Cover Osteuropa 8-10/2008

In Osteuropa 8-10/2008

Reflection, Projection, Distortion
East European Jews in Jewish Culture in Germany

Steven Aschheim

Deutsche Fassung


Since the Enlightenment, the image of East European Jews, Ostjuden, has played a crucial role in German Jews’ self-definition. Jews from Eastern Europe were considered backward. This backwardness seemed to endanger the German Jews’ integration into modern society. Therefore, they repudiated the Ostjuden. At the same time, there emerged a sense of collective responsibility for their “weaker brethren”. At the start of the 20th century, a positive countermyth was established. The unspoiled nature of the Ostjuden was turned into a cult. These clichés revealed more about the self-understanding of the German Jews than the reality of the Ostjuden.

(Osteuropa 8-10/2008, pp. 67–82)

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Reflection, Projection, Distortion