Jewish Passing and Gendered Visibility in Weimar Germany

This is an Archive of a Past Event

A lecture by Kerry Wallach (Gettysburg College).

The Weimar Republic (1919-1933) saw the emergence of a tension between a deep-seated fear of antisemitic attacks on the one hand, and a newly discovered sense of Jewish identity and pride on the other. Responses to this tension took different forms, and some acculturated Jews opted to pass for non-Jews or conceal Jewishness on some level. Whereas the scholarship typically foregrounds this impulse, I argue that there was in fact a pronounced desire for visibility and recognizability among Jews in Weimar Germany, and that gender played a central role in decisions about displaying Jewishness. Jakob Loewenberg’s drama Der gelbe Fleck provides a potent example of a modern German-Jewish passing narrative, which, understood within the broader discourse of Jewish visibility, connects the German-Jewish experience to other widely known histories of concealing, including racial passing and sexual passing.

Kerry Wallach is Assistant Professor of German Studies at Gettysburg College. Her research interests include German-Jewish literature and history, gender studies, media and film studies, and visual and consumer culture. Her work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Leo Baeck Institutes in New York, London, and Jerusalem; the German Historical Institute in Washington DC; and the DAAD/German Academic Exchange Service, and her dissertation was awarded the Women in German Dissertation Prize in 2012. Recent publications include articles on Weimar film, women journalists, beauty queens, fashion, department stores, and Jews in popular culture. She is currently completing a book manuscript on Jewish visibility in Weimar Germany.