Identity and Survival in 'Deutsche Menschen'

  • The flourishing of literature and thought during the age of Goethe may have inspired German nationalism in the 1930s, but Walter Benjamin identified other values in the period worth defending. 'Deutsche Menschen' is a short collection of edited letters by well-known German authors which Benjamin published in 1936 under the pseudonym Detlef Holz in order to hide his Jewish identity. In his inscription to Scholem's copy of the book, Benjamin wrote, "May you, Gerhard, find a chamber in this ark - which I built when the Fascist flood started to rise - for the memories of your youth," and in his sister’s copy Benjamin wrote, "This ark, built after a Jewish model, for Dora - From Walter." This essay considers what Benjamin may have meant by those inscriptions. Looking beyond discussions of "German," "Jewish," and even "German-Jewish" identity, this essay explores Benjamin's descriptions of his letter collection, asking how he conceptualized and framed it at first and how it may have changed between 1931 and 1936. The categories of tradition and agency will be my focus, which I will develop in the context of Benjamin's other writings and his particular interests in quotation and materialism. &e formation and reception of 'Deutsche Menschen' reveal a complex, ambitious project that combines many of Benjamin's ideas and goals.

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Author:Brian Britt
Parent Title (German):Benjamin-Studien
Publisher:Wilhelm Fink
Place of publication:Paderborn
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2017/06/22
Year of first Publication:2014
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2017/06/22
GND Keyword:Benjamin, Walter; Deutsche Menschen; Identität <Motiv>
Page Number:26
First Page:83
Last Page:104
Dewey Decimal Classification:8 Literatur / 80 Literatur, Rhetorik, Literaturwissenschaft / 800 Literatur und Rhetorik
Sammlungen:CompaRe | Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
CompaRe | Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft / Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin
BDSL-Klassifikation:01.00.00 Allgemeine deutsche Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft / BDSL-Klassifikation: 01.00.00 Allgemeine deutsche Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft > 01.08.00 Zu einzelnen Germanisten, Literaturtheoretikern und Essayisten
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht