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Exile and the Prophetic: I’m leaving on a (Nazi/German) jet plane, don’t know….

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

I’m leaving today to teach at a Peace Studies program in Innsbruck. More formally known as a MA Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation. It’s a mouthful. Like Biblical Israel on its sociologically defined mission to create a socially egalitarian decentralized tribal confederacy. Sometimes you arrive and there’s more that you expected at the titled/described place. Other times there’s less.

I’ve taught here before – four years ago to be precise. It was quite interesting, international students galore. As in any of these international gatherings the students are diverse in their ambition. There’s genuine interest in the topics at hand. There’s career climbing as well. Mixed bag.

Yes, I know, the controversial “Das Auto” advert I referred to a few days ago. Or rather my controversial comments on how I wished such commercials weren’t aired were I am living. The Nazi-past thing, I continue to dwell in it. I wouldn’t say it’s healthy. Better to forget?

Austria was a Nazi haven and the Innsbruck Jewish world, well its day in the sun closed quickly. The best thing is to get it out of the way with a short description of the situation then:

In March of 1938, the illusion of a peaceful coexistence for all Jewish communities in what had now become the “Eastern March” were shattered. Jewish students were excluded from their school classes, business licenses were withdrawn, rent contracts were cancelled, and stores and businesses were “aryanized”. During the so-called Reichsprogromnacht on the night of November 9 – 10, 1938, most of the Jewish Community’s board members were murdered by SS men dressed in civilian clothing. The prayer room in the Sillgasse was destroyed. The last Tyrolean rabbi, Elimelech Rimalt, had managed to leave Innsbruck only a short time before. By the middle of 1939, nearly all Jews had been forced to leave the “Tyrol and Vorarlberg” district. At least two hundred Tyrolean and Vorarlberg Jews did not live to see 1945. The cause of their deaths range from the desperate suicides of March 12th, 1938, to those left dead in the Night of Broken Glass, to children who were murdered as late as mid-1944 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. About three hundred Jews are known to have survived abroad or even in concentration camps. But the fates of over 70 people from Tyrol and Vorarlberg who were victims of racial persecution remain unknown to this day.

OK, let’s move on now. Beyond the Aryanized property, the suicides and the murders. Yes, there was also opposition to the Nazis in Austria. I know also that when times get tough almost everyone hunkers down and takes care of themselves. Human nature – the true believers, career climbers, bystanders, resisters. Another wheel of life.

The Sigmund Freud was born in Vienna. They note his absence with a museum. It is also where Edward Said was supposed to deliver a lecture – “Freud and the Non-European.” It didn’t happen. The invitation was withdrawn after Said threw a rock in Lebanon. Yes, the story, as usual, is involved. Apparently the thrown rock didn’t have any particular destination. In general it was thrown toward Israeli forces that, evidently, were so far away the rock throwing, Said couldn’t see them.

With the invitation revoked, Said was invited to deliver his lecture at the Freud Museum in London. This is the city where Freud’s “absence” in Vienna forced him to flee and where he died. His last writings revolved around that non-European, Moses.

Vienna is also the birthplace of Martin Buber who attended the University of Vienna. He was forced out of Germany in the late 1930s and landed in Jerusalem. I lectured at the Jewish Studies Center there some years ago. The handful of people who showed up included my two sons who were along for my lecture tour. At the center, I had a rough “discussion” with its head since it was obvious they hadn’t advertised my appearance and worse, once they found out who I was, actively downplayed it. That was after they withdrew their invitation for me to speak which was countermanded by the higher-ups at the university. If memory serves, the head of the center was non-Jewish German. Ironic, don’t you think?

Think about it. Edward Said lecturing on Freud, me lecturing at the university where Buber attended, both of us pushed around for being too out there on contemporary Jewish life issues. Freud and Buber were way out figures on the issues of their time. Freud was dubious about Zionism and Buber actively campaigned against the creation of the state of Israel. Today conformity is the watchword.

But it is quite something, Said commenting on Freud. It’s published in a book and you can even check the endnotes where Said cites my work. My small claim to fame.

Full disclosure. Yes, I don’t want to leave him out. Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, also lived in Vienna, went to university and practiced law there before moving to Paris. Of course, this was pre-Nazi times.

Nonetheless a vibrant Jewish world in Vienna that disappeared during the Nazi era.

Wait, one more, one of my favorites, Ivan Illich, with a crazy patchwork background. Wikipedia begins its section on him with the following: “Illich was born in Vienna to a Croatian, Catholic father—engineer Ivan Peter Illich and Sephardic Jewish mother—Ellen née Regenstreif-Ortlieb. His maternal grandmother was from Texas. Illich had Italian, Spanish, French, and German as native languages. He later learned Croatian, the language of his grandfathers, then Ancient Greek and Latin, in addition to Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, English, and other languages He studied histology and crystallography at the University of Florence (Italy) as well as theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in the Vatican (from 1942 to 1946), and medieval history in Salzburg. “

Illich was a fascinating character, a father of the Catholic Left, founding the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC, or Intercultural Documentation Center) at Cuernavaca in Mexico in the 1960s. He wrote books galore including Deschooling Society which analyzed, well, the educational industrial complex, and how modern education didn’t educate at all. In his bio, notice the Catholic/Jewish parentage and his maternal grandmother being from Texas! Among his many languages, one is missing, at least according to a source who has written a biography of him – Yiddish. When I wrote about him a few years ago, I referred to this great Catholic radical as Yiddish Illich.

Yiddish Illich, amusing. He was expelled from school for having Jewish background after the Nazis came to power in Austria. He spent the last years of World War II in Rome. Did he visit the Jewish ghetto that was emptied while he was there? Lots of interesting stuff to unearth here.

Holocaust baggage to be carried through the airport. Yes, and I’m flying Lufthansa. Das Auto in the air? Check this Wikipedia entry for the carrier who will be checking me through security:

1950s: Post-war reformation

Lufthansa traces its history back to 1926 when the Deutsche Luft Hansa was formed in Berlin, an airline that served as flag carrier of the country until 1945 when all services were suspended following the defeat of Germany in World War II. The new Lufthansa was formed on January 6, 1953 as Aktiengesellschaft für Luftverkehrsbedarf, a company for air traffic demand, and was renamed Deutsche Lufthansa Aktiengesellschaft and relaunched as an airline on August 6, 1954. While Lufthansa claims DLH’s history as its own, it is important to note that it is not the legal successor of the company founded in 1926. On April 1, 1955 Lufthansa launched scheduled service within Germany using the Convair 340. International operations started on May 15, 1955, with flights to points in Europe, followed by services to New York City from June 8 of that year using Lockheed Super Constellations aircraft, and on South Atlantic routes from August 1956.

Interesting what is said and what isn’t. Lufthansa traces its history back to 1926, under the Deutsche Luft Hansa company. DHL served as Germany’s national airline until 1945 – through the unmentioned Nazi era. Lufthansa was formed or “relaunched” in 1954. Lufthansa “claims DHL’s history as its own” but – note this! – it is not the “legal successor” of DHL. It is and isn’t. Claims history but not legally. To avoid the difficult questions, as to what it was involved in during the Nazi era?
Just looked it up. Again Wikipedia:

1930s

A German 1936 stamp commemorating the 10th anniversary of Deutsche Lufthansa.

Even though the early years of the decade saw a difficult financial situation due to the Great Depression, Deutsche Luft Hansa further expanded its international route network in South America, and launched scheduled flights from Germany to the Middle East. Politically, the company leaders were linked to the rising Nazi Party; an aircraft was made available to Adolf Hitler for his campaign for the 1932 presidential election free of any charge. Erhard Milch, who had served as head of the airline since 1926, became a high-ranking official at the Aviation Ministry when Hitler came to power in 1933.

Wow – notice the Swastika on the plane’s tail. The company’s leaders, early Hitler supporters. Campaign contribution for Hitler – free plane. Now I wonder if the plane carrying Hitler filmed in the opening minutes of “The Triumph of the Will” was provided by DHL. Seems obvious.

Stamps are interesting and informative.

The world is different. Yes. History has to leave the stage. Sure. Shall I inform the Lufthansa personnel of their claim – not legally binding! – history?

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His new book, Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures, is forthcoming.

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26 Responses

  1. German Lefty
    August 4, 2012, 4:37 pm

    I know also that when times get tough almost everyone hunkers down and takes care of themselves. Human nature – the true believers, career climbers, bystanders, resisters.
    That’s true. Whenever my grandparents talk about their childhood in the Nazi era, they tell me how hard these times were for them and the family. Jews are only mentioned very rarely. Just today, my parents and I cobbled a part of our courtyard. My granny sat on a bench and watched us. She told us that the courtyard was first cobbled in 1938, shortly before her confirmation. She said that construction material was so scarce that they couldn’t even buy gravel for the gravel bed. That’s why they took gravel out of the nearby brook. On a different occasion, my granny told that her father lost a leg in WW2 and had a wooden leg from then on. Because of this disability, he couldn’t do the farm work anymore and the family got money problems. The other day, my granny said that when her brother-in-law returned home from WW2, he found his parents’ house in ruins and his parents’ corpses buried under the rubble mountain. My other granny said similar things. She lost her two brothers in WW2. From childhood on, she had to assist her parents in their farm work, so that her family had enough money to buy food. My perception is that during WW2 people had enough own problems and therefore didn’t spend much time on worrying about what happens to others. They were trapped in their own little world full of everyday problems, so that they didn’t see the bigger picture.

    The world is different. Yes. History has to leave the stage. Sure.
    Right!

    Shall I inform the Lufthansa personnel of their claim – not legally binding! – history?
    I really hope that this is not a serious question. Leave the personnel alone. It’s not their f*cking fault.

    By the way, you made a typo in your article.
    DLH = Deutsche Lufthansa
    DHL = division of the German logistics company Deutsche Post providing international express mail services

    • Citizen
      August 5, 2012, 11:50 am

      @ German Lefty
      Every human family has their own story of times of much stress; maybe the question is, how many get the chance to turn this into a powerful nuclear-armed state, after WW2, after Nuremberg Trials, and get the immunity and big cash subsidy and diplomatic cover of the only superpower, along with the supplement furnished by the main power in the EU, Germany? Is this a net good thing for the world? Are the antics of the DLH similar to the antics of the Jewish Agency? Of Zionist track record?

    • Klaus Bloemker
      August 5, 2012, 12:07 pm

      @ Lefty
      – “my grandparents talk about their childhood in the Nazi era … hard times …
      Jews are only mentioned very rarely.”

      Part of the reason why Jews are rarely mentioned is, there weren’t that many.
      There had never been that many in Germany. Here are the statistics from the Statistisches Reichsamt Berlin (now Statistisches Bundesamt in Wiesbaden):

      year of census – Jews by religion /percentage of population

      1871 – 512,000/1,3%
      1880 – 562,000/1,2%
      1885 – 563,000/1,2 %
      1890 – 568,000/1,1%
      1900 – 587,000/1,0%
      1905 – 608,000/1,0%
      1910 – 615,000/1,0%
      1925 – 564,000/0.9%
      1933 – 503,000/0.8% (including Saarland)
      1939 – 222,000/0.3% (German territory of 1937)

      In retrospect most people vastly overestimate the number. There has never been close to a million. And they lived concentrated, the majority in Berlin.

      • Klaus Bloemker
        August 5, 2012, 12:26 pm

        I forgot to add today’s number of Jews is estimated:
        2009 – 200,000/0.2%.
        (Half of them belong to a Synagogue community.)

      • AllenBee
        August 5, 2012, 3:51 pm

        A Seventh Day Adventist website maintains a careful count of various faith communities, for purposes of knowing who remains “unchurched.”

        The most interesting thing their statistics revealed is that had Jewish people worldwide maintained the same growth rate post-WWII, relative to total population growth, as almost all other faith groups in the world, there should be over 40 million Jews in the world today. There are about 16 million Jews in ~2011, up from 12 million in 1953.

      • German Lefty
        August 5, 2012, 1:53 pm

        @ Klaus:

        Part of the reason why Jews are rarely mentioned is, there weren’t that many.
        Right. However, there was a Jewish family in our village. My granny told me that she was friends with the Jewish girl from that family. They played together very often. One day, the family was suddenly gone. They fled and survived. After WW2, they moved to West Germany. Later, my granny’s childhood friend sent “Westpakete” (West parcels) to my granny in East Germany, filled with things like coffee and stuff for the grandchildren.
        What are “Westpakete”? http://blogs.transparent.com/german/westpakete/

        Also, there was a concentration camp near where I live.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mittelbau-Dora
        http://www.dora.de/index.php?id=389&L=1
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3EyslZOwAg

        Therefore, I found it a little surprising that my grandparents mentioned Jews so rarely.

        In retrospect most people vastly overestimate the number.
        Yeah, that’s clearly because they are mentioned so often. I read somewhere that due to all the media attention that gay rights get in the USA, a lot of people there overestimate the number of gay people.

      • Klaus Bloemker
        August 5, 2012, 10:42 pm

        “Also, there was a concentration camp near where I live.”
        ——————————-
        The concentration camp you refer to, Buchenwald, was not specifically for Jews. It was for criminals, ‘enemies of the state’ that the Gestapo sent there, ‘anti-social elemets’ (vagrants, Gypsies), during the war opponents of the German occupation from two dozen countries etc. – For the Germans at the time a concentration camp meant primarily: ‘Shut your mouth criticising the Nazis or you will end up in a concentration camp.’

        As to overestimating numbers. Most people overestimate the number of blacks in America. The percentage is: year 2010 – 12.6%

  2. MHughes976
    August 4, 2012, 5:50 pm

    Is it your view that the German language should not be used internationally?

  3. William Burns
    August 4, 2012, 8:16 pm

    If you want to add a further layer to this, Milch, who became field-marshal and high Luftwaffe commander during the war, was half-Jewish.

    • Mooser
      August 5, 2012, 10:09 am

      “If you want to add a further layer to this, Milch, who became field-marshal and high Luftwaffe commander during the war, was half-Jewish.”

      Notice this: People always tell you somebody is “half-Jewish”. But they never tell you which half!! And Mr. Burns goes all gang agly at that point, too. Timorous little beastie, ain’t he?

      • William Burns
        August 5, 2012, 3:48 pm

        Father’s side, if you must know. He took the fairly common dodge of suggesting that his mother had been unfaithful with an Aryan.

      • Klaus Bloemker
        August 5, 2012, 10:01 pm

        Mooser,
        – “People always tell you somebody is “half-Jewish”. But they never tell you which half!!”- That’s right, the Nazis didn’t tell you, they didn’t adhere to halachic law.

        Here is the definition and number of “half-Jews” as classified in 1939:
        “Non-Jews by religion (for instance a convert to Protestantism), having two Jewish grandparents”: 52,005.

        Is there anything wrong with this definition beside the 50% chance that you will end up … you know where?

    • Citizen
      August 5, 2012, 11:54 am

      Yes, William Burns, Milch was a mischling, and Hitler protected him. He also protected the full Jew who serviced his mother as a local doctor. And the same re the Jew who was the officer in charge of his unit at the higher level, the one who award him an iron cross, a rare award for an enlisted man in WW1.

      • Citizen
        August 5, 2012, 2:48 pm

        But, all in all, anybody with Jewish blood had a better chance of surviving in Hitler’s Germany if he was married to an Aryan woman. Better chance than WW 1 Jewish German war vets, it seems: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Judaic&month=1202&week=c&msg=AdxP2U5Fku4uQjzHa4swfw

      • OlegR
        August 5, 2012, 3:38 pm

        “In his letter Hess said: ‘For us, it is a kind of spiritual death to now be branded as Jews and exposed to general contempt.’
        Hess ended up as a slave labourer, building barracks. This time he escaped extermination because of his ‘privileged miscegenated marriage’ to Margarete Hess, a Protestant.
        His sister Berta was gassed at Auschwitz, wrongly believing that the protection afforded to her brother extended to her.”

        Lovely story…

      • Citizen
        August 6, 2012, 12:59 pm

        @ mig
        Your link shows 12,000 German Jewish soldiers died in WW1. In total, about 1,808,000 German soldiers died in that war. That’s .0066371 % of the total, if my math is right–I’m bad at math.

        Jews constituted up to 1% of the population of Germany during the Weimar Republic.

  4. AllenBee
    August 4, 2012, 9:05 pm

    yawn

  5. libra
    August 5, 2012, 6:03 am

    ME: The Nazi-past thing, I continue to dwell in it. I wouldn’t say it’s healthy. Better to forget?

    Surely a good question to raise with your Peace Studies students in Innsbruck. Especially in the context of your concerns with the “Das Auto” advert? Hopefully you’ll report back to us with their reactions.

    • Mooser
      August 5, 2012, 10:13 am

      Well, I don’t know, seems to me there are other options besides ‘dwelling’ and/or ‘forgetting’. But I’m no context-buster, not me.

      I know one thing; at one time I would have said that Ellis and Weiss deserve each other. But I know now that isn’t true.

      • Klaus Bloemker
        August 5, 2012, 4:17 pm

        “other options besides ‘dwelling’ and/or ‘forgetting’.”
        ——————————————————————————
        Mooser, your logic is deficient:
        – you can either “dwell” in an issue
        – or you “forget” it
        But you can’t simultaniously “dwell” AND “forget” it.

        What’s the third option? I tell you: You deny the existance of that issue.
        Then there is no point in “dwelling” in or “forgetting” something nonexistant.

      • Klaus Bloemker
        August 5, 2012, 6:51 pm

        Okay, there are a couple of options to the issue of the”Nazi-past thing” beside dwelling in it and forgetting:
        – you deny the issue altogether as historically non-existant or irrelevant.
        – you deny it as a current issue and refer it to the historians.

        I mean, the second option is the best compared to dwelling and forgetting.
        Maybe some day, someone like the Austrian Wittgenstein will come along and explain the logic of the ‘Nazi-past thing’ without metaphysics and ethics:
        “Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist” (The world is everything that is the case.)

  6. DICKERSON3870
    August 5, 2012, 1:55 pm

    RE: “The Nazi-past thing, I continue to dwell in it. I wouldn’t say it’s healthy. Better to forget?” ~ Marc Ellis

    MY COMMENT: Forget? Absolutely not!
    Heal? To the extent possible.

    A HAUNTING DOCUMENTARY: Prisoner of Paradise, 2002, NR, 90 minutes
    Malcolm Clarke (You Don’t Have to Die) and Stuart Sender directed this documentary feature about one of the leading theatrical figures in 1930s Berlin, Kurt Gerron. A popular actor, director and cabaret performer, Gerron, a German Jew, was later forced to write and direct a Nazi propaganda film while being held prisoner in a concentration camp.
    Netflix Format: DVD and streaming
    • Netflix DVD – http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Prisoner_of_Paradise/60027146
    • Netflix streaming – http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Prisoner_of_Paradise/60027146
    • Internet Movie Database – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0348862/
    • Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner_of_Paradise

  7. ColinWright
    August 5, 2012, 3:13 pm

    “… Now I wonder if the plane carrying Hitler filmed in the opening minutes of “The Triumph of the Will” was provided by DHL. Seems obvious…”

    I would assume it was. The Luftwaffe was still a clandestine organization at the time. In fact, if I recall aright, Milch was a big wheel in DHL at the time and made a point of furnishing Hitler with planes.

  8. W.Jones
    August 5, 2012, 11:15 pm

    Prof. Ellis,
    Wait, one more, one of my favorites, Ivan Illich, with a crazy patchwork background.
    Yes, you would like him considering he was a leftwing theologian. And you are right that’s quite a patchwork background: Spanish, French, German, Texas, Italian, Sephardic Jewish, Croatian, and Catholic! And it’s crazy in the sense of wild, appearing to have alot of random things.

    You wrote:“Illich was born… to a Sephardic Jewish mother—Ellen née Regenstreif-Ortlieb. His maternal grandmother was from Texas. Illich had… Spanish… and German as native languages.
    Forgive my ignorance, but I thought Sephardic generally referred to a Middle Eastern, Spanish or mediterranean background, as reflected in his Spanish-language background. But I notice her maiden name was “Regenstreif-Ortlieb”, which sounds Germanic to me and in fact one of his native languages was German. Is there an explanation about this, or is the Germanic last name and native language also random like other “crazy patchwork” aspects of his background?

    Wow: “He later learned Croatian, the language of his grandfathers, then Ancient Greek and Latin, in addition to Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, English, and other languages
    Now one of my questions when hearing that a person “knows” many languages is how well they know the languages. For example, is it the same as taking a 1st level class in Italian? I am curious, as sometimes I do hear that so and so knows 7 languages or something.
    But in any case, even having a basic knowledge of so many languages is impressive.

    He studied histology and crystallography at the University of Florence (Italy) as well as theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in the Vatican (from 1942 to 1946), and medieval history in Salzburg.
    Histology and Crystallography? They do not ring a bell for me!

    From a google search:
    Histology (compound of the Greek words: ἱστός “tissue”, and -λογία -logia) is the study of the microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues of plants and animals.

    Crystallography is the science of the arrangement of atoms in solids.

  9. Winslow
    August 10, 2012, 1:08 pm

    Re Illich: There is a Wikipedia page about his family’s villa in Vienna (!):

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Regenstreif

    And here:
    http://backpalm.blogspot.com/2010/12/illich-house-in-vienna.html

    I understand it contained its own bowling alley.

    It’s not clear to me, and I have looked into it a bit, that Illich’s maternal grandmother actually was from Texas. There is one obit that states this, but this page, about the family tree, seems to indicate otherwise:

    http://www.nachum.co.il/reinemann/tree/gp145.html

    I am very curious to know more about the bio of Illich you mention, discussing his knowledge of Yiddish. Is this the book written by a Austrian professor, whose names escapes me just now – Martina something? I have no doubt Illich could speak Yiddish, or any of the other languages ascribed to him. He did not believe in the idea of a mother tongue; indeed, he unearthed the history of that notion and how it has worked to mess with people’s lives and culture and autonomy.

    Anyway, glad to see someone else interested in Illich and taking him seriously.

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