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Kren, G.M. (1989). Germans and Jews since the Holocaust: The Changing Situation in West Germany, by Anson Rabinach and Jack Zipes, New York: Holmes & Meier, 1986, viii + 365 pages, hb $37.50, pb $17.50. Free Associations, 1P(15):126-131.

(1989). Free Associations, 1P(15):126-131

Germans and Jews since the Holocaust: The Changing Situation in West Germany, by Anson Rabinach and Jack Zipes, New York: Holmes & Meier, 1986, viii + 365 pages, hb $37.50, pb $17.50

Review by:
George M. Kren

The title does not adequately describe this work of some seventeen essays which go beyond a discussion of the post-Holocaust relationships between Germans and Jews. The issues dealt with include an examination of Jews in post-Hitler Germany, theoretical analysis of German anti-Semitism, the interpretations of anti-Semitism by the Frankfurt School and an examination of the responses to the film Holocaust in Germany and Austria. A recurring theme is the meaning of being Jewish after the Holocaust, and coming to terms with the Holocaust experience.

Most of the essays had previously been published in New German Critique, among the most brilliant journals published in the United States.1 Much of the unity of this work is provided by the shared outlook of most of its contributors. For many the Frankfurt School and some commitment to a humanistic Marxism or socialism and (to a lesser degree) Freudian psychoanalysis were important. Generationally the authors range from German-Jewish émigrés who had already published important social analysis in Germany to American and German scholars born after World War II.

For many writers the issue of Jewish identity is central. Almost all the Jewish authors in this collection affirm their religious unbelief. For some religion had been important in their youth, but was rejected later on. Manès Sperber, after speaking of childhood prayers, notes that he is an unbeliever. Jewish identity means for him — and, though not all of them express it that explicitly, for most contributors to this volume — solidarity with those who are victims of injustice:

I have to be faithful to my godless religion ‘of a clear conscience.’… No sacrificial death, no redeemer's grace brings the longed-for transformation, for the coming of the Messiah depends on us ourselves, on all of us, on the deeds of every one of us.

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