Culture and Catastrophe: German and Jewish Confrontations with National Socialism and Other Crises
Our understanding of culture and of the catastrophe unleashed by National Socialism have always been regarded as interrelated. For all its brutality, ... Show synopsis Our understanding of culture and of the catastrophe unleashed by National Socialism have always been regarded as interrelated. For all its brutality, Nazism always spoke in the name of the great German tradition, often using such "high culture" to justify atrocities committed. Were not such actions necessary for the defense of classical cultural values and ideal images against the polluted, degenerate groups who sought to sully and defile them? Ironically, some of National Socialism's victims confronted and interpreted their experiences precisely through this prism of culture and catastrophe. Many of these victims had traditionally regarded Germany as a major civilizing force. In fact, from the late eighteenth century on, German Jews had constructed themselves in German culture's image. Many of the German-speaking Jewish intellectuals who became victims of National Socialism had been raised and completely absorbed in the German humanistic tradition. One of the most stark existential dilemmas they were forced to confront was the stripping away of this spiritual inheritance, the experience of expropriation from their own culture. Steven Aschheim here engages the multiple aspects of German and German-Jewish cultural history which touch upon the intricate interplay between culture and catastrophe, providing insights into the relationship between German culture and the origins, dispositions, and aftermath of National Socialism. He analyzes the designation of Nazism as part of the West's cultural code representing an absolute standard of evil, and sheds light on the problematics of current German, Jewish, and Israeli inscriptions of Nazism and its atrocities, capturing the ongoing centralrelevance of that experience to contemporary culture and collective individual self-definitions.