Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Mishra, "Memory Failure", in the LRB.

In March​ 1960, Konrad Adenauer, the chancellor of West Germany, met his Israeli counterpart, David Ben-Gurion, in New York. Eight years earlier, Germany had agreed to pay millions of marks in reparations to Israel, but the two countries had yet to establish diplomatic relations. Adenauer’s language at their meeting was unambiguous: Israel, he said, is a ‘fortress of the West’ and ‘I can already now tell you that we will help you, we will not leave you alone.’ Six decades on, Israel’s security is Germany’s Staatsräson, as Angela Merkel put it in 2008. The phrase has been repeatedly invoked, with more vehemence than clarity, by German leaders in the weeks since 7 October. Solidarity with the Jewish state has burnished Germany’s proud self-image as the only country that makes public remembrance of its criminal past the foundation of its collective identity. But in 1960, when Adenauer met Ben-Gurion, he was presiding over a systematic reversal of the de-Nazification process decreed by the country’s Western occupiers in 1945, and aiding the suppression of the unprecedented horror of the Judaeocide. The German people, according to Adenauer, were also victims of Hitler. What’s more, he went on, most Germans under Nazi rule had ‘joyfully helped fellow Jewish citizens whenever they could’.

...Such was the ‘unprincipled political gamesmanship’, as Primo Levi called it, that expedited the rehabilitation of Germany only a few years after the full extent of its genocidal antisemitism became known. A strategic philosemitism, parasitic on old antisemitic stereotypes but now combined with sentimental images of Jews, flourished in postwar Germany. The novelist Manès Sperber was one of those repulsed by it. ‘Your philosemitism depresses me,’ he wrote to a colleague, ‘degrades me like a compliment that is based on an absurd misunderstanding ... You overestimate us Jews in a dangerous fashion and insist on loving our entire people. I don’t request this, I do not wish for us – or any other people – to be loved in this way.’ In Germany and Israel: Whitewashing and Statebuilding (2020), Daniel Marwecki describes the way that visions of Israel as a new embodiment of Jewish power awakened dormant German fantasies. A report by the West German delegation to the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961 marvelled at ‘the novel and very advantageous type of the Israeli youth’, who are ‘of great height, often blond and blue-eyed, free and self-determined in their movements with well-defined faces’ and exhibit ‘almost none of the features which one was used to view as Jewish’. Commenting on Israel’s successes in the 1967 war, Die Welt regretted German ‘infamies’ about the Jewish people: the belief that they were ‘without national sentiment; never ready for battle, but always keen to profit from somebody else’s war effort’. The Jews were in fact a ‘small, brave, heroic, genius people’. Axel Springer, which published Die Welt, was among the major postwar employers of superannuated Nazis. 

There's a lot more. This is small but it made me laugh. 

...What then of Germany’s much lauded culture of historical memory? Susan Neiman, who wrote admiringly of Vergangenheitsbewältigung in Learning from the Germans (2020), now says she has changed her mind. ‘German historical reckoning has gone haywire,’ she wrote in October. ‘This philosemitic fury ... has been used to attack Jews in Germany.’ 

Nirit Sommerfeld was threatened with arrest in 2019. 

I had an email exchange with Neiman after she published her piece on Jacob Taubes . 
"In 1945 Hannah Arendt wrote that “the problem of evil will be the fundamental question of postwar intellectual life in Europe.” She was wrong. Apart from a handful of German philosophers—all Jewish except Brentano—philosophy ignored the questions the twentieth century had raised again."

She was right. It's the subtext of everything in post-war Europe. Philosophers are pedants and pedantry is garbage. The history of pedantry, like the history of anything else, is scholarship. 
Post-war Germany was a culture of autism and denial. Nostalgia for the present.

de Man, Robbe-Grillet, Billiards at Half-Past NineOn the Natural History of Destruction, The Tin Drum, Crabwalk, Deutschland im Herbst. everything, every fucking thing.

I won't post her response, but it wasn't enough. 

Longing for reconciliation indeed. The Taubes piece—a perverse discussion of a perverse man— previously here
And Leiter is a fan. I wonder what he thinks now.

Remember Jason Stanley who also never got the point. And does he now?

It's been fun watching left intellectual Germanophiles try and fail to come to terms with this crap. 

Neiman's new piece is here. I haven't read it yet.
I'd forgotten Deborah Feldman.

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