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Wolf Biermann

The Minnesinger-Prophet of Germany

Albert H. Friedlander and Evelyn Friedlander

We first met Wolf at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin in 1997, and were surprised: Biermann, the great pop star of East Germany whose protest songs had helped to destroy the ‘Wall’ was a Fellow at this institute? Slowly, we discovered the reasons. Biermann had received the Heine Prize, the Hölderlin Prize, the great Büchner Prize, the National Prize and other honours as one of the great poets of Europe; and he was at the institute to translate Shakespeare sonnets into contemporary German! We became friends, and he sang Evelyn his protest songs as we sailed under the bridges of the Spree (and sent her to Hamburg to his dentist who turned out to be Szpilman, son of the composer/ pianist of Polanski’s new film ‘The Pianist’).

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Colloquium for the Millennium

Forum 2000 in Prague – 1997 and 1998

Albert H. Friedlander

In September 1997 Vaclav Havel and Elie Wiesel called together the great thinkers and leaders of the world to look at the year 2000 and to share their thoughts for the future of the world. Nine Nobel Prize winners, at least ten former presidents or current leaders of countries, and spiritual thinkers representing the religions of the world assembled in Prague, met for five days in a splendid castle, and tried to make some informed statements about the future of the world after the millennium. In October 1998, most of the speakers met again in Prague.

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Albert H. Friedlander

European Judaism is almost forced to turn to the German scene from time to time. The various shifts and changes in this heartland of Europe require continuous observation, even though each observer brings a different point of view to this periodical. There is too much to report, and we can only gain glimpses of what may be emerging. However, the very difference of these reports, which often disagree with each other, ultimately result in a richer panorama that will challenge our readers. Of course, the writings may reflect more of each author's 'personal agenda': that, too, may be enlightening.

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Berlin

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Albert H. Friedlander

During the summer of 1999 the 'Süddeutsche Zeitung' ran a long series of articles entitled 'The Future in the Present'. This text (Number 28 in the series, somewhat altered) was entitled Der Bär kann noch viel Lernen – The Berlin bear still has a lot to learn.

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Leo Baeck

The Teacher

Albert H. Friedlander

The word ‘Rabbi’ means teacher. Yet the great Jewish teachers of the twentieth century were not always rabbis; universities were filled with outstanding Jewish figures, from Morris Raphael Cohen in the USA to Isaiah Berlin and George Steiner in Great Britain or Jean Améry in Belgium. Still, when we come to examine the great reservoir of Jewish learning which was German Jewry in the twentieth century, it is the three great disciples of Hermann Cohen who come to mind: Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig and Leo Baeck.

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Albert H. Friedlander

German TV and correspondents from the major papers thronged to this conference which dealt with one of the most difficult aspects of Holocaust history: faked biographies of Holocaust victims which put into question the genuine testimony of the survivors. Professor Julius Schoeps and his Moses Mendelssohn Centre in Potsdam near Berlin assembled a large number of scholars from the USA, Switzerland, Germany and Israel to comment on the strange case of a world wide bestseller Binjamin Wilkomirski: Fragments, which claimed to present the reconstructed memories of a child who survived the concentration camp.

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Vienna Is Vienna

A Book Review Essay

Albert H. Friedlander

When I travelled to Vienna in May, I carried Hella Pick’s new book in my shoulder pack. I needed it. Schizophrenia and paranoia are registered citizens there, which is only natural. After all, Freud, Jung, and Frankl found it the perfect place for their practice, even if they themselves were infected by Austria. (I think here of an incident which happened many years ago. Rabbi Dow Marmur wrote Viktor Frankl and asked him to speak in London. No reply. He phoned the great psychiatrist. ‘You spelled my first name with a c and my last name with an e,’ said the great man; ‘I will not come.’ And he hung up.) The hang-ups continue. As my taxi passed the statue of the great general, the driver turned to me and said in all seriousness: ‘We need another Prinz Eugen to save us from the Turks!’ I could not agree.

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Albert H. Friedlander

Ignaz Maybaum: A Reader, edited by Nicholas de Lange, Berghahn Books 2001, 224 pp., ISBN 157181 720 4 hardback; ISBN 1 57181 720 1 paperback.

“Good News” after Auschwitz? Christian Faith within a Post-Holocaust World, edited by Carol Rittner and John K. Roth, Macon Georgia, Mercer University Press, 2001, 215 pp., $30. ISBN 0 – 86554-701-7

After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany by Michael Brenner (translated from the German by Barbara Harshav), Princeton University Press, 1997, 196 pp., cloth $24.95, £17.95. ISBN 0-691-02665-3

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Pius XII and the Jews

The Clash between History and Theology

Albert H. Friedlander

The debate between brothers in the field of theology is always ascerbic, with little quarter given. When this controversy moves beyond the never rarified area of academic discourse and enters the area of contemporary events, a tragic dimension moves from the periphery to the centre. Recently, Prof. de Lange published an Ignaz Maybaum Reader (N.Y. & London, 2001), in which Prof. Maybaum states the sharpest possible Jewish approach to the issues involved.

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Albert H. Friedlander

Sometimes, we must confess our inadequacies. European Judaism cannot begin to cover all the areas of European Jewish life after the Shoah. So much of what we try to achieve is the task of the remembrancers, and even our collective memories falter. We should have celebrated the centenaries of Karl Popper and Günther Anders in 2002, even if we already have critics muttering that EJ grants too much space to Germany. Of course, both of these giants of European culture can be described as ‘ex-Vienna, almost ex-Jewish’, born there in 1902. Popper’s assimilated parents had converted to Protestantism in 1900; but the Sterns were ultra-Reform.