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“Home among my comrades:” German antifascist Jews and their search for a place of belonging

Mon, December 17, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cambridge 1


From the onset of the conflict between fascism and antifascism, German Jews played a dominant role in the antifascist movement. Some were members of the communist or socialist party, while others remained independent of party politics. After 1933 those who remained in Germany built resistance, and joined groups such as New Beginning or “Herbert Baum,” while those who fled continued discussions about the aims of the antifascist fight in their countries of exile. What did these antifascist Jews aspire to in the 1930s? What hopes did they have? Antifascism represented a whole set of beliefs, ideas, emotions, convictions and hopes that did not neatly fit a clear program. In its essence, it contained a negation of Nazism and everything it stood for. So if Nazism meant exclusion and persecution of Jews, antifascism promised inclusion and protection.

This paper examines the meanings German Jews invested in antifascism in the 1930s to 1950s, and highlights its role in providing a sense of belonging. Some turned to antifascism to battle antisemitism, and perceived their antifascism as intertwined with their Jewishness. Others perceived antifascism as a means to overcome the presumed stigma of Jewish particularity and emphasized the universal outlook of their antifascist WELTANSCHAUUNG.
This paper examines these different understandings of antifascism, and traces the changes in German Jews' interpretation of antifascism over time as well as the mutating role it played in their self-understanding.