Edited By Geraldine Horan, Felicity Rash and Daniel Wildman
Karin Stögner On Anti-Semitism and Nationalism at the ‘fin de siècle’: Walter Benjamin’s Critique
Karin Stögner On Anti-Semitism and Nationalism at the fin de siècle: Walter Benjamin’s Critique of the German Youth Movement1 Introduction In 1912, at the age of twenty, Walter Benjamin wrote to his fellow stu- dent Ludwig Strauß that the time he had spent in the boarding school in Haubinda, Thuringia, from 1905 to 1906 had been ‘ein entscheidendes geistiges Erlebnis […] bevor jemals das Judentum mir wichtig oder prob- lematisch geworden war’ [a decisive intellectual experience […] before Judaism ever became important or problematic to me].2 One of his teachers there had been Gustav Wyneken, a school reformer and mastermind of the Jugendkulturbewegung [cultural youth movement] which in the years before and during World War I was increasingly inf luential among the intellectual youth, primarily in Berlin and Vienna.3 This branch of the German youth movement dif fered in many respects from mainstream branches, e.g. the Wandervogel.4 Among the most important dif ferences was that it did not 1 The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007–2013] under grant agree- ment No. 235241. 2 W. Benjamin, Gesammelte Briefe I: 1910–1918 (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1995), 69. If not stated otherwise, English translations are my own. 3 Cf. R. Wolin, Walter Benjamin. An Aesthetic of Redemption (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994). 4 The Wandervogel, the most popular German youth organization, was established in 1901 in Berlin. From the beginning it was extremely nationalist and stressed Germany’s 118...
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