Historian Dominique Bourel is profiled in Rheinischer Merkur, discussing Moses Mendelssohn and Jewish life in Berlin. The Enlightenment in Berlin was a particularly rich arena for conversations between people of different faiths, and Mendelssohn’s career and reputation reveals a progressive side to German history that is not present in the French Enlightenment. Consequently, there is an uneven evaluation of German intellectual traditions when compared to French: the former are much more open, the latter more self-congratulatory. He argues that Germany, particularly Prussia, was confronted with ethno-religious diversity very early in its national history, and thus had a greater impact on acculturation and integration than in France’s history.
Mendelssohn shows Europeans as much as Jews the possibility, even the necessity, of hybridization.
The unevenness stems from the importance accorded to the Holocaust. Bourel agues that is is not the defining event of Jewish history. Moreover, elimination was not, disagreeing with Goldhagen, the thrust of German-Jewish relations:
Adolf Hitler and his syphilitic band from Vienna had nothing to do with Prussian history.
The text of the articles is below the fold. Hopefully I’ll translate more later.
- Bourel’s article, “Juifs et Allemands: une symbiose problematique“