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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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Albert H. Friedlander

Dorothee Soelle was scheduled to speak at four events at the 2003 Ecumenical Kirchentag in Berlin. Sadly, she died shortly beforehand, in the midst of a lecture. It was hard to come to terms with a conference that did not include this Socratic gadfly who challenged all her contemporaries. In my London study, I collected books written by her from the various subject shelves – sixteen books, moving across theology, philosophy, social ethics, poetry and other categories. On occasions, she permitted me to publish (and translate) some of her writings in European Judaism. At the Leo Baeck College – Centre for Jewish Education, I find some of her books indispensable for the instruction of rabbis: Suffering, The Onward Journey, Dialogues of the Night in the Church, In the House of the Man-eater, Sympathy and others. But at least the books are here, in my library. Dorothee is not here, and that is a great loss in our lives.

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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

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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Albert H. Friedlander

Born 29 March 1947 Tel Aviv, Israel, died Netanya, Israel 15 June 2003, aged 56

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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.

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Albert H. Friedlander

In the Age of Globalisation, everything is new for us, and everything is old. The religions of the world are once again children who have entered a new world, this time of globalisation. We have eaten the fruit of knowledge and have been expelled from our secure Paradise. Now, we wander about, lonely and afraid in a world we never made. We had little to do with the scientific achievements which fashioned today’s world; indeed, religion often tried to restrain the advance of science. Now, we must learn to live in this brave new world; we must also learn to live with the imperfections of our religions.