By Steven E. Aschheim
This publication revolves round the complicated interaction among tradition and disaster. It seeks to interact a few of the diversifications, the complexity and the unresolved dimensions of this connection, specially because it pertains to the origins, disposition and aftermath of nationwide Socialism. It examines numerous German and Jewish responses to Nazism and its roots, and demonstrates the continuing relevance of that have to modern tradition and collective and person self-definitions.
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Extra resources for Culture and Catastrophe: German and Jewish Confrontations with National Socialism and Other Crises
21 What we take to be quintessentially Weimarian intellectual projects are, I submit, those essentially post-liberal ruminations, posited on the ruins of a destroyed political and cultural order, that sought novel- and usually radical- answers to the problems of a fundamentally transformed European civilization. Intellectuals of both the left and the right (especially those who, for whatever reason, find the most echo in our own late twentieth century) shared the desire for a kind of 'root' re-thinking.
Over the years, so this argument goes, Jewishness and the classical notion of Bildung became more and more synonymous. ' During this polarized period when more and more segments of German society (especially its originators, the bourgeoisie) were jettisoning the ideal, the Jews, so goes the argument, most stubbornly clung on to its liberal-humanist precepts: the belief in the progressive powers of reason, the (perhaps politically naive) insistence upon the primacy of culture, self-cultivation and the critical mind.
60 But prior to 1914-in keeping with the activities of rational Bildung intellectuals - they were prone to stress its duplicities and dangers. Men like Karl Kraus and Felix Mauthner were the most penetrating critics of language, unmasking its limits and untruths (a tradition later radicalised by Ludwig Wittgenstein). 61 At that time (in an astonishing 1911 diary entry) no one pointed more tellingly to its deficiencies and limits than did Franz Kafka: Yesterday it occurred to me that I did not always love my mother as she deserved and as I could, only because the German language prevented it.