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The German-Jewish Dialogue Reconsidered

A Symposium in Honor of George L. Mosse


Edited By Klaus L. Berghahn

Was there a German-Jewish dialogue? This seemingly innocent question was silenced by the Holocaust. Since then, it is out of the question to take comfortable refuge to a distant past when Mendelssohn and Lessing started this dialogue. Adorno/Horkheimer, Arendt, and above all Scholem have repeatedly pointed out, how the noble promises of the Enlightenment were perverted, which led to a complete failure of Jewish emancipation in Germany. It is against this backdrop of warning posts that we dare to return to an important chapter of Jewish culture in Germany. This project should not be seen, however, as an attempt to idealize the past or to harmonize the present, but as a plea for a new dialogue between Germans and Jews about their common past.


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Tolerance and Emancipation 5


On Friendship The Beginnings of a Christian-Jewish Dialogue in the 18th Century Klaus L. Berghahn University of Wisconsin-Madison Ihr Edleren, ach, es bewachst Eure Male schon ernstes Moos! 0 wie war gliicklich ich, als ich noch mit euch Sahe sich roten den Tag, schimmern die Nacht. 1 THESE CLOSING LINES from Klopstock's ode "Die friihen Graber," written in 1764, fully capture the sentimental mood of the friendship cult in the 18th century. The most extreme situation, the death of beloved ones, evokes the most authentic longing for the missing friends. It is a topos of all friendship poetry that the loss of a friend-be it imagined or real-brings out the true value and emotional depth of friendship. The literature of the 18th century is full of images that celebrate friendship in this extraordinary way. It expresses not only a longing for a friend who can help to overcome existential loneliness and/or social isolation, but also anxiety about the contingencies of social and political life, against which a friend is a bulwark. Only s/he can give the comfort and stability that the self needs to project itself onto the world. Klopstock's well-known ode could have been the inspiration for Wilhelm Chodowiecki's etching "On Mendelssohn's Grave. "2 A lonely figure is in contemplation at the gravestone of his friend. It is night and, as in Klopstock's poem, a full moon casts light on the scene, which makes the meditation possible. The grieving man, whom we might call Marcus Herz, Mendelssohn's friend and...

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