religious overtones of the image never faded. The parvenu Jew of prose fiction was thus highly acculturated and typically resided in a large city, such as Berlin. In addition, he was pretentious, though not always cultured or even intelligent. Repeatedly caricatured as pot-bellied, bow-legged, diamond-wearing, gesticulating, large-nosed, and curly haired, he was at core rootless and degenerate, a legacy of nineteenth-century antisemitism and anticapitalism.
Yet the most pervasive nineteenth-century versions of the stereotype had one additional feature: the parvenu was firmly linked to East European Jewish types.37 As already indicated, such a reading of the parvenu was common among German Jews who believed themselves more civilized than their Eastern coreligionists. To resist this interpretation of the German-Jewish parvenu, Ost und West turned the tables. The journal’s literature and essays uncovered the origins of the arriviste and revealed them to be … Western!38 Contributors to Ost und West, however, were prone to recycle the elements of the older easternized image, giving the new Western Jewish Protz the negative traits previously associated with the stereotype of the Eastern Jewish parvenu. Although the contributors to Ost und West rarely caricatured the physical appearance or manners of this Western Jewish Protz, his hunger for status was familiar to the cultural elites who read the journal.39 The Western Jewish intellectuals I have described were not at all offended by critical portraits of literary parvenus who were Westjuden. On the contrary, they welcomed these images, thus encouraging Ost und West to continue its negative promotion campaign to make Eastern Jews and ethnic Jewishness respectable in the eyes of the larger Western Jewish audience.40
By now, it should be clear that negative stereotyping of arriviste Jews was central to the mission of Ost und West. Exposing the modest origins of many a nouveau riche Jew actually became something of a sport in the journal’s appeals to ethnically inclined literati. Cultural origins were at the core of this type of criticism. As a proponent of Eastern Jewish nationalism, Ost und West consistently portrayed Eastern Jews as more “rooted” than their Western brethren. In addition, the journal called upon all Jews to acknowledge their parents’ (or grandparents’) place of origin, be it Germany, Austria, Hungary, Galicia, the Bukovina, Poland, or Russia.41 Requiring that those Western Jews with family in the East embrace their roots was one way to parry attacks on Ostjuden. Since the Enlightenment, most parvenus in the German-Jewish cultural milieu were thought to be recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, and in the historians’ controversy of 1878–79, Heinrich von Treitschke identified Eastern Europe as the breeding ground of Jewish parvenuism.42 Ost und West, in turn, defended Eastern Jewry by directing its barbs against Western Jewish parvenus, those whose families had resided in the West for more than one generation.43
Even while redefining the Jewish social climber, Ost und West’s essays and stories show that it was acutely aware of his literary predecessors. The origin of the magazine’s parvenu stereotype is found in four nineteenth-century traditions: (1) the Eastern Jewish tradition critical of the enlightened Jew or daytsher;44 (2) the anticonversion and anti-intermarriage fiction published in Orthodox and Liberal Jewish periodicals in the second half of the nineteenth century;45 (3) the genre of so-called Dorf- und Ghettogeschichten by Jewish and non-Jewish writers such as Berthold Auerbach (1812–1882), Leopold Kompert (1822–1886), Karl Emil Franzos (1848–1904), and Leopold Sacher-Masoch (1835–1895); and (4) the non-Jewish literary and historical tradition of the Jewish speculator-cum-Geldprotz, exemplified in contributions to the Treitschke dispute as well as in the fictions of Gustav Freytag (1816–1895), Wilhelm Raabe (1831–1910), and a host of others prior to the fin de siècle.46
A complete examination of these tropes of the Jewish parvenu would take us far afield. It is also not necessary, for the fourth tradition—the most influential—predominated. Works such as Gustav Freytag’s Soll und Haben (1855) engaged the interest of a broad audience extending beyond German Jewry and constituted the most immediate and most likely source of parvenus in Ost und West. Most of this late-nineteenth-century literature, whether labeled “historical scholarship” or “historical fiction,” was written in a “Realist” mode.47 As we shall see, the imagery and governing aesthetic of this Realism were challenged by Ost und West’s contemporary fiction (Zeitprosa) of German-Jewish life. This Naturalist fiction became the primary vehicle for challenging the ideological linkage of Jewish parvenus and Eastern Jewish immigrants.
In contrast to other Jewish mass media, Ost und West specialized in stereotypes of the Jewish parvenu that placed this character solidly in Western society. Since the majority of the magazine’s readers had grown up in Western and Central Europe, this created a potential quandary. Having decided to publish anti-Western parvenu narratives, Ost und West was compelled to feature examples of this genre written by Western Jewish writers. In fact, the journal often used Western Jewish authors to denounce Western Jewish parvenus, although many narratives created by Eastern Jews were also used, such as Peretz’s “Vier Testamente” (September 1901). Some of the German-Jewish authors, such as Lothar Brieger-Wasservogel (1879–1949),48 were hard-line Western Zionists even though the editorial staff of the journal was critical of political Zionism, leaning toward the cultural Zionism of Aḥad Haam. Even if they were not part of Ost und West’s original constituency of non-arriviste Eastern Jews, Western Jewish writers knew the Western milieu better and thus could produce stereotypes that were more appealing to readers in the West (but were no less acceptable to Eastern Jewish intellectuals).
Winz and his colleagues had discovered that it was not enough to locate “genuine” Jewish national culture in Eastern Europe in order to attract Western Jews to ethnic Jewishness.49 They saw instead that the view of Eastern Jewish life as more honest and more harmonious was little more than a mythical inversion of the negative stereotyping that was so rampant. Instead of repeating this utopian vision, the contemporary fiction published in Ost und West divorced the Jewish parvenu from his Eastern roots to a greater extent than ever before. In turn, he was linked through a system of signs with Western culture. Prior to Ost und West, the Jews of the West had portrayed the Jewish arriviste as a direct descendant of the negatively marked Ostjude (for example, in the fiction of Karl Emil Franzos).50 Despite all pretenses, the parvenu of Eastern lineage could never be enlightened or cultured enough. The Jewish social climber had been typified as craving the property of non-Jews in the manner of Schacher- und Wucherjudentum (“haggling and usurious Jewry”). The theory of Jewish history behind these stereotypes located spiritual and/or moral renewal in the modern Western Diaspora. It was hoped that the forces of progressivism would defeat the Jewish parvenu and his Eastern cousins.
In contrast to the “unassimilable” nouveaux riches from the East, the new Jewish parvenu of Ost und West was defined differently. He—the parvenu was inevitably a man—was held to be too modernized and, above all, too westernized. In the journal’s contemporary fiction (Zeitprosa), this Western parvenu was also blind to the antisemitism that surrounded him. (It was rarely explained that historical limitations on Jewish professions in German territories were to blame for parvenuism.) Non-Jews in these stories were the avaricious ones; they rapaciously stole money and possessions from the Jews. In addition, spiritual renewal was no longer to be found in the West European Diaspora. From this standpoint, Eastern Jewish culture, no longer ideologically tainted, was elevated to the more progressive position.
How did this transition in the history of the parvenu stereotype take place in Ost und West? In the first five years of its German-language prose fiction, the “newer” Jewish parvenu became increasingly predominant. In 1901, three of the twelve prose contributions featured this character; in 1902, two of fifteen; in 1903, two of sixteen; in 1904, five of nineteen; and, in 1905, four of eighteen. In other words, the percentage of parvenu stories vis-à-vis other fiction shows a fall and then a slow but steady rise in the first five years of Ost und West: in 1901, 25 percent; in 1902, 13 percent; in 1903, 11 percent; in 1904, 26 percent; in 1905, 22 percent. This trend toward stereotyping of Western Jewish parvenus—part of the general trend toward negative stereotyping in Ost und West—culminated in four satirical sketches of Berlin Jewish parvenus that appeared in 1904 and 1905.51 Set in Berlin, Ost und West’s publication site and largest market, these Naturalist sketches were intended to shock. Instead, they most likely bore out the presuppositions of the journal’s more intellectual readers. Since narratives of Western parvenus never ceased to be popular in Ost und West, I will close discussion of this genre in 1906, at which time the journal became somewhat less strident, emphasizing scholarship and education over manifestos and myth making. By that time, Ost und West had also stabilized financially and had taken on new readers beyond the intellectual audience delineated here.
In targeting its intellectual readers in the German-Jewish community, Ost und West appealed to the two types of Jewish identity at the root of their ethnic sensibilities: the Eastern-religious and the Western-enlightened. Ost und West published stereotypes of parvenu Jews that played on the ethnic loyalties of these readers, regardless of whether they were more traditional or more modern in orientation.
To begin with, Ost und West’s parvenu was a revision of earlier stereotypes of Jewish religious apostates. Lothar Brieger-Wasservogel’s “Das alte Testament” (November 1901) is one of many such examples. A satire of German Jews as irreligious arrivistes, this narrative is typical of Ost und West’s earliest literary contributions, appearing as it does in the framework of a Naturalist sketch narrated in the present tense.52 In “Das alte Testament,” Baron von Goldstein, a wealthy ennobled businessman, holds an improbable discussion of conscience with an old talking Bible. This Old Testament is the last remaining evidence of his Jewish heritage, a family heirloom originally acquired by his great-grandfather, a Jewish peddler (Hausierer).53
Goldstein represents Ost und West’s new breed of Western-based Jewish parvenus. He is characterized as a successfully assimilated parvenu, proud of what he has achieved through years of hard work. Since being baptized, Goldstein has become a major financier of the Conservative party. He intimates that he will vote for an antisemite in the next Reichstag elections just to prove that he is truly a devout Christian. The acquisition of money and power has preoccupied him to such an extent that he is only now, in middle age, on the verge of marrying. At the threshold of complete assimilation, however, his origins become an obstacle. Although a respected and honored citizen and engaged to the precious daughter of General von Hohenheim, Goldstein is still a Jew and a “Finanzaristokrat” (849). For all this Jew’s achievements, he is still despised by the real—that is, non-Jewish—aristocrats.54 Integration is a chimera.
Still not acknowledging the antisemitism surrounding him, Goldstein—the apostate-Protz par excellence—spitefully glances at the dusty, web-covered Bible every night, “as if he wanted to boast that he had gone beyond that” (850). One evening, the Bible actually begins to talk to him, launching into a critique of the German-Jewish symbiosis. It declares that Jews and Christians “inflict evil upon each another…. And all who have dreamed of an inward friendship between Aryans and Semites were starry-eyed idealists” (851). At this point, the talking Old Testament accuses Goldstein of self-deception, reminding him of the tears that he cries when he slips away secretly to the Jewish cemetery. The Bible warns him, on the eve of his marriage to the daughter of von Hohenheim, that intermarriage will be of no benefit and that the children of such a union will only be “unhappy hybrids” (unglückselige Zwitter) (854).
How was Goldstein a new but old version of the Jewish parvenu stereotype? In contrast to his nineteenth-century predecessors in Der Israelit and elsewhere, he is estranged from his Eastern roots. Whereas it might appear that Goldstein’s conversion is a mere confessional matter, Brieger-Wasservogel, in typical Ost und West fashion, situated it in a West European context. The conventional Eastern Jewish lineage of the German-Jewish parvenu was thus strikingly absent. Goldstein’s earliest possible Eastern Jewish ancestor would have been his great-grandfather, and there is never a suggestion that this man, a Bible-reading peddler, was from Eastern Europe.
Even if there is no reference to any ancient Western Jewish lineage, Goldstein is entirely of the West. Although marked physically as a Jew—he is described as short, overweight, and large-nosed—his behavior is thoroughly “civilized.” He is so secularized, in fact, that he is ignorant of the texts that make up the Jewish religious tradition. Although antisemites in the story mock Goldstein behind his back, the Jewish reader of Ost und West was encouraged to conceive of Goldstein as the epitome of Western capitalist culture. And although the Bible and the era it represents became the basis for Jewish renewal in “Das alte Testament,” the Diaspora, the site of Goldstein’s degeneracy, loomed even larger. Ost und West’s readers had been warned.
In “Das alte Testament,” as in many other texts from Ost und West, the stereotype of the Jewish parvenu played on the religious Eastern outlook of certain Jewish readers. But the strength of traditional anti-apostate sentiments also made new ideals of Jewish ethnicity difficult to realize in the journal’s fiction. As noted previously, Ost und West could not reach Western Jewish intellectuals or a larger audience solely by invoking a positive image of Eastern Jewish folk culture. In “Das alte Testament” and elsewhere, the drawing power of the caricature of the Jewish Geldprotz was its negative overtones and its focus on present evils instead of a utopian past. Accordingly, satirical German-Jewish Zeitprosa such as “Das alte Testament” became the preferred genre in Ost und West and was programmatically enshrined as a model in the journal’s literary contest of 1902:
The work must be written in the German language and taken if possible from the life of West European Jews. It cannot of course be one of the popular milieu descriptions that only capture the externalities of Jewish life. Instead it should be a literary contribution to the psychology of modern Jewry. One of the deeper problems that moves the Jews of today should be addressed and an excerpt provided from the individual, social, cultural, or political relations of modern Jews. (February 1902: 129)
This literary model tacitly redefined stereotypes such as the Jewish parvenu as Western. Through this and an accompanying art contest, Winz and company aimed to attract young Jewish nationalists, as readers and contributors, to his new publishing venture.55 But the magazine never issued a first-place award, though promising to publish other meritorious stories submitted to the competition. From the second-prize honoree, however, we can derive the preferences of the editorial staff and special panel of judges. The story, Ernst Guggenheim’s “Der Rabbi” (November 1902), is a mysterious, avant-garde treatment of a young rabbi falling away from Judaism. On account of his doubt, he is banished from the fold by his rabbi father and cantor brother.56 But the novella was so multivalent as to defy interpretation. Was the villain the father, the brother, or the protagonist? What Guggenheim’s novella presumably lacked, for the first prize, was a less concealed treatment of its characters’ origins and a more clearly delineated attack on Western Jewish mores.57
The failure of Ost und West’s literary contest to attract more sophisticated and less clichéd treatments of the Western Jewish predicament shows how difficult it was to construct a believable and truly new Jewish hero. Unlike the vivid Western arriviste, the positive Jewish hero was hackneyed and artificial, a lifeless distillation of a partisan-political standpoint (Zionist, Liberal Jewish, etc.). Ost und West’s literary contest thus failed to attract new, plausible models for the elusive “true-to-life Jew.”58 The fictional idealizations of Eastern Jewish cultural traditions that were generated by a cultural critique of the West did not yet work as an attractive theme for a literary contest in Ost und West.
The failure of Ost und West’s literary contest was predictable, given the more general type of social-critical narratives available to Jewish nationalists. Consider “Mauschel” (1897), Theodor Herzl’s better-known but no less poisonous polemic.59 This essay, published originally under a pseudonym in Die Welt, depicted a Jewish Uncle Tom figure who was stunted, degenerate, and shabby. Herzl’s attack, in this case, did not befit his great skill as a feuilletonist. Nouveau riche and gaudy, this degenerate Jew, whose traits were borrowed from the repertoire of antisemitism, was a foil for the Zionist agenda. That Herzl’s target was generally understood to be the Western Jewish parvenu is evidenced in Winz’s decision to republish the essay.
Herzl’s successful foray into stereotyping still failed to supplant negative imagery with a positive model for Western Jewish identity formation. Moreover, there was no shortage of negative images of Jews in the surrounding culture, and caricatures were common in Simplicissimus (Munich, 1896–1940 and 1954–1967) and Fliegende Blätter (Munich, 1844–1944), the leading satire magazines in Germany. As expected, the negative stereotype of the Western Jewish parvenu à la Brieger-Wasservogel was destined to be more attractive to readers than dry models of ethnicity. But, as we have seen, Ost und West’s literary contest of 1902 did not pretend to foster positive image making. Instead, Winz and his team urged the creation of a new Jewish parvenu as a foil. Having identified a new evil, Ost und West could now save pan-Jewish culture from it.
Predictably, Ost und West did not publish stories whose appeal was based on the most modern form of Judaism, Western “confessional” Judaism. Generally, Ost und West repudiated secular Jews and strove to redefine their origins in light of an ethnic Judaism that included religious tradition. But as the new parvenu stereotype developed, Ost und West’s ethnic bias drew on both religious argument and modern social thought, especially in its criticism of the lopsided professional structure of German Jewry. In addition, the medium for denouncing the Western parvenu was almost exclusively secular: satirical Zeitprosa.
As this agenda crystallized in the wake of the literary contest of 1902, Ost und West published satirical sketches of so-called Berlin Tiergartenjudentum with increasing frequency.60 The Jews parodied here resided in the fashionable Tiergarten neighborhood on the west side of the city. The Tiergarten was populated by Jews beyond their proportion of the German population, and along with the rest of “Berlin W.,” it became the location of choice for parvenus of all faiths. For the Jewish geography of Berlin was as polarized as that of Europe generally. The more westernized Jews lived in the suburbs of Wilmersdorf, Charlottenburg, Schöneberg, and Tiergarten; the more recently immigrated Eastern Jewish population—which grew more rapidly than ever before between 1900 and 1905—traditionally settled on the east side, in the Scheunenviertel, the center of Berlin, and Prenzlauer Berg.61
Ost und West’s literary programmatics were best realized in two outstanding fictions of Tiergartenjuden from 1905 that address the social composition of Berlin Jewry: Siegbert Salter’s “Szene aus Berlin W. Die Tempelfahrt” (September 1905) and “Das Glück des Hauses Löbenthal. Skizze aus Berlin W.” (December 1905).62 In each work, a sketch of western Berlin life becomes the vehicle for a social-psychological critique of German Jewry as assimilationist (see fig. 6). Both are biting critiques of Tiergartenjudentum in the style of Thomas Mann’s Wälsungenblut (1905).63 Mann’s novella also featured parvenu Jews and may have even influenced Salter’s anti-assimilationist tales.64
“Szene aus Berlin W. Die Tempelfahrt” was very timely, appearing as it did in the September issue at the Jewish High Holy Day season. In this narrative, Salter portrays a wealthy Jewish Kommerzienratsfamilie dining on Yom Kippur eve. Suddenly cognizant that they are eating ham, the family is moved to repent and decides to attend the service at the Reform temple. Having made postservice reservations at Kempinsky’s, a first-class restaurant, they hurry out, only to encounter traffic en route to the synagogue. While waiting in line near the temple, the daughter discovers that the mother has accidentally left her pearl-embroidered brocade and expensive earrings at home: “The ladies were inconsolable. Going to temple like that? Not wearing any symbol of status [Abzeichen]? Like the wife of just any old businessman?—Impossible” (596). Since they view services as nothing more than an opportunity for conspicuous display, the wife and daughter want to return home to retrieve the jewelry. Taking advantage of the situation, the father dispenses with services altogether, whispering to the coachman (so that the other templegoers will not overhear him): “To Kempinsky’s!”
While Salter seems to excoriate Jewish parvenuism on religious grounds alone, his presuppositions concerning Jewish identity and its boundaries are also based on secular criteria. For why has the wife forgotten her costly jewels in the first place? The mishap results from a distraction prior to leaving for temple. Wealthy Gentile philanthropists pay a visit, seeking a contribution for the conversion of black children in German Southwest Africa to Christianity. The Kommerzienrat’s wife does not quite comprehend the matter in its entirety, but when a young “poet-philosopher” asks her if she thinks that the little “Neger” should be converted to Judaism, she replies: “‘What an idea, Herr Doktor. To Christianity, of course.’ But whether to Christianity of a Catholic or Protestant persuasion—this she wasn’t sure about” (594). This discussion, though ostensibly about conversion, tacitly raises the question of which “races” can be assimilated. The parvenu’s wife reveals the extent of her acculturation in agreeing to respond to this test of national loyalty. In the course of the visit of these “Delegates of the Association for the Conversion of Black Negro Children (schwarze Negerkinder) in Southwest Africa,” the Jewish parvenus are subtly associated with these African blacks. The implication is that the visitors perceive all Jews, regardless of status, as “white Negroes.”65
Figure 6. John Höxter, drawing for Siegbert Salter’s “Das Glück des Hauses Löbenthal. Skizze aus Berlin W.” Ost und West (December 1905): 797.
Three months later, in the December 1905 issue of Ost und West, another Salter parody of Berlin Tiergarten Jews appeared, entitled “Das Glück des Hauses Löbenthal. Skizze aus Berlin W.” Like the Aarenholds in Thomas Mann’s Wälsungenblut, the Löbenthals seek to marry their daughter off to a nobleman, a marriage of convenience that weds money to status. The difference between the two novellas lies in the source of the betrayal perpetrated in each. In Salter’s story, the Gentile, Baron Reck, turns out to be an impostor who steals money and jewelry from the Jews; in Mann’s novella, it is the Jew, Sigmund, who deflowers his sister and leaves her Gentile fiancé with “damaged goods.” Despite these differences, both Salter and Mann portray the Jews as ruthless social climbers whose parvenuism knows no bounds. The Löbenthals have repeatedly tried and failed to enter “good society.” As classic assimilationists, they delude themselves that prestige will be theirs once their daughter, with her “deep black Oriental eyes and aquiline nose” (799), has married the young baron. The narrator’s aperçu that the Löbenthals are received everywhere with open arms—“all the more, since they always came with open hands” (798)—presages Reek’s chicanery at the end of the story.
In contrast to the Gentile fiancé in Mann’s novella, Baron Reck is portrayed as a decadent, much closer in type to the Jewish Protz Sigmund. He pretends to fear his parents’ reaction to the marriage and that they might even withhold his inheritance. In the story’s dénouement, Reck is absent from the engagement dinner. The duped Löbenthal finds a letter from Reck at his hotel, from which he has checked out earlier that afternoon. Reck maintains in the note that his family has forced him to desist from his plans, and he apologizes for this “indiscretion” that is making his heart “bleed” (800). The jewelry Löbenthal had provided for Reck to choose a gift for his bride is also missing. In the end, Löbenthal never seems to grasp that the impostor baron has robbed him, a narrative irony sustained by Löbenthal’s guileless ponderings, such as “Curiously enough,” “Strangely,” “Quite incomprehensibly” (800). Particularly incomprehensible to him is the circumstance that the “illustrious” Reck family—a cruel hoax—has been able to conceal its existence so effectively, “despite the most thoroughgoing investigations” (802). In short, the non-Jew is able to double-cross Löbenthal because of the latter’s pathological desire to assimilate.
In Salter’s “Das Glück des Hauses Löbenthal,” the Western Jew becomes a degenerate assimilator and not just another religious apostate. Löbenthal has become completely dissociated from Eastern Jewish customs. Yet details of Salter’s portrayal are similar to antisemitic renderings of Eastern Jewish parvenus; in fact, Löbenthal possesses negative characteristics usually reserved for Ostjuden, such as greed, exploitation, and marriage brokering. His investments in South Africa and political support for the importation of “coolie” labor render him all the more suspicious. Professionally, then, he is also sullied, a product of the wrong social milieu.
Salter’s sketches of Tiergartenjudentum contained the basic elements of many other stories in the journal. But neither these nor other early stories in Ost und West feature a Jewish character with positive features. Here again, Ost und West made negative stereotyping of Western Jewish parvenus its primary vehicle for imagining a new “ethnic” Jew. This new Jew was defined negatively and with an eye toward both Western and Eastern Jewish intellectuals; he was thus neither a parvenu with a conventional Jewish profession (the Kommerzienrat, Löbenthal) nor a religious apostate (Goldstein) nor a boor ignorant of Jewish culture (Goldstein, the Kommerzienrat, and Löbenthal).
The popularity of these sketches in Ost und West suggests that Jewish elites had begun to internalize the jüdischer Protz as an “anti-Jew” who was Western through and through. If this is the case, the reigning historiographical view that the Eastern Jews were the sole targets of Jewish antisemitism (or “self-hatred”) is in need of revision.66 Escaping from the stereotype of parvenu Jew went hand in hand with the heightened Jewish nationalism of many young Eastern Jews and the antibourgeois sentiments of many young Western Jews. For German-Jewish returners, Eastern Jewry became a symbolic surrogate family, a way to reject their Western Jewish homes.67 This negative path to Eastern Jewish identity had become hackneyed by 1919, when Kafka penned his “Letter to His Father” (Brief an den Vater). Though set in Prague, this document became the most famous literary rejection of the parvenu thought to lurk within every Western Jewish home.68
Ost und West’s redefinition of Jewish parvenuism for its intellectual audience was influenced by current events. Indeed, the rise of Jewish arriviste characters in the journal after 1903 is inseparable from the political developments of that year. The Altneuland controversy, for one, actually may have inspired the satirical sketches of Berlin Tiergartenjudentum in Ost und West. Although Herzl continued to be beloved within Jewish nationalist circles, these fictions evoked his parvenu-like past as well as his status as a new arrival (Neuankömmling) in Jewish circles. The publication of parvenu narratives in Ost und West was also bolstered by the Kishinev pogroms of April 6–7, 1903. Along with the pogroms following the Russian revolution of 1905, Kishinev provoked an international outcry comparable only to that accompanying the Shoah (despite the fact that those murdered, wounded, or displaced in 1903 numbered in the thousands rather than the millions).69 This latest antisemitic violence and mounting attacks on Jews in the decade prior to World War I seemed to justify the literary condemnation of the Jewish Protz in Ost und West.70
One additional factor may have focused Ost und West’s attack on the Western parvenu: the magazine’s debt burden. Insolvency always loomed over Ost und West despite evidence of a boom in print media since the 1880s. The move to incorporate in 1904 was as much an attempt to manage debt as a sign of success. In fact, Winz renegotiated contracts with business partners nearly once a year until 1914 (another reason many contemporaries speak of him as an adroit businessman). The fact that most new publishing houses at this time folded within five years testifies to his perseverance.71
By 1906, Ost und West’s output reached 9,000, qualifying it as the second most widely sold Jewish periodical in Germany and suggesting that its version of a new ethnic Judaism had begun to resonate beyond the intellectual community. Its stereotyping of the Western Jewish arriviste had proved to be successful—and even profitable. Despite renewed antisemitism in Russia, Rumania, and Germany, 1906 was a decisive transition year for Ost und West, particularly on account of the deal with the Alliance.72 That Winz himself may have been something of a parvenu after 1905, at least in the publishing world, is indicated by his relocation in 1907 to Berlin-Charlottenburg. While he never quite made it into the Tiergarten neighborhood, his magazine was appraised in 1914 at 250,000 marks, and for the next decade, he was regarded as a wealthy man.
After 1906, Winz’s magazine became something of a trendsetter in the world of German-Jewish journalism. Seeking to profit from the success of Ost und West, three other major Jewish literary-cultural monthlies began publication during the Imperial period: Die Freistatt, Der Jude, and Neue jüdische Monatshefte. To varying degrees, each of these journals juxtaposed Eastern Jewish art and literature with negative images of the rich Jewish show-off (Geldprotz). Like Ost und West, they made their ethnic particularism acceptable to Jews and other would-be Bildungsbürger by presenting themselves as an alternative to the existing Jewish publications in Germany and by placing a revival of Jewish ethnicity at the top of their agenda. As in Ost und West, these objectives were largely accomplished by means of the conceptual shorthand of stereotyping, in particular the stereotyping of parvenu Westjuden.
Each of these ethnic Jewish journals derided its competitors as partisan or as low-brow “family” journalism. Yet they also borrowed generously from their “inferior” colleagues’ tactics. As Ost und West became more established and its lean years came to a close, Eastern Jews and other intellectuals rapidly lost their status as the journal’s main addressees. For despite Ost und West’s sophisticated layout and presentation, its editors were never content with appealing to the Jewish avant-garde of both Europes. As outlined in chapters 1 and 2 above, the journal always sought to be middle-brow, reaching out to a broad audience of Central European Jews by using the latest public relations techniques. The next chapters investigate how Ost und West reached out to German Jewry as a whole after its first years, in particular to middle-class women and men.
Even though its program was more Eastern than Western Jewish, Ost und West came to be read by a less elite Jewry in Germany. The broad Jewish audience valued the magazine for combining ethnic separatism with integrationist elements; the Western Jewish intelligentsia continued to be drawn to its respectable Jewish nationalism.73 As a pan-Jewish cultural institution, then, Ost und West did not just mirror the values and practices of Wilhelminian Jewish culture; it also shaped Jewish self-representations in a constant dialogue with social and political trends. By advancing negative stereotypes of Western-based Jewish arrivistes, Ost und West became a major force in redefining Western Jewish identity. As we shall now see, Ost und West became even more proficient after 1906 at the revising and dissemination of stereotypes. The Western parvenu character, as expected, never lost its negative appeal. The Eastern-religious and Western-enlightened elements of the parvenu stereotype were both used to appeal to Ost und West’s next major subaudience, middle-class German-Jewish women.