History, Imagination, Exile
Edited By Paul Lerner and Frank Stern
12 Anna Seghers and Judaism (Birgit Maier-Katkin)
12 Anna Seghers and Judaism
During the Nazi years many previously emancipated and assimilated German Jews were forced into exile and had to consolidate their German identity with Jewish heritage. For the German Jewish exile writer Anna Seghers, this meant having to amalgamate her Jewish roots with active membership in the communist party. This essay argues that despite her communist convictions and the persistent Judeo-Christian chasm in German society, Seghers held fast to her Jewish roots. Drawing on her dissertation, the treatment of Jewish characters in selected works, and her involvement in the Heinrich Heine Club in Mexico, this article focuses on Seghers’ literary and personal expressions during early adulthood and her years in exile. It demonstrates that Seghers retained Jewish identity while consolidating her position in Christian society and pursuing secular communist interests; she continued this trajectory in the face of political upheaval and racial injustice during the time when Nazis persecuted Jews and Communists. A continuous stream of traces and references to Judaism are visible throughout her life and show that she did not deny her Jewish identity, traditions, and themes.
German citizens of Jewish descent were a primary target of Hitler’s government. Since Nazi racist policies were implemented slowly, many Jews did not immediately recognize the threat to their lives. Jean-Michael Palmer notes in Weimar in Exile that due to emancipation many German Jews did not see any reason to flee Germany during the first years...
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