Negotiating Identities: German-Jewish Refugees in the United States after 1933

December 18, 2014, 8.15 a.m.
An der Universität 5
Room U5/02.22

Prof. Dr. Cornelia Wilhelm (Emory, Atlanta/LMU)

After the Nazi seizure of power a large group of German-Jewish refugees – uniquely shaped by a “German” bourgeois middle class identity, including a distinct religious identity – sought refuge in the United States. Their religious as well as cultural patterns differed from American Jewry and Americans at large and they were still connected to the culture of the larger German-speaking community, which was increasingly affected by Nazi propaganda. The presentation will examine the refugees’ sometimes difficult negotiations of “Germanness”, “Jewishness” and “Americanness” on different levels such as language use, organizational life, settlement patterns, cooking, public discourse, and government support. It will also highlight the group’s changing relationship with other Germans in the United States, particularly in New York City, where the presence of a Nazi movement spurred not only conflict, but also acculturation.