Page 110 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
state would probably mean tha t Jews would cease to be Jews. Yet
Wassermann rema ined uncom fortable with his negative position,
since he recognized a need for Eastern Jews to find a place o f re f ­
uge. His attitude was also influenced by his doubts about Herzl
the man, the writer, and the potential leader.
He realized insufficiently tha t his own lack o f religious and
national comm itment obstructed a deeper interest in Zionism. He
wanted Eastern Jews secure, but he felt no fraternity for them.
They were strangers in the ir being and utterances. He was
ashamed o f a repugnance he felt for many and hoped his own
feelings would not be shared by others. Wassermann adm itted
tha t they were full-fledged Jews, whereas he was but a limited
Jew.
He was basically a defensive Jew, eager to prove something to
Germans who would yet reject his proofs. He was uncom fortable
— like Berthold Auerbach, ano ther defensive Jew before him —
tha t the immoral Heine should be known as the prime specimen
o f a Jew. In Vienna he was equally ill at ease with the high visibility
and audibility o f the Jews in the arts and sciences. He asked a
Christian friend , were not his books those o f a German writer
steeped in German culture? The friend answered evasively.
Wassermann knew deep inside that Jews understood his work so
much better than Gentiles. His acceptability as German and Jew
increasingly troubled him.
Jews, Germans, this separation o f concepts was beyond my
comprehension; I could not, would not, accept it . . .
wherein lay the source o f the separation? I asked myself. In
religious belief? I don ’t have any Jewish religious beliefs and
you don ’t have any Christian beliefs. In blood? Who is to
arrogate to himself to d ifferentia te between d ifferen t types
o f blood? Are the re pure-blooded Germans? . . . And is it
conceivable tha t the two thousand year existence o f Jews in
the West should not have affected the ir blood . . . th rough
air, soil, history, destiny, action, involvement, even if we
excluded actual physical intimacy? Are they o f a d iffe ren t
moral makeup, o f d ifferen t hum an character?
In his final years, Wassermann tu rned bitter about German
arrogance vis-a-vis Jews. German life struck him as coarse and
alienated from the humanistic spirit. He became increasingly des­