In Germany, a Jewish Millennial Argues That the Past Isn’t Past


The historian Michael Brenner has said in lectures that it was crucial that Jews were seen as integrated as West and East Germany emerged in the years after the war. “The presence of Jews served as a litmus test for the new democracies,” he said.

In his book, Czollek deals with how that litmus test has evolved and what it means for a Jew in Germany today. Making use of a term coined in 1996 by the sociologist Y. Michal Bodemann, “the theater of memory,” Czollek writes that Jewish people in Germany are “a confirmation of the German narrative of not being Nazi anymore.”

Unfortunately, he adds, this setup means that “Germans have fundamentally misunderstood their responsibility for the past,” something that has become increasingly clear with the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, known as the AfD, and growing anti-Semitism (an attempted attack on a synagogue in Halle has been the most violent example). “He really hit a nerve with this criticism,” said Mirjam Wenzel, the director of the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt.

What steps can Germany take to ensure Jews and other minorities remain safe and welcomed in Germany?

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