Page 23 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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I cannot recall any place in the Schocken Archives in which
fundamental discussions were conducted on this topic. There
were, of course, borderline cases, which were always decided
pragmatically from the point of view of the literary or didactic
quality of the texts. It was just as natural for Schocken Verlag
to reject a bad Jewish novel of a Jewish author as to see its
noblest task in taking on the works of Franz Kafka and Alfred
Mombert at this time, which at best can be classified in an ex­
istential interpretation as Jewish. The problem became relevant
for Jewish publishers only when the attempt was made to create
a new type of German-language Jewish literature, as was the
case with the novels of the Erich Reiss Verlag I mentioned
earlier. Such attempts had only a miniscule role, however, in
the total Jewish book production, which stood in inverse pro­
portion to the attention given to them. Evidently all prerequi­
sites for a genuine Jewish cultural life did not exist. There was
not merely a lack of the “positive” Jewish experience (whose
absence was bemoaned by the
Blatter desJiidischen Frauenbundes:
Newsletter of the Jewish Women’s Organization), but also of
freedom to thematize current reality without recourse to pale
historical allegories. Above all, however, the given time span
was much too short to come to grips with what had happened
and to allow artistic talents to arise and ripen.
We know today how brief a time span remained to German
Jewry. We know about the development from the Nuremberg
Laws to the “Kristallnacht” all the way to Auschwitz. The Ger­
man Jews, who were debating the possibilities for Jewish art
and culture so passionately, knew nothing of this; they did not
even suspect it. They had another sense of time and another
perspective on the future. Even the Nuremberg Laws, which
seem to us a gloomy milestone on the way to Auschwitz, were
no motivation for the majority to leave the country.19 Many
even took the news of these laws with a certain relief because
they believed that now a dam had been erected against the
previous chaos and lawlessness, and the National Socialist pol­
19 On the process o f Jewish emigration see Werner Rosenstock, ‘Exodus
1933-1939. Ein Uberblick iiber die jiid ische Auswanderung aus
Deutschland,’ in
Deutsches Judentum, Aufstieg und Krise,
ed. Robert Weltsch
(Stuttgart, 1963), pp. 380-405. (Original version: ‘Exodus 1933-1939. A Sur­
vey o f Jewish Emigration; in
Yearbook I o f the Leo Baeck Institute
1956), pp. 373-390.