Jay Geller reflects on the history and legacy of German Jewry as a whole through the lens of the history of a single bourgeois family, the Scholems, which is the topic of his recent book The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction.
The book offers a fascinating look at the history of an entire society through the lens of one family. We can see how each of the four Scholem brothers grew up in the same middle-class German Jewish culture but charted their own political and historical path through the contours of German Jewish history and its diaspora. Gerhard or Gershom Scholem, the Zionist, immigrated to Palestine in 1924 and is most widely known for his scholarship on Jewish mysticism; his brother Werner, who became a leading figure in the German Communist party in the 1920s, was murdered by the Nazis at Buchenwald, and Reinhold and Erich, respectively a nationalist and liberal, made their way to Australia in the 1930s.
The Scholem family is simultaneously an eminent middle-class Jewish Berlin family, and it is at the same time also distinctly everyday, showcasing through this microcosm the whole story of Jews in Germany as a whole in the lead-up to the second world war and the Holocaust. We’re so excited to discuss share this conversation about the the Scholems and German Jewish history in the largest terms. Listen in as we think through both the history of Jews in Germany, as well as the legacy of German Jewish culture.
Jay Geller is the Samuel Rosenthal Professor of Judaic Studies at Case Western Reserve University’s Department of History. In addition to The Scholems, his most recent book, he has also written Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany, 1945-1953.