The aim of this activity is to examine with the students the right and obligation of Jews to try to influence Jews who have decided to take themselves out of the collective.

  • Introduce the class to the story of Victor Klemperer.
  • Ask the students what message they would have liked to give Klemperer during the Nazi years, if they had been able to send one to him. Ask them to write a brief note.
  • Read out some of the students’ responses and discuss them. If there are those who have taken the line that Klemperer should understand that he is a Jew and accept himself as such, ask them what gives them the right to make that judgment for another individual.
  • Would the students have written exactly the same message if Klemperer's story were the same - but with the single exception that he had never converted and he was therefore technically Jewish? Does the formal denial of identity through an act of conversion have any effect on our right to talk to an individual such as Klemperer, suggesting the way in which he should act? Should we accept the person's own subjective insistence that they do not want to be seen as Jewish?
  • Now explain the fact that the diaries' publication made Klemperer into an important cultural figure in Germany, and that some critics claimed him as an important Jewish writer. Ask the class how they feel about this definition.
  • Finally show the class the critique that appeared in the Frankfurter Rundshau, and ask them for their reactions to that piece.




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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0