All Germans are united by a diffuse feeling of guilt. It would be nice if you could start by telling us who you are and what you do. I am an author and a journalist, but I also work in the field of communication and consult companies about brand magazines. How would you generally characterize the relationship between literature and society? Literature should be political and should address topics that have a societal relevance. The hysteria spread over the past days – that right wing radicalism in Israel was impossible to stop and left wing demonstrators would be attacked physically – was groundless. An opinion-mongering meant to cast a shadow on the positive image of Israel in Europe – just like Amira Hass’ and Gideon Levy’s critical articles were used to prove that even in Israel, the occupation was condemned. Not in order to show a pluralistic Israel, but to instrumentalize “the Jew” for your own ideology. “Winternähe” is a book with many different layers. It’s about different things. The first part – the Berlin part – mainly discusses antisemitism in Germany and Europe
and how my protagonist Lola, a jewish woman, experiences this antisemitism. The question that Lola asks herself again and again is, “what does it mean to be Jewish?” It seems that a lot of people seem to have an opinion about what she is or is not. How about you? Do you see yourself as Jewish, and what does that mean for you? Lola and I, we have something in common: Lola is Jewish through her father, not her mother. Her mother is non-Jewish, my mother as well. It’s my father who’s Jewish. This leads immediately to a wonderful dilemma: you are halakhically non-Jewish yet you are included by the Jewish reform community. You can become an Israeli citizen with a Jewish father, and make alija without any problems. Then you will be recognized as a Jew constitutionally, but not in a religious way. I think that everybody should be a Jew who wants to be a Jew and I see myself as post-halakhic. What are typical reactions that you experience when you take a stand against antisemitism? The worst is when you point out an instance of antisemitism and the reaction is: “It was only ironic” or “I didn’t mean it” or “Don’t be like that” or” Mmh, wouldn’t it be different, if…” It is relativized, ironized, and I think that is terrible. This is a lot about not being antisemitic, and nobody wants to be an antisemite. Everybody here thinks that antisemitism is when you say “Juden ins Gas.” But antisemitism begins before somebody wishes for a “final solution”. To bear guilt, to bear responsibility, and to bear the past – all of which is addressed again and again in “Winternähe” – but also to bear it within yourself. To take responsibility for it, that something uncomfortable just happened or you did something really uncomfortable – that would help a lot. It would contribute to fewer experiences of antisemitism. Because those who have it in themselves would realize: “Oh, oops.” People have prejudices. And only if I endure this, and if I acknowledge to myself that “yes, I am prejudiced,” in whichever way, can I work on myself, and only then I can do something against those prejudices. Especially in school, I would wish for – and i went to a “normal” german school – I would wish for more oral history in history lessons. That means looking into your own biography. Not as some kind of inherited guilt, but to understand that you are part of history, and your own family is party of a history. So that you no longer have the impression that the Holocaust is the history “of those Jews.” “Every person we speak to is full of their own history. A history that we can never completely access, and yet despite this missing access, we have to be aware of that history, without knowing it.” That is important, when we are with other people. Thanks a lot!