"The inviolability of human life" : pacifism and the Jews in Weimar Germany / by Virginia Iris Holmes.
This dissertation explores discourses, actions, and forms of Jewish pacifism in Weimar Germany. In a period of burgeoning German and international pacifist activity, Jews as pacifists were involved in Jewish-identified, secular, feminist, and predominantly male pacifist organizations, wrote prolifically for periodicals, and published numerous individual works. This project analyzes identities, relationships, ideologies, and rhetorical strategies of Weimar Jewish pacifists. It investigates the ways in which they grounded their convictions, inquires into influences from the broader environment and the Jewish tradition that inspired their pacifism, examines the impact of constructions of gender on Jewish women and men as pacifists, and scrutinizes links between Jewish peace activism and opposition to social injustices. Sources utilized include correspondence, leaflets, flyers, and other materials of the Jüdischer Friedensbund (Jewish Peace League), on which no previous scholarship has been published, and periodicals, articles, speeches, and books by Jewish members of pacifist organizations and by individual Jewish pacifists. This study finds that Weimar Jewish pacifists, including very prominent figures, produced eloquent discourses, sometimes at great personal risk. Pacifists boldly departed from modern European Jewry's conventional response to antisemitism of publicly embracing their country's nationalism. They were motivated by the horrors of World War I, democratic promises of the Weimar Republic, and violent conflicts in Palestine, and inspired by Enlightenment ideals and Jewish traditions of study, debate, and messianic calling. Relationships between Jewish pacifists in Weimar Germany highlight the communal solidarity that underlay liberal-Zionist debates. Gendered representations of women as innately talented in the socialization of children simultaneously empowered women, theoretically, with the unique capability to achieve lasting peace and disempowered them by confining them to a traditional role. Jewish male pacifists courageously defied antisemitic denigrations of Jewish men as weak and cowardly. Jewish pacifists in Weimar Germany combined advocacy for peace and for social justice, sometimes explaining this activism as fulfilling the messianic mission in Judaism.
Record last modified: 2018-04-24 16:01:00
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