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Translated and annotated by Peter C. Appelbaum
Introduction by Sander L. Gilman
Afterword by Paul Reitter
Edited by Benton Arnovitz
ISBN 978-1-78920-986-0 $149.00/£110.00 / Hb / Published (March 2021)
ISBN 978-1-78920-992-1 $29.95/£23.95 / Pb / Published (March 2021)
eISBN 978-1-78920-987-7 eBook
“This first English translation of [what became an underground classic in the 1930s] represents a valuable contribution to the body of scholarship dealing with the phenomenon of internalized antisemitism. Applebaum’s [first-class] translation preserves Lessing’s own angst-ridden writing style…Rather fittingly, Sander Gilman provides an excellent introduction that contextualizes both Lessing’s work and the era in which he felt compelled to write it.” • Bulletin of the German Historical Institute London
“This first translation into English and this new edition are to be warmly welcomed. The work of Theodor Lessing, through a very diligent translation and a very complete note-taking system, thus becomes accessible to the English-speaking public. Everything has been done to both leave the German texture of the text and allow today's English-speaking reader to read this difficult text.” • Tsafon: Journal of Northern Jewish Studies
“The ‘self-hating Jews’ portraited by Lessing used to be highly praised icons of German culture. Lessing’s rendition sheds light on the transition from the German Empire to the Weimar Republic and what that meant for the mentality and the rising or declining success of German-Jewish writers. For the first time Lessing’s text is accessible to readers who have trouble dealing with the German language. The truthful translation by Peter Appelbaum, including Lessing’s own footnotes, manages to make this book better readable than the German original. Two essays by Sander Gilman and Paul Reitter provide context and the wisdom of hindsight.” • Frank Mecklenburg, Leo Baeck Institute
“Written but three years before Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany, Theodor Lessing’s Jewish Self-Hate is a work of considerable importance. It reminds one that Gershom Scholem’s famous essay on German-Jewish dialogue was actually a monologue: Jews talking to fellow Jews about how German they are. Exploring the lives, careers and writings of six Jews who internalized the venom with which Jews and Judaism were treated in 19th- and 20th-century Germany, it is a poignant reminder of the achievement of Zionism and of American Jews, who can feel pride in themselves as Jews and what their tradition and history has to offer. The book is a veritable intellectual feast but also a sober reminder of how much antisemitism, even before Hitler’s Germany, could destroy the soul well before it destroyed the body. Lessing concludes his exploration with an admonition: ‘So let us determine to be what we are!’” • Michael Berenbaum, American Jewish University
A seminal text in Jewish thought accessible to English readers for the first time.
The diagnosis of Jewish self-hatred has become almost commonplace in contemporary cultural and political debates, but the concept’s origins are not widely appreciated. In its modern form, it received its earliest and fullest expression in Theodor Lessing’s 1930 book Der jüdische Selbsthaß.
Written on the eve of Hitler’s ascent to power, Lessing’s hotly contested work has been variously read as a defense of the Weimar Republic, a platform for anti-Weimar sentiments, an attack on psychoanalysis, an inspirational personal guide, and a Zionist broadside.
“The truthful translation by Peter Appelbaum, including Lessing’s own footnotes, manages to make this book more readable than the German original. Two essays by Sander Gilman and Paul Reitter provide context and the wisdom of hindsight.”—Frank Mecklenburg, Leo Baeck Institute
From the forward by Sander Gilman:
Theodor Lessing’s (1872–1933) Jewish Self-Hatred (1930) is the classic study of the pitfalls (rather than the complexities) of acculturation. Growing out of his own experience as a middle-class, urban, marginally religious Jew in Imperial and then Weimar Germany, he used this study to reject the social integration of the Jews into Germany society, which had been his own experience, by tracking its most radical cases…. Lessing’s case studies reflect the idea that assimilation (the radical end of acculturation) is by definition a doomed project, at least for Jews (no matter how defined) in the age of political antisemitism.
Theodor Lessing was a German-Jewish philosopher. He taught at Hanover Technical College until right-wing student protests forced him to leave in 1926, after which he worked as an independent scholar and journalist. He was assassinated in 1933 by two National Socialists.
Peter Appelbaum is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology at Pennsylvania State University. His publications include Loyalty Betrayed: Jewish Chaplains in the German Army During the First World War (2014), Loyal Sons: Jews in the German Army during the First World War (2014), and, as translator and editor, Hell on Earth (2017) and Carnage and Care on the Eastern Front: The War Diaries of Bernhard Bardach (2018). He is the recipient of the TLS-Risa Domb/Porjes Prize for Hebrew-English Translation for 2019.
Subject: Jewish Studies
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