Promoting an Ethnic, Pan-Jewish Identity
More than any other factor, the westward migration of hundreds of thousands of East European Jews between 1880 and 1914 led to the creation of Ost und West. That migration was the result of anti-Jewish policies and the idea that the Jews formed a separate nation or ethnicity. The sheer size of the migration was unparalleled in modern European history. Even if the new Jewish immigrants were statistically insignificant in comparison to their host populations in the West, their presence was always noted—and rarely with enthusiasm.
Jews in Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine had been relocating westward since the seventeenth century. The Chmielnicki massacres of 1648 and the Russo-Swedish War of 1655 drove thousands of Eastern Jews into Germany. Those who remained itinerant were known as “beggar Jews” (Betteljuden) or, more pejoratively Schnorrer and Polacken. Only after the pogroms of 1880, however, did a truly mass exodus take place which altered the course of modern Jewish history. These pogroms gave a boost to the cause of Jewish nationalism which in the next twenty years received additional impetus from events across Europe. Among these events were the blood libel at Tisza Eszlár in Hungary (1882–83), the Dreyfus trials in France (1895, 1899), and the formation of the Bund (the General Jewish Workers’ Union in Lithuania, Poland, and Russia) in 1897.1
The post-1880 wave of East European Jewish migration came as a surprise to Jews in the West. For as late as the 1860s, contacts between Eastern and Western Jews were scarce, with the occasional exception of the boarder or Sabbath guest who was a Betteljude.2 In 1868–69, cholera and famine overtook Jews in the western part of the Tsarist empire. When the victims came to Prussia seeking economic and medical aid, German Jews quickly formed ad hoc committees and raised funds to help their coreligionists. To what extent their response was dictated by altruism and to what extent by fear of anti-Jewish reprisals is not clear. Whatever the case, their philanthropy brought a speedy end to the crisis. While some of the Russian-Jewish refugees stayed on in Prussia, most trekked to points farther West. The ad hoc committees were dissolved, and the problem appeared forgotten.
What had appeared impossible in 1868–69, however, came true over the next half century: Jewish emigration from Russia rose dramatically. While only 40,000 to 50,000 Jews migrated westward during the 1870s, tens of thousands more abandoned their homes in the 1880s. The prospect of a new future in the West led Jews to flee political and economic oppression under Tsar Nicholas II, especially after the restrictive May Laws of 1881. Even more Jews emigrated when Moscow and St. Petersburg were declared off-limits to them in 1891; after the Russo-Japanese War and the Revolution of 1905, more than 100,000 Jews left the Tsarist empire each year. The most popular destination was the United States, but large numbers also went to Argentina, Canada, England, and France. By 1914, at least 2.5 million Russian Jews had settled in Western countries.
Jews living in Russian territories were not the only ones uprooted at the end of the nineteenth century. Their immediate neighbors, Jews from the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Kingdom of Rumania, were also part of the new Diaspora. Victimized by boycotts and professional restrictions, Jews from Galicia increasingly left the Habsburg Empire after the 1870s. Many Rumanian Jews also moved westward after their country failed to abide by the Berlin Treaty of 1878, refusing to grant them citizenship and other basic rights. Approximately 400,000 Jews left their homes in the Galician, Bohemian, Moravian, Hungarian, and Rumanian lands between 1870 and the outbreak of World War I. Although many sought new opportunities in the industrialized nations of the West, an even larger number migrated within the Austro-Hungarian empire. Among them were the fathers of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Franz Kafka (1883–1921).
Not unexpectedly, this mass flight placed a large burden on Western governments. For the most part, they had left Jewish immigration from the East unregulated. Yet what had previously been little more than a nuisance now assumed large proportions. Politicians and special interests called for legislation that would protect “natives” against the threat of undesirable aliens, and such calls grew more frequent when a Europe-wide economic crisis began in 1873. In this unstable climate, antisemites tried to find ways to make visible the “Jewish characteristics” of unwanted immigrants. The consensus of historians is that “[w]herever they settled in appreciable numbers, newly arrived Jews from the East sparked far-reaching and disruptive public controversies over attitudes and policies toward aliens.”3 The debate over Eastern Jewish aliens was no less controversial in the Jewish communities of the West which, until the end of the nineteenth century, had been relatively unencumbered by their Eastern brethren.4
Whether real or perceived, the challenge posed by Jewish immigration was most pronounced in the Kaiserreich. Although Jewish migration to Germany never exceeded a few hundred per year until 1918, some Jews and non-Jews were obsessed with the idea that droves of Jewish aliens were streaming across the eastern border that Germany shared with both Austro-Hungary and Russia. And this fear was not entirely unfounded, since most Ostjuden had to cross German borders to proceed westward.
But three factors made the Kaiserreich look more susceptible to Jewish mass migration than it actually was: (1) the impossibility of policing the borders, (2) the need to stimulate foreign investment, and (3) the granting of civil rights to Jews.
First, it was impractical to regulate, much less bar, immigration by Jews. Neither imperial decree nor tighter supervision was able to reduce the flow of human traffic. Although the borders were successfully sealed between 1885 and 1890, the decision to import seasonal workers from Poland made it difficult to separate desirable from undesirable immigrants. Indeed, those Jews simply passing through—the “transmigrants”—were a motley group. Some were penniless refugees on foot; others were rail travelers holding ship’s passage to the New World. Stationing 10 percent of all Prussian gendarmes on the border, requiring identification cards, threatening fines and imprisonment—none of these measures could dam the flow of Jewish (and non-Jewish) refugees, especially after the Russian revolution of 1905. In addition to political considerations, the expensive cost of travel documents and the availability of many human smugglers also encouraged Jews to cross the border illegally.
Second, Germany signed trade agreements with Austro-Hungary and Russia in the early 1890s, granting most-favored-nation trading status to those states. As a result, subjects of both nations could move about freely in Germany and conduct their business free of harassment. Galician, Bohemian, Moravian, Hungarian, and Russian Jews could now travel to Germany on business. The new treaties shielded them from group discrimination; only individuals could be prevented from entering the country. Allowing Jewish refugees into the Reich was also in Germany’s self-interest, since the German shipping industry profited greatly from transporting Eastern Jews to England and America via the ports of Hamburg and Bremen. In fact, Jewish transmigration exceeded 700,000 during the peak years between 1905 and 1914. Jews made up 50 percent of passengers on Germany’s growing commercial fleet according to some accounts.5
Third, the German parliament found its hands tied in trying to cope with the new influx. Since the Reich had become unified in law, old barriers to Jewish emancipation had fallen away, making it difficult to single Jews out for special treatment. On November 1, 1867, the Constitution of the North German Confederation (article 3, paragraph 3) had eliminated all laws that restricted the settlement of Betteljuden, and all religious discrimination was outlawed on July 3, 1869.6 When the newly unified empire granted Jews complete legal equality in 1871, Jewish aliens seeking German citizenship were no longer at a disadvantage vis-à-vis other aliens. In theory, then, it was harder than ever to discriminate against Jews who came under the jurisdiction of the Kaiserreich.
If government officials in the Wilhelminian Empire truly wanted to curtail unwanted immigration after 1880, why did they not simply pass a law forbidding all foreign Jews to enter Germany? The reason is simple: administrative measures were already in place to bar such immigration. The power to confer and to take away citizenship had traditionally rested with the individual German states (Länder), and this was no different under the Kaiserreich. Each state, from its minister of the interior down to the lowest policeman, had an extensive bureaucracy for regulating resident aliens. The requirements for citizenship—permission from the country of origin, home ownership in Germany, an unblemished civic record, the ability to support all dependents—were in practice minimal requirements. People who had lived for decades in Germany were routinely denied citizenship. Except for women who married German citizens and except for men who held public office or served a school or community, naturalization was a long and often arbitrary process.
Since administrators (Beamte), rather than legislators, set the conditions under which aliens could become residents, the potential for abuse was always present. In Bavaria, Prussia, or Hesse, state officials could decide autocratically what papers were necessary for entry into their territories. If an immigrant was fortunate enough to be issued a residency permit, the permit might entitle him or her to stay for only a few days at a time. Certain states limited the economic activities of foreigners; others put a freeze on the hiring of foreign workers. Aliens were also forbidden to participate in the political process or to hold meetings in languages other than German. Failure to meet any of these requirements was grounds for deportation. Moreover, anyone deemed “troublesome” (lästig) or a danger to “public interests” or “security” was subject to immediate expulsion. Often thousands of aliens were exiled on such pretexts.
Since the German states were permitted to regulate immigration as they saw fit, they could—and often did—discriminate more against Jews than against other foreigners.7 Although East European Jews made up only 10 percent of all foreigners in the Kaiserreich, the Länder took steps to treat them differently. Polish Catholics were no doubt caught in the middle between the nationalism and the economic self-interest of their German hosts, who imported them as seasonal workers and permitted them to settle temporarily in German lands between April and November. Yet East European Jews suffered even greater harassment. Regarded as “troublesome” and unfit for heavy labor in agriculture or industry because of “laziness,” many were kept out of Germany. Eastern Jews earned their living “through haggling and begging” and had “an aversion to every sort of respectable work,” in the words of the Berlin police commissioner.8 As a result of such attitudes, those Jews who made it into Germany had an unusually heterogeneous profile. Whereas Poles and other Slavs were almost invariably seasonal workers, the East European Jews in Germany formed at least four very different subgroups:
(1) [T]he largest by far consisted of transmigrants who moved through Germany in ever-increasing numbers on their way from Russia, Rumania, and Austro-Hungary to other Western lands; (2) a second group was made up of transients who sought to remain in the country temporarily, either to find work, to absorb German culture, or to raise funds by begging for help from German Jews; (3) still another distinct group was formed by young Jews from the East who studied in Germany’s renowned institutions of higher learning; (4) and, finally, immigrant Jews attempted to establish themselves as permanent residents, and even citizens, of the Reich.9
Even though anti-Jewish policies drove many Jews out of Eastern Europe in the final decades of the nineteenth century, few of these émigrés were what we today would term asylum seekers. Like migrant workers, they were drawn to the more industrialized West by the promise of new economic opportunities. In addition, they knew that their fellow Jews in England, France, Germany, and the New World enjoyed comparatively greater freedom and prosperity. Those who were adventurous enough felt compelled to seek their fortunes in the unfamiliar surroundings of the West.
One Jew who took part in the turn-of-the-century mass migration of East European Jewry was Leo Winz, the publisher and chief editor of Ost und West. Winz founded the journal in 1901 while still a student in Berlin. Because this study focuses on the promotion of ethnic identity, one of its aims is to understand how a young Eastern Jew, with only an insignificant amount of startup capital, could build up a Jewish publishing business that had a net worth of one quarter of a million marks (approximately two million present-day U.S. dollars) and whose customers went beyond the sphere of émigré intellectuals such as himself.
Winz moved to Berlin in 1892, at the age of sixteen, and his early career was typical of many young Eastern Jews in search of education and advancement. By coming to Berlin, these young émigrés were repeating Jewish history, reenacting the journey of Salomon Maimon (1753–1800) from shtetl “backwardness” to German “enlightenment.”10 While they could still attend Russian universities, there was little need for such pilgrimages, and between 1881 and 1886, fewer than 100 Russian Jews were registered as students in all of Germany. But the situation in Russia changed radically in July 1887, when Tsar Nicholas II imposed an anti-Jewish numerus clausus, forcing Winz and growing numbers of Jews to seek higher education abroad.11 At first, the young Russians flocked to Switzerland, which offered a high level of political freedom, yet by 1900, Germany had become just as popular.12
To resist these new arrivals and appease antisemites, the authorities in the various German states began restricting the numbers of East European Jews admitted to study. Worse, German officials and politicians manufactured an Ausländerfrage as a pretext to spy upon and deport Russian Jews, claiming that “bomb-throwing subversives” were destabilizing institutions of higher learning in Germany.13 This defamatory campaign, which drew on traditional stereotypes of the Ostjude, was quite successful: after 1905, “‘Russian,’ ‘radical,’ and ‘eastern Jew’ became linked together … as a single type of undesirable in the eyes of many a German.”14 Such were the obstacles that Winz and others faced if they wished to maintain their Eastern Jewish identity in such an environment; neither he nor most of his Eastern colleagues were ever permitted to become citizens of the Reich.
Though Russian Jews studying in Germany always had been confronted with xenophobia, prejudice toward them seemed to worsen in direct relation to their growing (if numerically insignificant) presence. Statistics confirm how conspicuous they were becoming: more than 25 percent of all foreign students who matriculated in the Kaiserreich were Russian Jews.15 In Berlin, Eastern Jews made up 25 percent of the Jewish student body in 1905–6, having made up less than 10 percent of all Jewish students in 1887–88.16 In fact, the number of émigrés multiplied tenfold during the 1890s and quadrupled further in the decade prior to 1914. By 1912–13, more than 2,500 Russian Jews attended Prussian universities and technical schools, and 500 of them studied in Berlin.17 Such an expanding audience was ripe for a publication like Ost und West which promoted a visible Jewish ethnicity. Winz and contributors to the journal were no doubt aware that the percentage of Eastern Jews among all Wilhelminian Jews had nearly doubled from 7 percent to 12.8 percent in the first decade of the twentieth century, partly as a result of the influx of Russian-Jewish students.18
Study in Germany, a necessity for Russian-Jewish youth in the 1880s, became immensely popular after 1900.19 Although nurtured on Eastern Jewish values, many of these Jews were impressed by the promise of a German education. The attraction was the same as it had been for the Jewish Enlighteners (maskilim) of the previous generation: Germany, Russia’s closest Western neighbor, was viewed as combining political stability with scientific advancement. The technological achievements of the Wilhelminian age inspired Russian Jews to become doctors, chemists, and engineers. Whereas Winz and some of his associates had studied literature, art, and philosophy in the 1890s, nearly 85 percent of foreign Jews were enrolled in medical studies by 1912.20 Careers in the sciences also were less affected by antisemitism than law or academia, which were notorious dead ends for Jews in both Tsarist Russia and Imperial Germany.
In the wake of the Holocaust, it is difficult today to remember how young Ostjuden internalized, indeed relished, things German.21 But Wilhelminian Germany was on the rise, economically and culturally, a fact that even its opponents conceded. To the generation of Russian Jews unable to study in Russia, Germany symbolized freedom and upward mobility, and it was a mere border crossing away. One person who shared this attitude and who illegally spirited himself over the frontier was Chaim Weizmann (1874–1952). A chemist who went on to become the leader of the World Zionist Movement and the first president of the state of Israel, Weizmann wrote in 1949 (just four years after the Shoah):
For the Jews and the intellectuals generally of Russia, the West ended at the Rhine, and beyond that boundary there was only an unknown world. They knew Germany, they spoke German, and they were vastly impressed by German achievement, German discipline and German power. They knew, as I did, that Russia was rotten through and through, eaten up by graft, incompetence and indolence…. Germany, it is true, was also anti-Semitic, but German anti-Semitism did not show as much on the surface. It bore a milder aspect.22
For similar reasons, Russian Jews of all political and ideological leanings settled in Germany prior to World War I. They included Jewish nationalists and socialists, Hebraists and Yiddishists, liberals as well as anarchists. Their luminaries were Aḥad Haam (1858–1927), Micha Josef Berdichevsky (1865–1921), Saul Tchernichowsky (1875–1943), Alexander “Parvus” Helphand (1867–1924), and many others.
Since both Jewish and non-Jewish Germans harbored negative images of Ostjuden, the Russian Jews’ fondness for the Kaiserreich went unreciprocated. These Jews, seldom accepted in the new communities, were compelled to create their own.23 Their impromptu colonies (Kolonien) became a new frame of reference in their exile from the Pale. The concentration of Russian Jews of similar ages and backgrounds eased their transition and relieved their isolation. These support networks also bypassed the German-Jewish establishment. Its institutions were based in Berlin, but its members often seemed indifferent to the large community of émigrés.
Many a Russian Jew came to identify more with his adopted group of expatriates (lantslayt) than with the “old country.” New bonds replaced older ones. Ethnic Jewishness was substituted for a more traditional identity, a process that further undermined the old loyalties of the students. Like certain Third World intellectuals today, these Eastern Jews felt stifled upon returning home from the West. Weizmann, for instance, found his hometown culturally and economically bereft.24 Intellectually a Westerner, he felt that he had been cast into “foreign hands” (goyishe hent) whenever he visited there.25 Some Russian Jews thus internalized a number of Western attitudes toward the East, including an elitist attitude toward the shtetl. Weizmann’s disdain for the ghettoized Pale of Settlement, the Russian territory where most Jews were forced to reside, was a logical result of living abroad and developing bicultural sensibilities.26 In their tolerance for multiple sensibilities, indeed identities, Weizmann, Winz, and their contemporaries resembled the early maskilim.
But while Russian-Jewish intellectuals may have been enlightened, they were not yet Westerners. Outside their narrow community, they were labeled Polacken or even Bolschewisten. What really sustained them in the face of such nonacceptance was political opposition to the Tsarist regime, regardless of whether such opposition was ethnic Jewish, liberal, socialist, or anarchist. Often these Jewish students looked westward for new ideologies to challenge Russian domination. Perhaps the most idiosyncratic thing about them was the forum in which they interacted: the Western-style debate.27 Otherwise aloof from German university life, these young Russian-Jewish émigrés socialized in political meetings. Large, private disputations became their alternative to the duels and drinking evenings (Kommers) of the established German-Jewish fraternities.
The most famous of these disputing organizations was the Russian Jewish Scientific Society (Russischer jüdischer wissenschaftlicher Verein), founded in Berlin in 1889. Along with the proto-Zionist fraternity Kadimah (Vienna, founded in 1883), it was the forerunner of Jung Israel (Berlin, founded in 1892), Hasmonäa (Berlin, founded in 1892), and related groups which also balanced Western Jewish with Eastern Jewish concerns.28 The members of the Verein, at first moderate devotees of Jewish nationalism, had become Zionists by 1898. Besides Weizmann, other famous Zionists emerged from their ranks: Leo Motzkin (1867–1933), Nachman Syrkin (1868–1924), Shmarya Levin (1867–1935), and Victor Jacobson (1869–1934).29 Winz was involved in the Verein, Jung Israel, and other groups whose members strove to unify their Eastern Jewish identity with a broader, ethnic Jewish identity.30 Typical for their activities was the formation of a nationalist society called Bildung: Verein zur Förderung der Literatur in jüdisch-deutscher Mundart (founded in 1896) which distributed Yiddish literature among Jews under the aegis of the Verein.31
The major activities of the Verein, however, remained lectures and debates. These Saturday night disputations, involving as many as 150 students, took on the air of a sporting event. These almost martial encounters had a distinctive masculine style (not least of all because their audience was exclusively male). Here Jewish intellectuals honed their rhetorical skills so that they might better stereotype their opponents. Although these forums had a seditious air, they were largely ignored by the Berlin police, who were more interested in breaking up socialist meetings than those of Jewish nationalists.32 And more foreign Jewish students probably joined the nationalist clubs than the socialist ones.33 On occasion, however, the Jewish socialists would come to debate the Nationaljuden. They often brought with them notables, such as Helphand or Leon Trotsky (1879–1940), in the hope of forcing Jewish nationalists to succumb by dint of authority, if not argument.34 For the already convinced, these public contests served to reinforce their commitment to one or another Jewish ideology.
Despite their largely Russian clientele, the Verein and related societies were open to all Eastern Jews regardless of their origin. Among their members were Galician Jews, who were greatly outnumbered in Berlin by their coreligionists from the Pale. If the Russian Jews were more politicized, the Galicians were more scholarly, perhaps the result of having been raised in the somewhat more stable circumstances of the Habsburg empire. This holds true for Binjamin Segel (1867–1931). Although overshadowed by his fellow Galicians Martin Buber (1878–1965) and Markus Ehrenpreis (1869–1951), Segel was a talented scholar, folklorist, and ethnographer. He attended universities in Lemberg, Vienna, and Berlin. At Ost und West, he quickly became the main editorialist, producing more articles, essays, and stories for the magazine than anyone else in its twenty-three years of publication.
Like Winz, who studied with professors such as Georg Simmel (1858–1918), Hermann Strack (1848–1922), Chaim Steinthal (1823–1899; see chapter 5 below), and even the antisemite Heinrich von Treitschke (1834–1896), Segel, too, concentrated in the humanities at the Berlin university.35 But here is where all comparisons end. Not only did Winz and Segel represent a rare alliance—Russian Jew and Austrian Jew—but their status under German law was also different. Winz had to leave Germany during World War I, whereas Segel was permitted to stay. While Winz signed his letters “Mit Zionsgruß” and claimed to be a Zionist his entire life, Segel wrote propaganda for the liberal, anti-Zionist camp after the war. Winz’s opinions were largely unpublished; Segel’s were as numerous as his pseudonyms and were not limited to Ost und West.
Having been raised in the multiethnic Habsburg Empire, Segel had witnessed the large-scale migrations of Jews within that empire in the last decades of the nineteenth century. As a result, he favored Jewish cultural autonomy on a nonterritorial basis. To call for state-sanctioned Jewish particularism may have been possible in Austro-Hungary, but it was virtually unheard of in the Kaiserreich. For while the Jewish middle-class elite of the Habsburg Empire may have identified with the enlightened values of German culture, most Austro-Hungarian Jews did not see themselves as “Germans”: “The very different nature of the Austrian state structure, the reality of a multinational state, and the demographic configuration of Habsburg Jewry allowed Jews to be culturally German, Czech, Magyar, or Polish, politically Austrian, and ethnically Jewish all at the same time. A nation-state like Germany could never tolerate such a tripartite identity.”36 For this reason, this study focuses on role of Jewish ethnicity in Germany. Jews in Austro-Hungary were, to be sure, readers of Ost und West and were often discussed in its pages. Yet in Vienna, Eastern Jews never became the issue in communal affairs that they were in Berlin.37 Perhaps this is why there never was a Habsburg equivalent of Ost und West.38 For the need to promote the Ostjuden in the Habsburg Empire was not nearly as compelling; above all, it was home to nearly twice as many Eastern Jews as Germany.
Ignoring such distinctions, Germans and German Jews alike lumped Russian Jews together with other Ostjuden from Austria, Hungary, Galicia, the Bukovina, Poland, and Rumania. Few cared to notice that the émigré Jews of Berlin were often as detached from one another as they were from German Jewry. (The foreign student community seemed so differentiated, in fact, that one commentator quipped that there were as many cliques as there were émigré Jews in Berlin.)39 The potential for uniting these various individuals, and the remainder of Jews in Germany, lay in a peculiar institution: the emerging Jewish public sphere in Germany. As we shall see, Ost und West was to play a special, integrative role at the center of this public sphere. Moreover, the most important tool for consolidating ethnic identity in the Jewish journalism of the time was stereotyping. Not surprisingly, then, the most conspicuous bonding between Russians and Galicians took place in the world of stereotypes, the means by which Ost und West and others defended themselves against so-called assimilationists in the West.
In stigmatizing Western Jews as assimilationists, Eastern Jewish students ran the risk of widening the already considerable gap between themselves and their Western Jewish peers. Even in the twentieth century, contacts between the two student worlds were rare. Undeterred, however, some young Westjuden took up cudgels for the Ostjuden and became members of organizations such as the Verein. The most notable case was Heinrich Loewe (1867–1950). As a citizen of the Kaiserreich, Loewe was able to use his privileged status to protect Eastern Jewry, and he was one of the earliest Western Jews to espouse an ethnic Jewish identity.40 In addition, the Verein also frequently invited German scholars such as Moritz Steinschneider to deliver lectures, foreshadowing the primacy given to history and literature in Ost und West.
One of Loewe’s greatest contributions was to found in 1894 a reading room for Eastern Jews, the Berlin Jüdische Lesehalle.41 The role of this and other lending libraries and reading societies (Lesegesellschaften) in German-Jewish society has been only recently the object of study, but their impact seems undeniable.42 These institutions not only edified and entertained their members, they also served the cause of ethnic (and class) integration by giving their members a sense of belonging. In addition, the preexisting network of Jewish libraries gave a necessary boost to Ost und West and related Jewish periodicals.43 Winz knew how crucial they were in the circulation of his magazine. Not only can his name can be found on the donors’ lists of the libraries, but Winz was, in fact, the head librarian at the Lesehalle in the late 1890s (see fig. 1).
The growth of institutions dedicated to the reading of “Jewish” texts shows that ethnic Jewishness was rapidly becoming a meaningful identity, a way of uniting Jews in Germany in an imaginary textual realm. As a European Jewish journalist writing in German, Russian, Hebrew, and Yiddish, Winz was a prime mover in the ethnic Jewish public sphere from its earliest days onward. While living in Berlin in the 1890s, he had served as the German correspondent for the Hebrew weekly Ha-Tsefirah (Warsaw, 1862–1928, edited by Nahum Sokolow). He also wrote for the Russian-Jewish monthly Voskhod (St. Petersburg, 1881–1906, various editors), a cultural journal similar to Ost und West. As a young publicist, Winz cultivated a wide range of contacts among Jewish journalists so that, at the mere age of twenty-five, he was selected to lead the press corps at the 1901 Zionist Congress in Basel.
Winz found the German-language Jewish public sphere of his time wanting. While the Jewish Liberal weekly Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums (Berlin, 1837–1922, edited in succession by Ludwig Phillipson, Gustav Karpeles, Ludwig Geiger, and Albert Katz), the neo-Orthodox weekly Der Israelit (Frankfurt, 1860–1938, edited by S. Schachnowitz), and the anti-Zionist, pro-German monthly Im deutschen Reich (Berlin, 1895–1921, edited by Alfred Levy) were, to some extent, models for Ost und West, Winz was eager to avoid the partisan policies of these establishment newspapers.44 His idea was to appeal to a much broader Jewish audience with a message of pan-Jewish ethnicity. There was the recently founded Israelitisches Familienblatt, a weekly “family journal” published by Max Lessman in Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Berlin (1898–1938), which would become the most widely circulated Jewish periodical of Imperial and Weimar Germany. But the Familienblatt was too close to the assimilationist Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith) despite the pretense of being apolitical.45 There was no immediate German-language predecessor that fulfilled Winz’s agenda, not even the Zionist party organ Die Welt (Vienna, 1897–1914) or the German Zionist weekly Jüdische Rundschau (Berlin, 1899–1938; until 1902 Israelitische Rundschau). The only direct Jewish nationalist models were lesser known and short-lived. The best known of these was the monthly Zion. Monatsschrift für die nationalen Interessen des jüdischen Volkes (Berlin, 1895–1900), which was edited until 1897 by Heinrich Loewe. In 1898, Loewe outlined plans for a monthly to be called Der Orient. Monatsschrift für Kultur und Leben der jüdischen Nation.46 Not unlike Ost und West, its program stressed the “cultural dimensions” of the new Jewish nationalist orientation and called for a synthesis of European humanism and Jewish particularity. Another feature of Der Orient that reappeared in Ost und West was Loewe’s rhetoric of nonpartisanship. Der Orient insisted that all parties should have a voice, “since every orientation represented another expression of the people’s soul [Volksseele] and the life of the nation.” Only then could the Jewish press become democratized and transcend “the quarrels of the day and narrow-minded partisanship.”47
Figure 1. Circulation desk at the Berlin Jewish Lesehalle. Leo Winz in background, left. Ost und West (November 1908): 681–88.
In hindsight, the activities of the Russischer jüdischer wissenschaftlicher Verein and similar societies provided the training grounds for future journalists such as Winz and Loewe. Loewe, in 1902, became the editor of Ost und West’s major competitor, the Jüdische Rundschau. The polemics in which the members of the Verein participated as students thus found their way into the journals and newspapers they later published. Debates held by the Verein were the first examples of a Jewish nationalist public sphere in Germany. Finally, the Verein and related groups were the first to recognize the importance of propaganda techniques in attracting Western Jews to their cause.48 The Verein’s role as a liaison between Eastern Jews and German Jews was thus influential. In the end, however, it proved less decisive for Loewe’s—and party Zionist—journalism than for Winz’s.
How did Ost und West stress the commonalities of Jews, East and West? What were the foundations of an ethnic—and visible—Jewish identity that could apply equally to Ostjuden and Westjuden? Each group defined itself, at certain times and in certain contexts, according to religious criteria. Moreover, Jews from both cultures shared one basic attitude toward Jewish religion: being Jewish had, past and present, implied some degree of observance of biblical commandments and injunctions. And even if they shunned religious affiliation, most agreed with the tradition that a Jew was someone who descended from a Jewish mother.
Yet the widespread acceptance of the idea of matrilineal descent points to a second dimension of Jewish self-definition: ethnicity. In the parlance of the nineteenth century, Jewish ethnic cohesiveness was conceived of in terms of nationhood. Self-labeled Jews felt that they formed a unique nation, even if they did not possess a state of their own. The myth of tribal allegiance was extremely powerful, and by the turn of the century, the ethnic-national definition increasingly began to prevail over older versions of Jewish identity. Jews shared not only a religious culture but in addition a host of other mindsets and practices that extended beyond the shared experience of antisemitism.49 We shall follow Benedict Anderson’s lead in defining the nation as an imagined social grouping which finds its binding commonalities in language, culture, religion, or politics.50 As Ost und West appeared on the scene, some Jews already had developed an awareness that they belonged to a nation, most notably in the Zionist movement which was formally established in 1897 by Theodor Herzl (1860–1904). This awareness was promoted in Ost und West (and elsewhere) under the banner of “Jewish nationalism” (Nationaljudentum) or “Jewish ethnicity” (Stammesjudenturm).51
Even in their most intellectual formulations, Jewish nationalism and Jewish ethnicity were rarely defined lucidly.52 Nevertheless, the idea of common nationhood was a powerful source of identification for most Jews. For many, it became a matter of utmost concern at the fin de siècle that Jews were a nation without political sovereignty. If Jews were an independent people, how could they ever achieve autonomy within the boundaries of a non-Jewish state? This was the dilemma that Zionism attempted to resolve by promoting Jewish settlement in Palestine. While generally supportive of the ideas of Zionism, Ost und West remained steadfastly nonpartisan for all of its twenty-three years. What Winz and his colleagues ended up advocating was a vague idea of European Jewish consciousness. This strategy was more likely to appeal to German Jews than the more definitive goal of a Jewish state in Palestine or the more taboo option of Jewish cultural autonomy in Germany. Within German and Western culture, Ost und West came to specialize in the “touch of Jewishness,” the so-called jüdische Note.53 This was the key to the journal’s understated ideal of nationalist Jewry, an ideal at times better captured by the term ethnic Jewishness than by Jewish nationalism.
Ost und West repeatedly spoke of a “harmonious” Jewish identity, an identity poised between tradition and modernity and between East and West. But beginning in the last half of the nineteenth century, nativist organizations in Germany and Austria made it more difficult to maintain such a harmonious Jewishness. The most persistent challenges to the idea of Jewish ethnicity came from the antisemitic camp. In response, some Jews internalized antisemitism; others recast it as a Jewish-based form of racialism (Jewry as a race). The charge of Jewish “parasitism” in the German economy or in German culture was capable of moving even nationalist Jews to elaborate apologetics. Ost und West, too, called on Jews to dissimilate from German culture and to modernize their occupational structure. Agriculture and artisanry came to be preferred to the historical Jewish concentration in trade and commerce. Whether this demand for professional restructuring was solely a reaction to anti-Jewish sentiment is a question for further discussion below, where I shall describe this set of Jewish self-representations as “Western-enlightened.”
The Jewish nationalist renaissance heralded by Ost und West was not simply a reaction to antisemitism, however. Political and social discrimination certainly had an impact on the self-image of Ost und West’s readers, but this threat was countered by deeply held Jewish values and messianic longings that were centuries older than Jew hatred. Antisemitism “only deepened resolve and forced public statements [from Jews], but did not create Jewish ethnic consciousness,” writes the historian Marsha Rozenblit.54 In Ost und West, antisemitism bolstered Jewish identity, encouraging those who already wanted to affiliate more demonstratively with the Jewish people.
The persistence of Jewish consciousness in Europe cannot be explained by Jew hatred alone. At the same time, what many people took for Jewish cohesion—or even conspiracy—was actually an illusion. For Jewish nationalism, the one ideology capable of uniting (Ashkenazic) Jewry, was understood very differently in Eastern and Western Europe. In the East, an ethnic-national identity was still a lived reality for many Jews into the twentieth century. In the West, this form of Jewish identity always had been at risk, a risk that increased after Jews were urged to assimilate to the dominant culture in the spirit of “enlightenment.”
It is one of the goals of this book to problematize this typology of East and West. For now, though, it should suffice to note that Jewish nationalism did not achieve concrete form in Germany until Jewish student organizations and Zionism arose in the 1890s. Even as many German Jews began to feel that loyalty to the German state might coexist with Jewish national consciousness, loyalty to the Kaiserreich almost always took precedence. Indeed, Western Jewish nationalism—and to a lesser extent, Eastern—drew on a century-old history of German nationalism. For the early German nationalists, language, symbols, songs, and myths expressed a people’s peculiar “national essence.”55 Although Jewish leaders knew how closely linked Western Jewish nationalism was to its German godparent, they were concerned that patriotic Germans would take offense at visible displays of Jewishness. Most German Zionists insisted upon international negotiations as the sole means of acquiring a legally recognized Jewish homeland. The ethnic Jewish movement in the West is thus referred to by historians as “Jewish state nationalism” or “political Zionism.”56
Since Zionism was only one form of Jewish nationalism—indeed, of Western Jewish nationalism—one must differentiate carefully among Jewish nationalisms in turn-of-the-century Europe.57 Traditional Jewish consciousness provided the building blocks for Eastern Jewish nationalism, whose theorists, such as Aḥad Haam’s Jewish nationalism, in its historical setting, was also known as “cultural Zionism” (or “spiritual Zionism”). It is mainly in its Palestinocentrism that it varied from the “Diaspora nationalism” of Simon Dubnow (1860–1941) and related forms of Jewish cultural autonomy. Yet history generally has been less kind to these Jewish nationalists of Eastern Europe than to their Western brethren. Though at times highly organized in self-defense and anti-Tsarist cells, they were ultimately as powerless as their constituencies. The only significant Jewish party besides the Zionists that evolved in Russia was the Bund, and its demands for Jewish national autonomy were realized only partially after the 1917 revolution.
The distinction between Western and Eastern Jewish nationalism is also related to the distinction between the nation-state (the goal of étatist or civic nationalisms) and the cultural nation (the goal of cultural or ethnic nationalisms). This distinction was regarded as well established in nineteenth-century German thought and was codified, for instance, in the writings of historian Friedrich Meinecke.58 Western Jewish nationalists were more concerned with developing étatist than ethnic nationalism, despite the fact that they tried to integrate the latter whenever possible. Herzl’s model was Jewish life in Western Europe, founded on the idea of “civility” and republican notions of statehood. Western Jewish nationalists—be they Zionists or Territorialists59—rejected the idea that the Jews could ever be fully integrated into a state where they formed a political minority. The survival of the Jews in a modern world required more than limited self-rule or minority rights; it required nothing less than a homeland. The Western Jewish nationalists called for a Jewish national renaissance, assuming that the momentum of a cultural renewal would help them realize the goal of statehood. They differed from the Eastern Jewish nationalists, however, in assuming that the new homeland, rather than the cultural renewal, would give purpose and direction to the course of Jewish history. Advocating a strong break with the past of Jewish oppression, they sought to “normalize” the Jews by urging a high degree of acculturation to modern ways. Only then might Jews also reap the fruits of Western civilization, fruits such as étatist nationalism.
While Herzl and his sympathizers were committed to realizing Jewish national hopes, their plans were thoroughly characterized by “enlightened” Western thinking, a fact repeatedly pointed out by Jewish Easterners. Even in its most separatist manifestations, Western Jewish nationalism took the progressive optimism of emancipation and transferred it from the individual to the ethnic collective. Herzl, for all his apparent elitism, accurately mirrored the cultural concerns of most Western Jews, and his sense of Zionism often took on the contours of a Western Jewish “ethnocentrism.”60 At the time that his Jewish consciousness was being forged through covering the first Dreyfus trials for the Viennese Neue Freie Presse, he was still unfamiliar with the Eastern proto-Zionists of the Hovevei Zion movement, Leon Pinsker (1821–1891) and Moses Leib Lilienblum (1843–1910). Nor had Herzl read the works of German-Jewish forerunners, such as Moses Hess (1812–1875). In fact, the preponderance of Russian-Jewish nationalists at the First Zionist Congress (Basel, 1897) astounded him. Although these Eastern Zionists, led by Menachem Ussishkin (1863–1941), profoundly affected Herzl’s later policies, the cultural gap was too large to brook. The first Zionist congresses, for all their ostensible unity, laid down the battle lines between the two orientations toward Jewish nationalism.
Foreign students such as Winz played a major role in this schism. Although they had received Western university educations, they were nevertheless loyal to Eastern Jewish culture and values. All of them had encountered Western-style political Zionism in the course of their intellectual odyssey in Germany. Their mounting objections to it led them to ally themselves with Western Jewish intellectuals receptive to Eastern Jewish ideas. Eventually, they formed the “Democratic Faction” (Demokratische Fraktion), a splinter group inspired in large part by Aḥad Ha62
To make matters worse for Herzl, Western Jewish nationalism was not received warmly by non-Jews in Germany. In the Kaiserreich, more than in Herzl’s native Austro-Hungary, Jewish nationalist aspirations ran counter to the prevailing sentiment that Jews should be either “denationalized” or deported. Jewish nationalism entailed a “renationalization” of Jewish life, and it was bound to elicit images of separatism for Germans who thought of themselves as part of a homogeneous nation. The controversy surrounding the so-called Jewish Problem (Judenfrage) in the nineteenth century crystallized around the question of Jewish integration: would the Jews become full-fledged Germans or not? Even though the World Zionist Organization had its headquarters in Germany between 1904 and 1914, the charge of dual loyalty thwarted the success of Jewish nationalism in the Kaiserreich. In German-Jewish communal politics, Zionism never did achieve dominance, accounting for fewer than 10 percent of votes cast in every Gemeinde election prior to 1920.
How did Jewish nationalism come to be regarded as less legitimate than other nationalisms in a Reich unified in the name of Germanhood (Deutschtum)? Here one must distinguish between “liberal” (or “civic”) and “conservative” (or “ethnic”) nationalism.63 Liberal German nationalists, in the immediate aftermath of 1871, were prepared to admit the legitimacy of other nationalist movements within Germany. But this rhetorical legitimacy was soon suppressed under the impact of new events. The economic crisis of 1873 became the pretext for a coalition of conservatives and antisemites to challenge liberal versions of German nationalism. Between 1872 and 1886, the German state conducted a Kulturkampf to restrict Catholics—who made up one third of the German population—from competing loyalties.64 More and more, the idea of Germany as a nation-state came to compete with the idea of Germany as an ethnic, monocultural nation.
As if in imitation of German conservatism, the Western Jewish precedent of “unification” nationalism frowned upon nationalisms formulated by Eastern Jews. The Zionist leadership, in turn, was perceived as too utopian by those in favor of more Jewish autonomy in Poland, Russia, and Austria, where the majority of Jews still lived. The call for a speedy solution to the Jewish predicament in Eastern Europe went out from Russian and Galician Jewish intellectuals. As activists, they sought to redress Jewish problems immediately (Gegenwartsarbeit) and to correct the deliberate approach of the political Zionists.65 They advocated both practical work in Palestine (“practical Zionism”) and immediate relief in the Diaspora as solutions to the problem of Jewish mass migration.
Although they were outraged by the poverty and political repression of their Eastern coreligionists, the Jews of Western Europe only recently had achieved legal equality themselves. They were thus eager to protect their newly acquired status, which seemed incompatible with Jewish nationalism of any kind. In particular, they worried that more Ostjuden on German soil could jeopardize their own precarious footing before the law.66 Germany had never allowed significant numbers of Jewish immigrants to settle within its borders, and it was therefore easy for antisemites such as Wilhelm Marr (1818–1904) and court preacher Adolf Stoecker (1835–1909) to play on the fears of Jews and non-Jews.67 German “citizens of the Jewish faith” (as some German Jews fashioned themselves) feared that they would be accused of harboring dual loyalties, and antidefamation became the centerpiece of their Jewish identities. In short, they assumed that the condition for their emancipation was the surrender of all claims to a separate nationality.
The more the Kaiserreich was guided by a myth of its own homogeneity, the more impossible it appeared to make Jewish nationalism an acceptable form of identity there.68 For this reason, Zionist extremists opted for a similar myth of cultural homogeneity as a solution to the dilemma of dual loyalty. Whereas the new German antisemitism was antedated by an indigenous tradition of Eastern Jewish nationalism,69 Western Jewish nationalists had no such tradition. Instead, they flirted with conservative Western views of ethnic identity. Clothing their ideology in the discourse of racialism, some Zionists accepted the idea that Jews formed a scientifically verifiable, if not superior, race.70
Yet these Western Jewish nationalists, by imitating conservative European nationalism, threatened to become as Western as the enlightened Jews they stereotyped in their literature.71 The most extreme also resisted the nationalism of Eastern Jewry, a move that precipitated the three most controversial events in the Zionist movement at the turn of the century: the formation of the Democratic Faction, the debate surrounding the publication of Herzl’s Altneuland72 in October 1902, and the “Uganda Controversy” of 1904. As a result of these crises, more Eastern Jews distanced themselves from party Zionism, and cultural Zionism became a force to be reckoned with.
Ost und West played a central role in the Altneuland controversy surrounding Aḥad Hastatus that was repaired neither by Ost und West’s special issue on Herzl at the time of his death nor by letters of apology to Nordau, who originally had been a hero of the cultural Zionists.
This dispute worked to Ost und West’s advantage in one sense. The journal received new publicity, and Winz was encouraged to campaign all the more stridently for Eastern Jewry, particularly in the wake of the Kishinev pogroms of April 6 and 7, 1903, which occurred just before “Die Juden von Gestern” went to press. Furthermore, the rapid ascent of Ost und West as a leading German-Jewish periodical did not pass unnoticed. Within the field of Jewish publishing, Winz appears to have been envied and scorned by the likes of Heinrich Loewe and Martin Buber. Loewe, an old rival of Winz’s, generated a number of attacks in the Jüdische Rundschau.77 Buber was for a brief time the editor of the Herzl-backed party organ Die Welt.78 In his letters to Herzl, Buber made clear his dislike for Winz, whom he knew well, having contributed regularly to Ost und West until 1905.79 Just how envious Buber was of Winz’s success as a publicist is evidenced in his 1903 sketch for a journal entitled Der Jude.80 This ambitious project, which he conceived along with Weizmann, Lilien, and Alfred Nossig (1864–1943), was intended to result in a literary and cultural monthly similar to Winz’s journal. Because of lack of funds and Ost und West’s greater appeal, Der Jude was shelved until 1916, when interest in Eastern Jewry was sufficient to warrant another major pan-Jewish journal.81
The Altneuland affair was but one more example of how urgent the message of pan-Jewishness was. Somehow, despite the controversies, a bridge had to be built between Jewish nationalists from both Europes. Ost und West was well suited to this project, as we shall see, for ideology and public relations came to assume equal importance in it.
How did Ost und West deal with the widening rupture in the Jewish nationalist camp? To be sure, Winz and Segel were fully aware of the Western nature of political Zionism. When challenged, as they were in the Altneuland affair, they responded with Eastern-style Jewish ethnicity. Yet they were also aware that Ost und West would have to make certain concessions to Western Jewish readers in order to be a truly pan-Jewish magazine. Fine-tuning Ost und West to German-Jewish culture(s) was absolutely essential if the journal was to attract new readers.
It was a subtle game to market Jewish ethnicity to Westjuden. Jewishness was a difficult “product” to promote to Jews in Germany who were, by and large, fairly well integrated despite only having received full civil rights in 1871. As a result, many Wilhelminian Jews were not receptive to reminders of a “ghetto”82 heritage that they were actively involved in forgetting. The idea that they should profess or declare their Jewish identity seemed foolish, about as absurd as Zionism seemed to most prior to 1897.83 What is more, the journal was attempting to market East European Jewry at a time when Ostjuden were largely viewed negatively in German and German-Jewish culture. However, because they lived in and “between” two cultures, the editors of Ost und West understood how to balance the journal’s advocacy of East European Jewish culture with the demands of its Western Jewish audiences.
To Winz and his associates, the decision to publish Ost und West in German rather than in Yiddish or Hebrew did not imply that the magazine would conform to German cultural mores. Individual and group identities in the journal were constructed less by German politics than by internal Jewish politics. While a resolution granting Yiddish and Hebrew equal status as the Jewish national languages was passed at the Czernowitz conference of 1908, German had been a lingua franca of East-Central European Jewry since the nineteenth century. People who thought of themselves as “ethnic Jews” might therefore use all three—Yiddish, Hebrew, and German (or another national vernacular)—for Jewish ethnicity was not defined uniquely by language.
Ost und West claimed to have subscribers the world over, from Gluchow to Galveston and from Copenhagen to Capetown. If we believe its inside front cover promotions, Ost und West was read in more than four hundred cities across the globe, a third of them in Germany, a third in Austro-Hungary, and a sixth in Russia. Yet, despite these pretensions to an international readership, the magazine was first and foremost directed at Jews living in the German Reich. Indeed, archival evidence reveals that Winz had difficulties marketing it in Eastern Europe.84 Jews living there likely saw Ost und West as “too German.” At the same time, the journal differed significantly from other German-Jewish cultural reviews. Unlike the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums (1837–1922) and the Jüdische Rundschau (1898–1938), both of which were hardly nonpartisan, Ost und West was the first journal in Germany with a genuinely pan-Jewish nationalist perspective, seeking to unite Jews of all nations, sects, and political ideologies. It represents a large-scale solution to the so-called Jewish Question (Judenfrage), comparable to the so-called Greater German (großdeutsch) solution sought by German cultural reviews such as the Deutsche Rundschau (founded in 1864).85
Ost und West was the first significant publication to bring together Western and Eastern Jewish artists and intellectuals. Its accomplishments thus lie more in the realm of cultural transmission than in intellectual or artistic originality. As a showcase for both Eastern and Western Jewish culture, Ost und West was customarily the first place in the West where thinkers such as Aḥad Ha86
But Ost und West was produced primarily neither for the Jewish avant-garde nor for loyal Jewish readers in Eastern Europe. To enlarge its readership in Germany and the West, Ost und West sought to reach beyond Jewish writers and educators and thereby to enlist the interest of Western Jews who did not belong to the cultural elite. In becoming sensitive to the values and norms of a broader cross-section of German Jewry, Ost und West negotiated a fragile rapprochement between Eastern Jewish cultural nationalism and Western Jewish étatist nationalism.87 In promoting Eastern Jewish culture to a Jewish readership in the West, Ost und West had to make Ostjudentum palatable to them. Many Jews in Germany, after all, felt threatened by conspicuous displays of Jewishness, and the Jewish nationalist outlook of Ost und West was potentially offensive to them. Therefore, to make the cultural autonomy of Eastern Jewry acceptable to a Western audience, Ost und West tempered its Jewish particularism with a more universalist outlook.
Prudent appeals to ethnicity and to a carefully delimited “uniquely Jewish cultural nuance” (spezifisch-jüdische Kulturnuance) show the pains taken in Ost und West’s official 1901 program to balance the Jewish East with the Jewish West: “We thus want to extol Jewish life, not as it exists today, but as it should be and is on its way to becoming. What we mean is a Jewish life that is self-aware, inwardly secure and sanctified, faithful and thriving, where the good particularity of our race unfolds within the framework of a beautiful humanity and a serene labor for the cultural progress of all.”88 The rhetoric here of a newly self-aware Jewish “race” was thoroughly compatible with Western notions of cultural progress and aesthetic humanism. Jewish cultural nationalism thus appeared side by side with a bourgeois-liberal ideology in this magazine. Ost und West was willing to match its audience’s “horizon of expectations”89 by making occasional concessions to “enlightened” manners and morals. Nevertheless, even while urging German Jews to become integrated, Ost und West was sprinkled with hardy doses of Eastern Jewish particularity.
This programmatic note of Jewishness (jüdische Note) was enshrined visually in the journal’s brown-yellow front cover (see fig. 2). Designed by the Jewish Jugendstil artist Lilien in collaboration with Winz, the drawing depicts an impressive female figure who fills the entire left side of the tableau (physically West). Though she wears a Renaissance-style blouse, her bottom half is draped in a garment patterned with Stars of David—the dominant motif of the graphic.90 A Star of David also adorns her hair; the bejeweled head covering in the back evokes Jewish tradition. In a state of inspiration, she gazes into a small, treelike root. Whereas the root blossoms on the upper right side of the tableau (physically East), it expands to encircle the lower left side of the page (physically West) in thorns.
While the growth of this plant appears to recapitulate Jewish history, rendering Western Jewish life as a bitter Diaspora, one might interpret the entire image differently. If the robust Jewish female on the left signifies Eastern Jewishness, as suggested by “Ost” in the title directly above her, the small plant against the dark background on the right may symbolize the embryonic state of Jewish nationalism in the West. In this, as in other cases, Winz and his colleagues showed a preference for multivalence over lucidity when attempting to market the idea of pan-Jewishness. Indeed, Ost und West’s cover was far more complex than similar images produced by Lilien around the same time.91
Female figures such as the one here would become a staple of Zionist iconography in the early days of the movement, a Jewish counterpart to Germania, Marianne, and Britannia.92 Most images of her disappeared after a few years, however, as did this particular one in 1906. By contrast, the magazine’s masthead never changed in twenty-three years of publication (see fig. 3). Like the cover, it was also drawn by Lilien and also outlines the historical transition from traditional to enlightened Jewish identity. “West” begins at the exact center of “Ost und West,” indicating who the journal’s target audience was. Whereas the “O” in “Ost” is covered with a flourish that resembles a yarmulke, the head covering of observant Jews, the “W” in “West” is crowned by a mustache shape, symbolizing the westernization of the traditional Jewish beard. In addition, the “W” looks imprisoned, even though the bars enclosing it are part of a Star of David.
This and other distinctions between Western and Eastern Jewish identity in Ost und West’s iconography recall Aḥad Ha93 In the West, one could only be a “Jew” at home; on the street, one had to behave like a “man” or a Bürger. Religion had come to be a private matter, a denomination meant to be inconspicuous. Jews in the East, however, were “Jews” in public and “men” in private. Ost und West’s visual imagery, though it expressed similar contradictions, supported more overt forms of Jewishness.
Ost und West was accordingly the first European Jewish journal to feature works of art and photography. Photography, in particular, virtually ensured the magazine’s success. Nine years prior to Ost und West, Georg Meisenbach had invented autotypy, the first technique that allowed photographs to be reproduced directly. Meisenbach worked in Berlin, and his cheap, fast procedures spread to competitor firms. One such firm was Zander and Labisch, which supplied these reproductions (or “clichés”) to Winz and whose owner, Richard Labisch, was a backer of Ost und West. A significant number of Eastern Jews, in fact, were employed in the photo-reproduction industry in Berlin. The first and most influential periodical in Germany to draw on the possibilities of these new technologies was the Ullstein Verlag’s weekly magazine, the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (1895–1933). The astounding success of the BIZ was at least partly a result of its photographs, and it set the trend for Ost und West and other illustrated magazines.94
Figure 2. E. M. Lilien, cover of Ost und West between 1901 and 1906.
Figure 3. E. M. Lilien, masthead of Ost und West, 1901–23.
Making one’s ethnicity visible was understood as central to a pan-Jewish identity that incorporated both Eastern-traditional and Western-enlightened models.95 As suggested already, pan-Jewishness was easier to realize in the print media than in the mentality (or behavior) of actual European Jews.96 Journalism, in the nineteenth century, had become the most powerful means of propagating images of the nation, and this applied to the Jewish nation as well.97 Imagining the nation achieved its acme in the context of magazines and newspapers. By developing a new Jewish iconography, Ost und West was on its way to becoming an ethnic Jewish journal.
Another way that Ost und West reinforced the broad nature of pan-Jewishness was to inundate its readers with a diversity of genres. The resulting heterogeneity made the journal’s ideal of Jewish ethnicity look more plausible—and more desirable. At the same time, the multiplicity of genres, and hence contributions, concealed a weakness: Ost und West’s cultural significance far outweighed its political power. Furthermore, it soon became clear that quantity was more important than quality for Winz and his associates. Their elitist pretensions proved to be largely hype. By integrating essays with fiction, folklore, art, and photographs, Ost und West became something that Ha-Shiloah (Berlin and Warsaw, 1896–1914), Voskhod, and its other Jewish predecessors were not: it became middle-brow. This meant two things: first, that the journal was directed at a German-Jewish public that was by and large middle-class; and, second, that it tried to present content of a challenging but not highly intellectual nature to this audience.
By making Ost und West a middle-brow magazine, Winz and his associates showed how skillful they were at marketing Jewish ethnicity. The journal’s mix of “high” and “low” culture appealed to all of German Jewry, male and female, intellectual and nonintellectual, upper- and lower-middle-class.98 Women, as suggested by the cover art and a multitude of other evidence, formed a significant target audience for the journal; for a full discussion of this, see chapter 4 below.
A typical issue began with a few pages of advertisements. Then came an editorial or review essay, followed almost without fail by an illustrated arts feature. The middle section included articles and essays on Jewish literature, culture, history, current events, and religion; these, too, were sprinkled with illustrations. The final pages were the most varied: a given issue could include poetry, literature, folklore, music, a summary of the press, short literary reviews, aphorisms, quotes, and chess. To close, there were more advertisements. Indeed, Winz once claimed that Ost und West had more advertising than any other general publication in Germany (see fig. 4).99
In line with this appeal, the typical ordering of genres in Ost und West favored Western rather than Eastern Jewish readers.100 Rhetoric and context also suggest that most contributions to Ost und West had the Western Jewish reader in mind. The plastic arts, for instance, were a genre notoriously absent from the traditional Eastern Jewish world before the nineteenth century. In addition, even if many of the artists featured in the journal hailed from the East, they were packaged for the Western Jewish reader. The only truly Eastern Jewish products in Ost und West were fiction, folklore, and the press review—all of which appeared in German translation. The writers published most regularly—Peretz, Sholem Asch (1880–1957), Sholem Aleichem (1859–1916), and David Pinski (1872–1959)—were well known for their sensitivity to West European trends. In fact, most of the Eastern Jewish belles-lettres that appeared in Ost und West were humoristic and thus readily accessible to German-Jewish audiences.
Like Winz, the most frequent contributors to the journal had both Eastern and Western Jewish allegiances. Most hailed from Poland, the Ukraine, Lithuania, and Galicia, including Aḥad Haam, Buber, Birnbaum, Segel, Felix Perles (1874–1933), Arno Nadel (1878–1943), and Theodor Zlocisti (1874–1943). But each of these men knew the difference between Eastern and Western Jewish life and applied it when involved in editorial decisions. What was originally Eastern Jewish had to be promoted to German Jews. The ensuing canonization of Western Jewish contents and genres merely proved that Winz and his associates could play the game of German-Jewish culture at least as well as the German Jews themselves.
Despite all the pro-West gestures in Ost und West, the few surviving testimonies from Westjuden document their distaste for Winz’s unstinting promotion of the Ostjude.101 What few people have acknowledged, however, is that prior to Buber’s translations (or, better, rewritings) of Hasidic tales, Ost und West was the largest transmitter of Eastern Jewish literature, art, folklore, and folk song to the Western Jewish public. Besides acting as an editor and publisher, Winz was also a collector of Eastern Jewish art and music and a patron to those who produced it.102 Besides earning money for Winz (and its contributors), Ost und West’s practical functions included spotlighting these Ostjuden and publicizing relief efforts for Russian, Rumanian, and other “needy” non-German Jews. Ost und West was in this respect a leading publicity organ for Jewish philanthropy in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Ost und West saw no contradiction in championing Eastern Jewish grass-roots initiatives while at the same time endorsing Western-based relief efforts, as long as they were not overly paternalistic.
Winz’s ultimate coup as a publisher and proof of his skill as a consummate politico was to secure an agreement in 1906 from the Alliance Israélite Universelle, whereby this quintessentially Western Jewish organization agreed to finance part of Ost und West’s production in exchange for space in the journal and discounted subscriptions for its 10,000 German members.103 But no one has yet explained why an essentially philanthropic organization such as the Alliance sponsored a journal devoted to introspection about and the revitalization of Jewish culture.104 Ost und West’s liaison with the Alliance from 1906 to 1914 was a marriage of convenience. The Central Committee of the Alliance was looking for a cheap, expedient way to woo the German-Jewish public and prevent it from absconding to other organizations since it feared German influence in Turkey and its other spheres of influence.105 The Alliance was thus at best a halfhearted backer of Ost und West between 1906 and 1914. Concerned mainly with Jews in the Arab world, the Paris-based organization had little in common with the East European Jewish nationalism of Ost und West. Western and liberal in outlook, it tended to view East European and Oriental Jews as “uncivilized” and in need of regeneration.106
Figure 4. Example of a page of advertisements, including Berlin department stores. Ost und West (June 1911).
Even though the magazine’s association with the Alliance resulted in a new subtitle (“Illustrierte Monatsschrift für das gesamte Judentum. Organ der Alliance Israélite Universelle”), the Eastern Jewish nationalism of Ost und West was still as pronounced as ever. Notwithstanding areas of partial agreement, the magazine was often at odds with the ideology of the Alliance. In editorials, Segel and Winz explicitly advocated more decentralization from Paris, more indigenous teachers for the Alliance’s schools, and more practically geared school curricula. Coming full circle, Ost und West’s assessment of the Alliance resembled its earliest criticisms of the political Zionists: both groups emphasized diplomacy at the expense of true cultural work. Because of the special nature of their partnership, the Alliance repeatedly felt a need to dissociate itself from opinions stated in Ost und West. Time and again, the Alliance published disclaimers in its section of the magazine urging the Zionists to direct their attacks not at the organization but rather at Ost und West’s editors.107
Like the Alliance, Ost und West on occasion did misrepresent features of Eastern Jewish culture. Some of the translations into German that appeared reveal a selective reinvention of “native” traditions.108 Nonetheless, Ost und West’s contributors were among the foremost scholars of their day. Even when they made mistakes, their example inspired others, such as Fritz Mordechai Kaufmann (1888–1921), the founder of Die Freistatt (Eschweiler, 1912–14), to try to do a better job. Along with Neue jüdische Monatshefte (Berlin, 1916–1924) and Buber’s Der Jude (Berlin, 1916–1924), Die Freistatt was indebted to Ost und West for its early attempts to publicize Eastern Jewish culture.109
What most observers have failed to note is that Winz’s magazine pioneered the advocacy of East European Jewry in the West long before the emergence during World War I of what Gershom Scholem has dubbed the “cult of the Ostjuden.”110 Two decades before the Jewish renaissance of the 1920s, Ost und West had helped create an alternative space for a minority culture within German culture and European culture at large.111 The Eastern Jewish immigrant culture of the Weimar Republic was the beneficiary of such efforts, as well as the nationalist Jüdische Volkspartei, which emerged victorious in a number of Gemeinde elections after 1920.112
Winz, though habitually asked to serve on the executive board of the Volkspartei, preferred to direct his efforts at the larger (Jewish) public. Like all successful efforts in magazine publishing and advertising, Ost und West sought to make its readers desire something they had not previously felt they needed.113 It attempted to make the notion of Jewish particularism acceptable to integrated Jews living the West. Through a complicated system of cultural signs, Jewish readers were made to perceive themselves as desiring separatism, no longer feeling the need to act upon earlier assimilationist urges. Under Winz’s management, Ost und West delivered a consistent message: cultural nationalism was in the best interest of the Jewish middle classes in Germany and throughout Europe.
To make Eastern Jewry acceptable to Western Jews and to persuade German Jews to view their Eastern cousins as equals, the East European Jewish editors of Ost und West set out to redefine German-Jewish identity by purveying new, positive images of Jews. Idealization, however, proved less effective than denigration. Ost und West specialized in taking negative stereotypes of Ostjuden (and Jews in general) and grafting them onto Western Jews. This technique, which remains part of the repertoire of image making today, borrows from the insights of group psychology. Ost und West thus belittled Westjuden as products of an “enlightened” Western milieu, a variation on older antisemitic stereotypes of the Jew as a product of Eastern ghettos.114 Chapters 3 through 5 of this study examine the repackaging of such stereotypes and how these stereotypes (appearing within different genres and contexts) were adapted to the specific audiences of Ost und West.
The stress throughout this study will be on the conscious use of stereotypes, even though it is the unconscious element that gives stereotypical images their remarkable power. Most scholars in the field agree that stereotyping plays a decisive role in shaping personal and group identity, since stereotypes regulate how humans beings perceive themselves and their world. But any adequate definition of stereotyping must recognize that stereotypes are contingent and therefore manipulable. For the purposes of this study, I shall designate stereotypes as the products of normal cognitive processes by which individuals attempt to make sense of the world. Since stereotypes function as a type of mental shorthand, the issue is not whether they are true but to what extent they guide and determine how human beings define themselves.115 At the same time, however, stereotypes can be strongly influenced by the individual’s psychology as well as the self-image of the groups with which he or she identifies.
How do we account, then, for the fact that some stereotypes appear to make better sense of the world than others? Psychoanalytic approaches to stereotyping distinguish between pathological and nonpathological stereotyping. Stereotypes ultimately derive from the child’s opposition of “good” self and “bad” other.116 In adults, a perceived threat to the integrity of the “good” self may cause a person to react defensively by imagining a “bad” other. Pathological stereotyping involves a regression to the infant’s antithesis of “good” self and “bad” other, whereby the individual psyche repeatedly transfers “bad” feelings about the self (inadequacy, fear, powerlessness, etc.) onto other groups or persons. This mechanism of projecting “bad” feelings is operative in Western Jewish stereotyping of Eastern Jews as unclean, indecent, and culturally inferior. Eastern Jews, however, were not immune to this mechanism; they also rejected negative Jewish self-images by projecting them onto a perceived other, at times engaging in stereotyping of Westjuden.
The distinction between pathological and nonpathological stereotyping is perhaps more usefully rendered in the cognitive distinction between stereotypes and types.117 According to one critic,
[o]ne difference between stereotype and type may lie in narrative rhetoric. With stereotyped characters, the narrator suggests that we have sufficient evidence for a final judgement and conveys clearly what our judgement should be. Types, on the other hand, are used heuristically, as the starting-points for constructing deeper and more complex characters, and here the narrator will refrain from foisting judgements on the readers. Thus types and stereotypes are not two opposed categories but distant bands on the same spectrum.118
In its treatment of Jews, Ost und West fluctuates between these categories, otherwise known as good and bad, or positive and negative, stereotyping. Whereas Eastern Jews are rendered as idealized types, the Western Jews described in Ost und West usually qualify as stereotypes in the scheme above. Stereotypes were particularly prominent in literature, the main object of this study. The journal’s fiction, because it was short fiction, precluded complex character development.119
Despite the large body of research on stereotyping, the promotion of positive and negative images has received less attention. Instead of employing value-laden categories such as “pathological” and “nonpathological,” we will use a value-neutral analysis which outlines how “well” or “poorly” stereotypes are marketed to specific social and cultural groups. Such an analysis acknowledges that stereotypes are protean. That is, the categories into which each stereotype can be divided are bipolar (good self and bad other), but the categories themselves are “mutable and constantly shifting.”120 This inherent instability of stereotypes enabled the image makers at Ost und West to appeal to different markets. This study thus affirms that stereotypes of the Jew differ from culture to culture, from era to era, from institution to institution, and from market to market.121 The manipulation of stereotypes was the successful strategy behind Ost und West’s promotion of ethnic Jewishness to its German-Jewish audiences.
Seeing stereotypes as a marketing stratagem available to the stereotyped group qua agents or “subjects” contributes to our understanding of Jewish audiences in Germany.122 Ost und West’s positive stereotyping of Ostjuden and negative stereotyping of Westjuden suggest how German Jews understood the issues of their day. Stereotyping also reveals how openly Jewish they were willing to be, and thus the limits of their self-definition as Jews. Ost und West’s definitions of Jewishness were marketed carefully to three Jewish readerships in Germany: intellectuals, middle-class women, and middle-class men. Despite its focus on one journal, then, this study concentrates primarily on Wilhelminian Jewry. The events of World War I persuaded Winz to modify the magazine’s focus after 1918. For the war not only brought forth renewed antisemitism in Germany and the East, but it also reminded Winz and his associates that antisemites were not as interested in differentiating among Jews as they were.
Finally, one caveat is in order with regard to Ost und West’s public. Even though this study makes claims regarding the nature of the magazine’s audience, it is not really a reception study.123 Detailed reactions to Ost und West from Jews in the Kaiserreich have not survived. Despite that, we know that many German Jews were aware of the journal; the controversies it unleashed suggest as much.124 Most important, Ost und West’s high level of circulation also makes it valid to draw conclusions about its audience based on its texts.125
Ost und West’s promotional strategies provide the chief evidence for conclusions about its readers. Stereotypes, in particular, influenced the audience’s interpretation of what it meant to be a Jew; they offered up both attractive and repulsive images of Jews. As we shall see, Ost und West appealed to each of its audiences by using different stereotypes. Each group of readers was defined against a specific foil: Jewish male intellectuals were defined against the negative representation of a Western Jewish social climber; German-Jewish women were defined against a stereotyped Western Jewish female parvenu (parvenue); German-Jewish men, particularly in wartime, were defined against the image of cowardly and self-hating enemies. Using such clues, we can see how Ost und West perceived its audiences, and we can construct a fuller portrait of Jewish audiences in Germany and their perceptions of Jewish identity. Because these perceptions were affected by political and social changes between 1901 and 1923, the magazine regularly had to adapt its stereotyping techniques. Thus, in its twenty-three-year existence, Ost und West moved from the stereotyping of Jewish undesirables to the stereotyping of antisemites. The product—ethnic identity—did not change, only its promotion did.
Ost und West is also useful as a barometer of German-Jewish identity because it sought to change its readers rather than merely to reflect their wishes. Yet relying on stereotypes to influence readers did not guarantee success. What made Ost und West so effective in promoting Jewish consciousness, perhaps even more than other texts? The answer may lie in its status as a journal, a more suitable genre for this enterprise than a novel.126 Because it appeared in serial fashion, Ost und West could constantly revise its stereotypes in order to keep in touch with its audiences. The fact that it appeared every month also enabled Ost und West to adapt to political and social changes. By varying its written and visual contributions, the journal ultimately was able to reach three different Jewish audiences in Germany. European Jews shared a broadly conceived set of allegiances, and periodicals, like perhaps no other historical artifact, indicate the range of meanings that were acceptable to an ethnic group. By imagining themselves to be part of this group, the readers of Ost und West were seeking community. What they found was a ready-made public sphere. In this sense, the journal provided them with an already constructed fellowship, an artificial national identity, a textual homeland. Appearing as they did in the second most widely circulated Jewish periodical in Germany and one of the most widely circulated in Eastern Europe, the collected narratives in Ost und West affirmed the maxim “You are what you read,” which especially applied to Jews, whose identity had been traditionally reinforced through reading and rereading the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, Midrash, and other sources.
Ost und West did not affect all readers in the same way. Differences in background and viewpoint affect how readers experience texts. These “outside” factors affect what reading theorists refer to as “schemata,” the organizing structures built up from prior experiences that the individual reader brings to bear on a text.127 Yet, for all their diversity, Jewish audiences in Germany had many similar backgrounds and viewpoints and, by extension, similar schemata. It does not matter that recorded responses to Ost und West are few and far between or that we know very little about the reading habits of Wilhelminian Jews. What matters is how Winz and the journal’s editors chose to market Eastern Jewish culture in the Kaiserreich. Promoting a newer Jewish identity simply meant addressing Ost und West’s three major readerships of German-Jewish intellectuals, German-Jewish middle-class women, and German-Jewish middle-class men. As a propaganda effort, the magazine specialized in approaching each readership on its own terms. It had to cast its net wide, but it did so with nuance. This strategy for cultivating submarkets was compatible with Ost und West’s gimmick of bringing a “Jewish nuance” (jüdische Nuance) to European culture, and the magazine presented a broad, nonpartisan consensus that was based in Jewish ethnicity. A comparison with the contemporaneous Hebrew press, where similar debates raged more polemically, shows that Ost und West was at least as interested in marketing a cultural identity as in promoting specific political ideologies to its various Jewish clienteles.128
Over its twenty-three years of publication, Ost und West’s message did not vary, despite its innovative Western-style approach to promoting Jewish identity. The journal attempted to awaken the Jewish minority’s “desire” to retain its ethnic distinctiveness, hoping that this minority might overcome its “need” to integrate into German culture.
The following chapter illuminates the sources for European Jewish identity in the nineteenth century, showing how Ost und West exploited both Eastern and Western Jewish identities to promote its vision of pan-Jewishness. At the same time, however, Ost und West both influenced and mirrored its readers, thus raising the question of what were the absolute limits of Jewish self-definition in turn-of-the-century Germany. What did Ost und West’s audiences perceive as “un-Jewish”? Its stereotypes of Jews also reveal what the journal considered insufficiently Jewish. These stereotypes are best expressed as prohibitions: you shall not convert; you shall not be ignorant of Jewish culture; and you shall not be a social-climbing capitalist. If a Jew could escape these negative images, then there was a range of acceptable ways in which he or she might define himself or herself. These prohibitions correspond to three definitions of the Jew that express varying degrees of westernization: from traditional Eastern definitions to modern ethnic definitions and finally to Western Jewish definitions. The editors of Ost und West preferred national-ethnic definitions and tried to move its readers away from acculturation, defined here as the adoption of non-Jewish cultural traits.129
How Ost und West used these three types of Jewish identity in appealing to Jewish male intellectuals is the subject of this study’s third chapter. It was not difficult to market Ostjudentum effectively to an intellectual public already sympathetic to its cause. Early on, the journal pinpointed the Western Jewish parvenu as the source of acculturation, not the ghetto Jews of the East, as was thought previously. The Berlin-based social climber was a revision of earlier stereotypes of Jewish apostates. Owning up to one’s geocultural background was held to be the essence of Jewishness in Ost und West’s fiction.
The fourth chapter examines appeals to the German-Jewish female audience in Ost und West. Even though these Western Jewish bourgeoises formed the core of the magazine’s readership, Ost und West remained true to its Eastern Jewish origins. It counted on German-Jewish women to react negatively to parvenu Westjuden. It even created a female social climber and discouraged her insincere type of philanthropy. The novellas in the journal, while not always directly concerned with Jewish immigrants from the East, range from sentimental paternalism to critical engagement in their representations of Ostjuden. All of these novellas were meant to attract women along with Jewish male intellectuals.
Middle-class Jewish males in Germany were less central to Ost und West’s project. While they certainly read the journal, their concerns were seldom addressed directly until World War I. The fifth chapter investigates the promotion of Jewishness during wartime, a period that required open displays of Germanness. Until the 1916 census of Jews in the Prussian military (the Judenzählung), the German-Jewish male audience of Ost und West saw itself as well integrated. It thus favored Western-enlightened definitions of Jewish identity. In keeping with this orientation, Ost und West’s war editorials likened anti-German sentiment to antisemitism. At times, the magazine projected upon the Entente powers the images of cowardice, Germanophobia and self-hatred that antisemites often associated with Jewish men. As we shall see, morally bankrupt antisemites served as foils for “tough” Jewish males in the journal’s essays and serialized fiction.
The conclusion explores Ost und West’s responses to Western-style acculturation and its antithesis, dissimilation. The notion is reexamined that Jews eagerly assimilated to German society and that they were self-hating. After World War I ended, Winz paid more attention to his other enterprises, and in 1923, inflation brought on Ost und West’s decline. Nevertheless, the journal already had influenced other periodicals to focus on Ostjuden, and its ethnic definitions were increasingly adopted as a model for German-Jewish identity. Ost und West ultimately augments our knowledge of how minority groups understand themselves. It may thus illuminate contemporary discussions in Europe and the Americas regarding ethnic identity.