The success of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners(1997) and the heated debates that followed its publication exposed once again Germany's long tradition of anti-Semitism as a major cause of the Holocaust. Goldhagen, like many before him, drew a direct and irresistible line from Luther's pamphlets against the Jews to Hitler's attempted annihilation of European Jewry. This collection of new essays examines the thesis of a universal anti-Semitism in Germany by focussing on its greatest author, Goethe, and seeing to what extent some scholars are justified in accusing him of anti-Semitism. It places the reception of Goethe's works in a broader historical context: his relationship to Judaism and the Jews; the reception of his works by the Jewish elite in Germany, the reception of the 'Goethe cult' by Jewish scholars; and the Jewish contribution to Goethe scholarship. The last section of the volume treats the Jewish contribution to Goethe's fame and to Goethe philology since the 19th century, and the exodus of many Jewish authors and scholars after 1933, when they took their beloved Goethe into exile.
When a few of them returned to Germany after 1945, it was to a country that had lost Goethe's most devoted audience, the German Jews. KLAUS L. BERGHAHN and JOST HERMAND are professors of German at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer Ltd