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Promoting the Ostjuden: Ethnic identity, stereotyping, and audience in the German-Jewish cultural review "Ost und West" (Berlin, 1901-1923)

By David Allen Brenner, The University of Texas at Austin, advisor John M. Hoberman and advisor Janet K. Swaffar


Between 1901 and 1923, the Berlin-based cultural journal Ost und West promoted East European Jewish culture to a fairly assimilated Jewish audience in Central Europe. The common goal of its editors was to reverse Jewish assimilation in "the West" by promoting "Eastern" models for Jewish identity. East European Jews ("Eastern Jews" or Ostjuden) had been perceived negatively by many Western Jews (Westjuden) and non-Jews since the Enlightenment. Since that time, intellectuals and policymakers had sought to "dejudaize" the Ostjuden to make them more like good "Europeans." To combat this program of Westernization, Ost und West attempted to create a positive image of Eastern Jews and to legitimize public expressions of "Jewishness" in the West.Yet Ost und West did not merely "repackage" the Eastern Jew in order to make Jewishness attractive. Instead, its editors often published negative images of Westernized Jews in reaching out to its mainly German-Jewish readership. Negative stereotypes of Ostjuden were taken and grafted onto representations of Westjuden. These "new" stereotypes were then used to address three Jewish audiences in Germany: intellectuals, middle-class women, and middle-class men. Each audience is the subject of a specific chapter of the dissertation.The idea that Jews eagerly assimilated to German society and that they were self-hating is subjected to critical scrutiny in this study. After World War I ended, increasing anti-Semitism and inflation brought on Ost und West's decline. Nevertheless, the journal had already influenced other periodicals to focus on Ostjuden, and its ethnic definitions of Jewishness were increasingly adopted as a model for German-Jewish identity. The study of Ost und West ultimately extends our knowledge of how minority groups understand themselves. It also illuminates contemporary discussions in Europe and the Americas regarding ethnic identity.Thesis (Ph.D.)--The University of Texas at Austin, 1993.School code: 0227

Topics: German literature, Ost und West (Berlin, Germany : 1901), History, Modern, Jews
OAI identifier: oai:digital.cjh.org:1633796
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