February 16, 2001

Author Paints Life in Germany After WWII

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By Stacy Williams

An intimate group gathered last night at Anabel Taylor Hall for a lecture from writer Jeanette Lander entitled “The Jewish Experience in Germany after the Holocaust.”

Lander critiqued postwar German and Jewish societies for cutting short the dialogue surrounding anti-Semitism and guilt over the Holocaust. Lander, American born and of Polish Jewish descent, moved to Germany after college with only a “schoolbook knowledge of Europe,” at a time when most Jews had left the country.

“We surely have much to learn from her unusual perspective,” said Prof. Leslie Adelson, German Studies chair, introducing Lander. “She is an astute observer of human beings, the cultures they inhabit, and the cultures that inhabit them.”

Lander spoke of her experiences as a Jew in post-holocaust Germany. When she arrived, she felt that “those remaining wanted, for the most part, to leave Germany as quickly as possible [as] Jewish life in Germany was in suspension, in limbo.”

Coming back Germany after a year of traveling, Lander said that she sensed that the Jews “had a mission in Germany, a mission to tell … especially the German world, ‘we are here.'”

Although efforts by the German government had been made to make some restitution for the Holocaust to Israel and to Jews at large, efforts have thus far been superficial and not meaningful, Lander said.

Lander has made an effort to raise awareness by writing poetry, novels, short articles and plays as well as compiling two photographic calendars depicting Jewish life in Germany.

She also addressed what she saw as a resurfacing of the “old undertone of anti-semitism” in Germany and emphasized that many Germans were growing weary of dealing with the guilt of the Holocaust since they, being one or two generations removed from the war, took no part in its atrocities.

She stated that “Jews in Germany are living the way Jews all over the world are living … with anti-semitism in the background and often … in their own life.”

Lander also mentioned a lack of acceptance in the Jewish community on the Jews who decided to stay in Germany after the Holocaust.

Jessica Bauman, ’03 said that she “felt it was a very thoughtful presentation on a variety of perspectives.”

Aoife Naughton, grad, called Lander’s lecture a “provocative, critical insight into a very rich engagement of an American Jew of Polish descent living in Germany.”

Lander’s lecture was sponsored by The Department of German Studies, Cornell University Hillel, the Program of Jewish Studies, the Institute for German Cultural Studies, and the Institute for European Studies.

Archived article by Stacy Williams