The historian Julius H. Schoeps fills eighty

DGerman-Jewish relations are in fact a misleading term for the relations between Jewish and non-Jewish Germans. Rarely is this as clear as in the biography of Hans-Joachim Schoeps, who, a conservative Prussian Jew, for a time believed he could convince the Nazis that he was German. In 1938 he fled to Sweden. His son Julius Hans was born there in 1942, for whom German-German-Jewish relations became a life theme.

Julius H. Schoeps did not necessarily see in this relationship the catastrophe that was to come in the end, and which cost the lives of many of his relatives. In several monographs, he explored the room for maneuver left by the Weimar Republic for peaceful coexistence between German and non-German Jews, with a sense of nuance, but without the urge for harmonization. Work and biography are closely linked, for the Germany to which Schoeps returned with his father two years after the end of the war was a country where nothing was obvious to Jewish returnees. His academic work, which is reflected in countless books and editions, can be understood as an attempt to give Judaism a permanent presence in Germany. The first step was the founding of the Ludwig Steinheim Institute for German-Jewish History at the University of Education Ruhr, his first scientific station. It was the beginning of a long founding history that continued at the University of Potsdam, where he founded the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies after reunification. In 2009, he wrote a long family biography about the Mendelssohn family, with whom he is related through his mother, and whose intellectual heritage he attaches to.

One could mention many other foundations and books, about Prussia or about Zionism, which he has studied for many decades. But it should already be clear that Julius Schoeps is a man fighting for his cause. In the politically instrumentalized debates on Jewish life in Germany, he brings out an independent, reflective voice. As interim chairman of the Jewish community in Berlin, he took a clear position in the power struggle between long-standing residents and immigrants from the former Soviet Union. He does not shy away from hot topics, as his early critique of the Jewish community’s excessive focus on Israel and the Holocaust memorial show. In a time where Judaism is supposed to be included in a postcolonial memory history, even to the point where it embraces the aggressor, his differentiated judgment remains in demand. Julius Hans Schoeps turns eighty today.

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