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A Slap in the Face
By David Mikics for Tablet Magazine
Beate and Serge Klarsfeld’s moving memoirs trace the evolution of a new idea: that Germans were responsible for the Nazi past. Can today’s Europe learn from their moral courage?
Beate Klarsfeld had been saying for weeks that she would slap the chancellor. Twenty-five years earlier Kurt Georg Kiesinger had been Hitler’s assistant director of foreign propaganda in France. Now he was Germany’s head of state, and this ought to be a scandal, Klarsfeld thought. On Nov. 7, 1968, the 29-year-old Klarsfeld rushed across the stage during a meeting of Kiesinger’s Christian Democratic party and struck the surprised chancellor across the face. “Ohrfeige für den Kanzler!” (“A slap for the chancellor!”) the newspapers excitedly proclaimed.
Interview: Jonathan Weisman
with Michael Dobkowski for Jewish Book Council
In (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, Jonathan Weisman explores the disconnect between his own sense of Jewish identity and the expectations of his detractors and supporters. He delves into the rise of the alt-right, their roots in older anti-Semitic organizations, the odd ancientness of their grievances―cloaked as they are in contemporary, techy hipsterism―and their aims―to spread hate in a palatable way through a political structure that has so suddenly become tolerant of their views.
Michael Dobkowski: In many ways your book is about Jewish identity and experience in the Trump era. How has the American Jewish experience changed―generally, and for you, personally?
Jonathan Weisman: I grew up in a very Reform household. Although I was raised to identify as Jewish, I—like many Jews of my generation—drifted away, in part because Jews had become entirely comfortable in a pluralistic, liberal democracy that seemed to be progressing inexorably toward tolerance and acceptance.
Notes from a Formerly Terrible Jew
Jewish Book Council; Mark Sarvas is the author of Memento Park: A Novel. He is blogging here as part of Jewish Book Council's Visiting Scribe series.
"I’m a terrible Jew," I used to say—by which I meant that I was wholly ignorant of tradition, taking a sort of perverse pleasure in the shock value of the comment. I was raised by postwar, secular European parents who decided they’d had enough of religion. I didn’t know Sukkot from Shavuot, and we grew up with Christmas trees and Easter eggs. Researching this essay, I learned that into her teens, my younger sister thought one of our parents was Catholic and one was Jewish. I remember being asked to sign the ketubah at her wedding (her husband was observant), and looking blankly at the rabbi when he asked me my Jewish name. He ended up coaching me, with some reproach, through a hastily imitated Hebrew “Moishe.”
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