Kerry Wallach – ‘Coming Out’ as Jewish in Weimar Germany

Event Date: 23 January 2020
German Historical Institute
17 Bloomsbury Square,
London WC1A 2NJ

European Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series 2019-20

Acting Jewish: Between Identity and Attire

A lecture series organised by the Leo Baeck Institute London in cooperation with the German Historical Institute London.

The proposed lecture series investigates the complex nature of what it means to act or appear Jewish and for whom this appearance is important. Examples are drawn from a wide range of performative settings: on stage, on screen, in daily life. Under which conditions do certain elements of fashion and attire appear as “Jewish”? How do Jews consciously showcase or hide their identity by way of ‘acting’ and dressing in certain ways? And how were these elements conceptualised in the wider discourse: as ‘natural’- self-expressions of an ethnical identity, as attire communicating a social role, or ‘prejudiced’ – as a ’costume’ hiding the wearer’s true identity?

Lecture 2:

Professor Kerry Wallach (Gettysburg College, USA) – ‘Coming Out’ as Jewish in Weimar Germany

In the 1920s and early 1930s – as today – Jews in Germany were concerned about growing anti-Semitism, and many took precautions to conceal their Jewishness by dressing and behaving in certain ‘assimilated’ ways. Yet there were still occasions when it was beneficial to be openly Jewish. This lecture explores the tensions that came with being visible as a Jew – an identity play that often involved appearing simultaneously non-Jewish and Jewish. Drawing on a wide range of images and films, this presentation explores controversial aspects of German Jewish visibility and invisibility, as well as the complex reasons why Jews chose to appear distinctly ‘Jewish’.

Kerry Wallach is Associate Professor and Chair of German Studies and an Affiliate of the Judaic Studies Program at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Passing Illusions: Jewish Visibility in Weimar Germany (2017) and a number of articles on German-Jewish literature, history, film, and visual and consumer culture. She serves as co-editor for the German Jewish Cultures book series published by Indiana University Press and sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute London.

Welcome by Professor Christina von Hodenberg (Director, GHIL):

Introduction by Dr Daniel Wildmann (Director, LBI):

Accompanying images:

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