Estranged bedfellows : German-Jewish love stories in contemporary German literature and film / by Aine K. Zimmerman
This dissertation is a survey and analysis of German-Jewish love stories, defined as romantic entanglements between Jewish and non-Jewish German characters, in German literature and film from the 1980s to the 21st century. Breaking a long-standing taboo on German-Jewish relationships since the Holocaust, there is a spate of such love stories from the late 1980s onward. These works bring together members of these estranged groups to spin out the consequences, and this project investigates them as case studies that imagine and comment on German-Jewish relations today. Post-Holocaust relations between Jews and non-Jewish Germans have often been described as a negative symbiosis. The works in Chapter One ( Rubinsteins Versteigerung, “Aus Dresden ein Brief,” Eine Liebe aus nichts, and Abschied von Jerusalem) reinforce this description, as the German-Jewish couples are connected yet divided by the legacy of the Holocaust. Similarly, Die Haut retten and “Die Beschneidung” (Chapter Two) reflect doubt about the ability for Jews and non-Jewish Germans to connect, but introduce non-Jewish German protagonists who disassociate themselves from Nazism and/or a negative German identity. The films of Chapter Three (Comedian Harmonists, Aimeé & Jaguar, Viehjude Levi, Rosenstrasse) seek to bridge the divide between Jewish and non-Jewish Germans. They portray individual German exceptions to Nazism through sympathetic female German partners romantically involved with Jews. Works in Chapter Four (Das jüdische Begräbnis, Schalom meine Liebe, Eduards Heimkehr) likewise disassociate German lovers from perpetration. These works suggest that positive German-Jewish relationships are possible by finding exceptions to perpetration. In Chapter Five, texts (“Harlem Holocaust,” “Finkelsteins Finger,” Deutsche Einheit) revolve around sexual encounters in which both partners manipulate the Holocaust legacy, indicating unfinished business between the two groups. German and Jewish characters’ self-serving behaviors alike are parodied, and this evenly balanced and satirical treatment shifts the focus away from “good” or “guilty” characters toward criticism of the unproductive roles the Holocaust legacy has spawned. This dissertation traces the development of German-Jewish relationship from estranged bedfellows to complicated companions after the Holocaust. It links these changes to gender and normalization discourses, arguing that more “normalized” relations mainly occur between female non-Jewish German and male Jewish characters.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 203-222)
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