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In his new study of Jewish participation in conservative political movements in the Wilhelmenian and Weimar periods, historian Philipp Nielsen (Sarah Lawrence) opens with correspondence between Gershom Scholem and his older brother Reinhold in the 1970s. After reading one of his famous younger brother's books, Reinhold objects in one letter to Gershom's portrayal of German history and affirms his identity as a "right-liberal." While Gershom had been drawn to Zionism, Reinhold still identified strongly with his WWI service and German nationalism and placed his political sympathies on the right.
The diverging political paths chosen by these two members of the same bourgeois Berlin family—thrown into even sharper relief by the career of their Communist brother, Werner—highlights how German-speaking Jews navigated the complex currents of class, religion, national identity, and ideology to arrive at a broad spectrum of political affiliations.
Nielsen will discuss his book, Between Heimat and Hatred: Jews and the Right in Germany, 1871–1935 with historian Jay Geller (Case Western), author of the 2019 study The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction. Based on Nielsen's study of German-Jewish involvement with nationalist and conservative political parties, societies that promoted Jewish agricultural settlement, and the military, and using the Scholems as a case study, they will examine the forces that shaped Jewish political identity and action in this period. As many right-wing political projects moved from a more inclusive state-centric ideology to a "Völkisch" one that explicitly excluded Jews from the German nation, Jews on the right faced a new dilemma: when did the need for self-defense start to outweigh motivations of nation and class?
About the Speakers
Jay Geller is the Samuel Rosenthal Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he teaches a wide range of courses on Jewish history and culture, the history of modern Europe, and urban history. He is the author of The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction, which examines the experiences of one German-Jewish family over five generations, from the time they came to Berlin in the early 1800s through their dispersion around the world during the Holocaust. The Scholems was long-listed for the 2019 Cundill History Prize and will be published in German later this year. Geller’s other books are Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany, Three-Way Street: Jews, Germans, and the Transnational, and Rebuilding Jewish Life in Germany, published earlier this year.
Philipp Nielsen is an Assistant Professor for Modern European History at Sarah Lawrence College, New York, and an Associated Researcher at the Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. He received his PhD from Yale University in 2012. His publications include Between Heimat and Hatred: Jews and the Right in Germany, 1871-1935 (Oxford University Press, 2019), Architecture, Democracy and Emotions: The Politics of Feeling after 1945, edited with Till Großmann (Routledge, 2019), and Encounters with Emotions: Negotiating Cultural Differences since Early Modernity, edited with Benno Gammerl and Magrit Pernau (Berghahn, 2019). Since 2019, Nielsen has been the historical advisor in the planning and planting of the “Jewish Garden” in Berlin, Germany, which forms a part of the city owned “Gardens of the World”.
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