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Antifascist Jews – Jewish Antifascism?

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

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Abstract

In his AGE OF EXTREMES, Eric Hobsbawm depicts antifascism as the moment when the left united with a broad range of liberal and conservative forces “against a common enemy.” Hardly anyone could have had more reason to join such a coalition than the Jews who the Nazis had after all marked as their foremost enemy. The papers in this panel examine this affinity between Jews and antifascism and ask what Jewish intellectuals, resistance fighters, politicians, as well as ordinary women and men expected from the antifascist movement. Looking at the Jewish contribution to antifascism, they investigate the ways in which Jews shaped and appropriated it for their particular aims. We will explore how antifascism offered a habitus that at times seemed compatible and at others adverse to a self-definition as Jewish.
Anna Koch’s paper examines the meanings German Jews invested in antifascism in the 1930s to 1950s, and investigates the role it played in their search for a sense of belonging. Alexander Walther’s paper provides in some ways a continuation of this story by highlighting the attempts of Jewish artists to implement a memory of the Shoah within the German Democratic Republic’s anti-fascist discourse. By appropriating the party’s memory politics, these artists added a Jewish perspective to the anti-fascist narrative, resulting in more nuanced stories. Moving away from Germany, Miriam Schulz’s paper tries to disentangle the different layers of the Soviet Yiddish anti-Zionism campaign of the 1970s veiled as part of the enduring Soviet anti-Fascist struggle. The campaign will be analyzed with an eye towards (however distorted) interpretations of the Holocaust.
Reaching from the 1930s to 1980s, this panel will highlight the changes and continuities in Jews’ relationship with the antifascist movement and shed light on the myriad ways in which they interpreted and employed notions of antifascism.

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