9780312422813

The Pity of It All A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780312422813

  • ISBN10:

    0312422814

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-12-01
  • Publisher: Picador

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Summary

In this important work of historical restoration, Amos Elon shows how a persecuted clan of cattle dealers and wandering peddlers was transformed into a stunningly successful community of writers, philosophers, scientists, tycoons, and activists. In engaging, brilliantly etched portraits of Moses Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Hannah Arendt, and many others, Elon traces how a small minority came to be perceived as a deadly threat to German national integrity. Amos Elon is the author of eight widely praised books, including Founder: A Portrait of the First Rothschild and The New York Times bestseller Israelis: Founders and Sons . A frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and The New York Review of Books , he divides his time between Jerusalem and Tuscany. As it''s usually told, the story of the German Jews starts at the end, with their tragic demise in Hitler''s Reich. Now, in this important work of historical restoration, Amos Elon takes us back to the beginning, chronicling a 150-year period of achievement and integration that at its peak helped produce a golden age, second only to the Renaissance. Elon shows how a persecuted clan of shopkeepers, cattle dealers, and wandering peddlers was transformed into a stunningly successful community of writers, entrepreneurs, poets, musicians, philosophers, scientists, publishers, and political activists'”in many ways the flower of secular Europe. He peoples his account with dramatic figures: Moses Mendelssohn, who entered Berlin in 1743 through the gate reserved for Jews and cattle and went on to become "the German Socrates"; Heinrich Heine, Germany''s beloved lyric poet who famously referred to baptism as the admission ticket to European culture; Hannah Arendt, whose flight from Berlin after an encounter with the Gestapo signaled the end of the so-called German-Jewish symbiosis. Elon traces how this minority, which was never more than one percent of Germany''s population, ultimately came to be perceived as a deadly threat to national integrity and culture. But, as he demonstrates, this devastating outcome was uncertain almost until the end. A collective biography, The Pity of It All summons up a splendid world and a dream of integration and tolerance that, despite its failure in Germany, remains the essential ennobling project of modernity. "If there is one book Americans should read this winter, it is Amos Elon''s The Pity of It All '”a meticulous and wrenching history of a people in a place at a moment in time that bears urgently upon our own."'” Joan Didion "Brilliant, far-reaching, passionate . . . A book for the ages."'” The New York Times "If there is one book Americans should read this winter, it is Amos Elon''s The Pity of It All '”a meticulous and wrenching history of a people in a place at a moment in time that bears urgently upon our own."'” Joan Didion "[He] is a master of the telling anecdote . . . One should be grateful for what Elon has done."'” Los Angeles Times "A work packed with beautifully sketched portraits, and constructed with a practiced eye for memorable, well-executed anecdotes."'” The New York Times Book Review "A tragic commemoration [and] a wonderful declaration of love for those German Jews whose emancipation coincided with the Enlightenment."'” Die Zeit (Germany) "Elon is a master storyteller. With the narrative skill of a novelist, he relates a compelling and ultimately tragic tale of the dazzling march of Germany''s Jews from the impoverished, demeaning ghettos of the eighteenth century to the heights of commercial success and cultural expression, a record of achievement that Hitler sought to render null and void. But Elon wisely rejects the fallacious wisdom of hindsight and tells the story not from the perspective of its apocalyptic end, but from within the ambit of Jewish aspirations and the genuine possibilities that opened as Germany evolved into a modern nation. For Elon, the saga of German Jews is thus an intimate part of t

Author Biography

Amos Elon is the author of eight widely praised books including Founder: A Portrait of the First Rothschild, and the New York Times bestseller Israelis: Founders and Sons. He was a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and The New York Review of Books. He passed away in 2009.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Ancient Renownp. 13
The Age of Mendelssohnp. 33
Miniature Utopiasp. 65
Heine and Bornep. 101
Spring of Nationsp. 149
Hopes and Anxietiesp. 185
Years of Progressp. 221
Assimilation and Its Discontentsp. 259
War Feverp. 297
The Endp. 355
Notesp. 405
Acknowledgmentsp. 431
Indexp. 433
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpts

From The Pity of It All:

Barely twenty-four years old, Heinrich Heine arrived in Berlin in the summer of 1821 to study law at the university and attend Hegel's seminar on aesthetics. Slight, pale, with dreamy blue eyes and long, wavy blond hair, he was an enormously gifted writer, widely known for the lyricism of his poetry and the scathing wit of his prose. No other author has ever been so German and so Jewish or so ambivalent and ironic about being both; Heine would leave an indelible mark on German culture. During these university days, he wore velvet jackets, dandyish Byronic collars, and a fashionable wide-rimmed felt hat known as a Bolivar. Older by two or three years than most of his peers, he was allergic to the alcohol, nicotine, and "patriotic" politics they indulged in so boisterously. His distaste for alcohol persisted; he is said to have claimed that the Jewish contribution to the new German patriotism was "the small glass" of beer.

Excerpted from The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933 by Amos Elon
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