After the Holocaust
To the Editor:
Gershom Scholem’s . . . erudite diatribe . . . leaves one sad and sorely puzzled [“Jews and Germans,” November 1966]. Professor Scholem declares at the outset that he does not count himself among those Jews who regard the German people as a “hopeless case; or at best as a people with whom, after what has happened, they want nothing to do. . . .” These are strange words indeed from one whom your biographical note describes as “generally considered to be the foremost Jewish scholar living today.”
One can hear the distant sounds of Deutschland Über Alles as one reads, “Upon many of us the German language, our mother-tongue . . . has bestowed the gift of unforgettable experiences. . . .” In the end, the author convicts himself of being a German first and a Jew next—an old and chronic malady of the German Jew.
Professor Scholem says further: “The Germans have paid for their catastrophe with the division of their country,” as though that were payment enough for the measured extermination of six million Jews. He then carefully . . . probes the present and future German-Jewish relationship by asking timidly, “Can there be a bridge, however shaky?” And further, “Is there not a light that burns in this darkness, the light of repentance?”
Unfortunately, the six million Jews who might have answered these questions are now silenced. As for those who can speak the answer must be an unequivocal “No,” especially in light of recent political developments in Germany. . . .
Beverly Hills, California
To the Editor:
. . . Gershom Scholem . . . has presented a brilliant and persuasive analysis of the dangers of a one-sided capitulation by a minority group to the culture of the majority. . . . I would like to suggest, however, that an analogy between the situation of the Jews in Germany and the United States is necessarily false.
Unlike Germany . . . with its long cultural history, the traditions of the United States are made up of the traditions of different immigrant groups. Assimilation as a concept is fundamental to the whole idea of the “melting pot.” Every immigrant group has, to a degree, bowed to the demand of American society that it give up some of its distinctive attributes, while retaining others. The American pluralistic vision, then, opens the way for at least a partial osmosis of all immigrant peoples . . . into a single society—something impossible in a more homogeneous nation like Germany.
Joan Gluckhauf Haahr
Bronx, New York
To the Editor:
. . . The Germans are on the whole unregenerate and unrepentant. While some members of the younger generation indict their elders for the horrors they unleashed, most would rather that no mention be made of the forty million victims of the holocaust they created. We are told to forget the past, while they retain the myths of the Third Reich. . . .
In recent years more and more (ex) Nazis have emerged as state governors, judges, and other high ranking government officials. Some were elected under ultra-right-wing (neo-Nazi) auspices. Germany has exhibited a great preoccupation with nuclear warheads, jet fighters, submarines, and other accoutrements of military power. Indeed, it is possible that a good deal of the German unhappiness with Erhard stemmed from the quarrel over civilian vs. military control of German armed forces. Now, of course, a former Nazi, Kurt George Kiesinger, has replaced him as Chancellor.
In consideration of the above, it would be prudent to look before we leap.
If Gershom Scholem wishes to resume communications with the Germans, I wish him naches. Under the present circumstances, I think I’d rather talk to someone else.
New York City
To the Editor:
. . . A new page of German history began in 1946. The remnants of democrats and socialists took up where they had left off while the Nazis were stunned by absolute failure. . . . Their position will not be very auspicious if the progressive forces of the new Germany govern the country successfully and lead it into the family of peaceful nations. Germany today therefore deserves the goodwill of Jews in neighboring countries, in Israel, the U.S. etc.
It has been the fashion to denigrate the Jews of prewar Germany. There were to be sure, devils as well as angels, but even Heinrich Heine rediscovered his Jewishness and for every Karl Marx we have to show an Albert Einstein and a Theodore Herzl and the latter’s friend and sponsor—this seems to belong to Gershom Scholem’s theme—the Grand-Duke Friedrich of Baden. . . .
Some Jewish communities have again grown on this soil, in part founded by Jews from Eastern Europe with but slender connections with the prewar institutions. They have the innate gift of forming a kehila and prayer services anywhere, at any time, and they did so right after their liberation from the concentration camps.
Formerly the Jewish tree of life had one root: orthodoxy; now it has two more: Israel and liberalism. Every one has its role to play in our concerted effort towards survival. What we need is tolerance. . . .
Mr. Scholem writes:
I find Mr. Greenspan’s comments on my essay despicable.