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Jews in Business and their Representation in German Literature 1827-1934


John Ward

This book gives an account of the literary representation of Jews as businessmen from the early nineteenth century to the onset of the Third Reich. The historical context provides the background for an examination of the literary representation of Jewish businessmen and presents evidence for the perpetuation, transformation, and combination of stereotypes.
The double bind of assimilation – that the Jews were vilified whether they succeeded or failed – is illustrated from literary treatments by the Romantic writer Wilhelm Hauff and the early twentieth-century writers Lion Feuchtwanger and Paul Kornfeld of the historical figure of ‘Jud Süß Oppenheimer’. Gustav Freytag’s use of the Jews as ‘counter-ideals’ in his notorious bestseller Soll und Haben (1855) and the onset of racial anti-Semitism in Wihelm von Polenz’s Der Büttnerbauer (1895) are illustrative of how literary anti-Semitism hardened in the course of the nineteenth century.
The book considers a number of literary texts, some well known, some less familiar, which are revealing of the way in which Jewish–Gentile relations were imagined in their time.


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Chapter Five - Responses to Anti-Semitism by Jewish and Non-Jewish Authors 167


Chapter Five Responses to Anti-Semitism by Jewish and Non-Jewish Authors Jettchen Gebert’s story: a limited symbiosis The phenomenon of anti-Semitism had caught the imagination of a writer like Heinrich Mann who, at least in his early writings, had portrayed the Jewish businessman as one who exploited a supposed inborn talent to make money at the expense of the gentile population. This begs the question as to how the Jews themselves responded to anti-Semitism. One response was pro- vided by Georg Hermann whose novel Jettchen Gebert (1906) and its sequel Henriette Jacoby (1908) have been described as an outstanding example of the Jewish ‘Zeitroman’.1 Hermann ‘presents in the novels a nostalgic look back to a common past in an identifiable space. Old Berlin is depicted as an idyll not only in the dictionary sense of “tranquil happiness” but also as a refuge, a kind of utopia projected into the past’.2 Hermann explores in the novels the extent to which the Gebert family, as representatives of assimilated Western Jewry, and the Jacoby branch of the family, representing its Eastern-Jewish antithesis, shared this past with their non-Jewish bourgeois contemporaries. The Geberts are assimilated Jews, who appear to be as much a part of the social fabric of pre-industrial Berlin as their non-Jewish counterparts. Through suc- cess in business, the family, composed of the four Gebert brothers, three of whom are married to three sisters from the Eastern-Jewish Jacoby side of the 1 Ritchie Robertson, ‘Cultural Stereotypes and Social Anxiety in Georg Hermann’s Jettchen...

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