The Pity of It All

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The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933 by Amos Elon is an extremely informative account of German Jewish history from the arrival of Moses Mendelssohn in Berlin to Hitler’s being appointed chancellor by President Hindenburg.

Amos Elon focuses on influential Jews while giving a detailed picture of the political background behind these well-known figures.

The book starts with the German Enlightment, which was not very enlightened as far as Jews were concerned, before dealing with the rise of Germany as a nation and international power. It shows how a handful of Jewish intellectuals, political reformers and artists contributed to the shaping of Germany as a modern nation despite the pervading anti-Semitic conservatism of the time.

This book reads like a story of unrequited love. The Jews adopted German culture with almost fanatical devotion to its music, literature, art and philosophy. This culminated in 1914 with their almost unanimous backing of the German aggression and their patriotic enthusiasm for war.

Unfortunately this did not prevent the Germans, as a people, to conclude that the Jews were responsible for all their problems and turn against them very soon after the German defeat in 1918. A feeling that gradually led to Hitler’s accession to power.

The Pity of It All is a scholarly yet entirely readable book and I higly recommend it.

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Judaism in a Nutshell

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Prior to a chapter on Jews in Medieval Europe (England for me, France and Germany for my history colleague), I tought it would be wise to revise or introduce a few basics about Judaism.

I have settled on a matching exercise: the students will have to match 31 terms and their definitions. I have also added a few pictures. I realize however that it is not easy to select the words and notions I want them to understand and remember.

If you were in my shoes, what terms would you have chosen?

Stained Glass

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This post is afollow-up of yesterday’s when I showed some photos of Lübeck’s synagogue, outside and inside. The stained glass in the first shot is the inside of the dome you can see in the second one. I believe it is dark around because of the light that was flowing from above.

On Tuesdays, just post any photo you like (it must be one of your own) that contains the color RED and then link to this blog.

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Lübeck’s Synagogue

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During last summer’s vacation in Hamburg we drove to Lübeck on a rainy Wednesday and were lucky to find that the synagogue was open.

Built in 1879 in the middle of the Hanseatic city, it is still in use although it was damaged in November 1938. The Lübeck Jewish community today numbers around 700 persons, most of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. as you can see in the first photo.