To what extent were Jews assimilated into Germany by 1930? 24 marks It would be extremely simplistic to state that all Jews were well assimilated in Germany by 1930 as the mere existence of segregation within the Jewish community within Germany serves as a representation that some were assimilated and some were not. We have the different ‘types’ of Jew such as: the German Jew, the Jewish German, the Ostjuden and the Polacks.
These represent the Jewish chain in the German community and where they stood in terms of class, the German Jew as being very successful in the German culture and the Ostjuden and Polacks being at a very low class where they lived in slums and were not assimilated whatsoever. The barriers between the Jewish communities acted as a great hindrance for many Jews when it came to them integrating and assimilating into the culture.
Barriers such as the language meant that minorities such as the Ostjuden and Polacks could not integrate because of their: lack of money, lack of education and their lack of citizenship- they were never exposed fully to the Germans so they could never fully assimilate. For the Jewish Germans however, the barriers weren’t ‘barriers’ as they had the ability to assimilate, but due to their orthodox beliefs, they wished to stick to their culture and their religious boundaries.
Many Jews were very well assimilated into the Weimar Culture by the 1930’s, so much that they saw themselves as being more German than they were Jewish(German Jews) and this was shown through their patriotism. They lived in the same neighbourhoods as the Germans, they went through the same education system and they wore the same clothes so as a result, they considered themselves German: part of the same community.
These Jews, which were part of the majority, were secular and they didn’t clutch onto their religious observance, they even married non-Jewish spouses and converted to Christianity. They very much integrated into the atmosphere and the culture of Germany by 1930 and this is shown through them being found in all the different sectors of the country and even though the Jews were only 1% of the population of Germany (500,000 Jews) their station in the different professions succeeded way over 1% of the jobs.
They owned 50% of private banks, they were 16% of all the lawyers, and they were 11% of doctors and half of the doctors in Berlin alone. Out of the 500,000 Jews that lived in Germany 80% were urban based and educated in the German system which itself acts an adumbration as to how well they were assimilated as the education alone in that system would have taught them all about the German History so that history would become their history as they became more and more exposed to that culture through how social they would have been in the schools, colleges and universities.
The Jews could be found in all political parties, be it the liberal parties, conservative parties or even the catholic centre party. Some could even be found in extremely right-wing political groups. Middle-class liberalism was the change that the Jews needed in order to progress in business and other areas. Up to the German revolution of 1918, the Jews were the ‘outsiders’ and the ‘scapegoats’ and even though there were the odd few successful business men, but they were not involved in the ruling system until 1918.
That’s when the Jews became ‘insiders’ and began to rapidly flourish into the German jobs: political parties and the press, Industry business and banking, the professions and the universities, even contribution to the culture- music, theatre. There are a few well known contributors like Hugo Preuss whom was a member of DDP as a state secretary for the home affairs in the provisional government between 1918-1919 and then became minister of interior.
He was also the main author of the proposals for the new constitution of the Weimar Republic so a great contributor indeed- he shows us the Jews were entrusted with important jobs and duties, particularly in politics. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum in terms of profession there is Kurt Weill a ‘spiky, cabaret style music’ composer, whose music is described as providing the ‘signature tunes for the Weimar Culture in the 1920’s’.
There are many other contributors such as Erich Mendelson- a trained scientist and an architect responsible for designing many of the shops in the Schocken chain of department stores across provincial Germany, Max Alsberg- established a very successful legal practise in Berlin and earned himself a reputation as a criminal lawyer, Fritz Lang- was the most famous exponent of expressionist art in which strongly influenced German Cinema, Dr Schacht- a very good financier whom became the president of the Reichsbank(German National bank) who also gained a huge reputation for being the man who saved Germany’s economy through the introduction of the new currency and Walther Rathenau who became one of the leading industrialists in Germany. All of these people, were Jewish and there are so many more of them: well assimilated and successful Jews.
The German Jews believed that assimilation was the future and only thought it would deepen and get better. Anti-Semitism was on the fringe of society and politics but some Jews remained reluctant to throw themselves into the German culture- they believed the good times would not last. They were not fuelled with this hope of everything being forgotten about Jews being ‘outsiders’ and ‘alien’ and that’s fair enough as some Jews were still until the 1930’s were being treated as scapegoats. The hope the German Jews and the most assimilated Jews had was based on the fact that they lived in a liberal democracy that provided them with greater legal protections than any other European Jew had known ever before.
There was free press, a multi-party system in which the Jews were very influential and many had achieved economic and social success- they thought new generations could only do better. But not all of the Jews felt so optimistic towards the future. There were many that that were not so keen to assimilate as the liberal, educated and ‘professional majority’ was. Assimilation was a terrifying prospect for some religious leaders as they feared the separate Jewish identity might disappear entirely. There were also the Orthodox and Zionist communities whom were hostile towards assimilation as they didn’t want it and they were convinced that it would and could never happen. Even with all the outward success in the many different aspects of the Jewish life in Weimar Germany, the anxieties beneath the surface couldn’t be forgotten.
There was what some would have called ‘an undercurrent of pessimism’ as suicide rates and divorce rates were twice as high for Jewish Germans that for the whole population and so was the prevalence of clinical depression. Many of the Jews failed to remain optimistic- it was a struggle for them as many felt they were in some sort of limbo where they were not fully Jewish but they were not allowed to be fully German either. Amongst these fears were the fears of how to deal with anti-Semitism in spite of the fact that the situation overall in the Weimar Republic had become a lot more stable after 1923 as there were still attacks on the Jews: from attacks on the street, to the vandalising of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.
Many Jews thought it would be the best thing just to stay behind closed doors and avoid any provocation which in return reflects the way the police and the courts in Weimar Germany took action against the offenders- the middle class Jews, however, rarely had any problems as they lived in very stable areas within the community. With that said, a number of organisations- Jewish organisations- took actions to protect the Jewish communities interests. Those whom feared the expiry of the Jewish identity such as the Orthodox and Zionisits, fought back by emphasising the Jewish cultural traditions, also encouraging the study of the Hebrew language- they had less faith than the assimilated Jews did in the Weimar republic.
They couldn’t be certain as to what their futures would be like and whether this tight-nit community as a whole in Germany in the most parts would continue. To a great extent the Jews were assimilated and that has been shown through their rapid progress in all aspects of Weimar Germany. They contributed to all areas of Germany, but there were the minority groups that were not assimilated, be it because they didn’t want to or they couldn’t. So they weren’t completely assimilated as a whole community, but groups like the Polacks and the Ostjuden were a minority group therefore on the whole, the Jews were more assimilated than not by 1930 in Germany.
Courtney from Study Moose