The Introduction lays out how experiences of love informed and transformed German Jews' sense of self across a turbulent hundred-year epoch. Explaining the terminal dates of 1871 and 1979, this introduction discusses the social transformation and political upheaval of the era, including Germany's experience of urbanization and its multiple, often violent, regime changes. These shifts affected many Jewish citizens sharply; for this reason a loving private sphere became an especially important refuge for them. But the veneration of romantic love in Jewish communities was also the product of a broader love myth in German culture: that the most authentic Germany existed in the loving private realm. The Introduction moves on to discuss the wide range of first-person accounts and diverse normative sources used in the study. These private and public sources illustrate how emotional scripts were formulated and, in turn, reproduced and reworked by Jewish women and men.
This chapter explores how love was experienced and communicated across the life course, focusing especially on the experiences of courtship, engagement, and marriage. The chapter pays particular attention to the shifting gender dynamics in Jewish relationships across the Imperial era. Whereas middle-class Jewish men might seek compensation in their private lives for the lack of integration they experienced in the public arena, the situation was often different for similarly situated women. Growing numbers of Jewish women made the most of their new educational opportunities while single but were usually expected to prioritize their roles as wives and mothers once married. As a result, the triumph of the love marriage had a different valence for men and women. Although it might be a particularly powerful sign of their greater freedom for many men, it was less likely to change the life trajectories of women.
Chapter 2 studies how Jewish partnerships were transformed across an era that began with revolutionary ferment and ended with the collapse of democracy. The interwar period saw the enfranchisement of women and the rise of socialism, but it was also marked by violent ideological strife and economic turbulence. During this era of contrasts, a renaissance of Jewish life occurred, which was partly nourished by the migration of Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe. The chapter asks whether, because of the greater social pluralism evident in Germany and Austria, Jewish and mixed couples could carve out their own "societies of two." Personal accounts suggest that young couples could chart out their own novel pathways, but relatively unchanging norms for marriage and motherhood meant that many relationships ended up looking rather conventional.
This chapter examines how Jewish and mixed couples were affected by the National Socialist transformation of German society. One of the major arguments is that a striking number of these loving partnerships endured, despite the persecution these couples suffered. Indeed, these relationships were often cherished as emotional refuges, perhaps more than ever, even though unsettling gender role reversals often took place in them. In this regard, many couples were adapting preexisting ideals of loving marriages and family life. Once individuals and couples were sent to ghettos and death camps, it became harder to hold on to memories and values from happier times. Many couples still tried, although growing numbers were influenced by Zionism and imagined their loving relationships not only providing compensation for suffering but also helping them and fellow Jews to achieve a new form of collective self-love.
This chapter addresses the predicament of Jews living in West Germany after the Shoah. Many were displaced persons. The chapter focuses on these survivors, for whom romantic love was no longer a redemptive force in German life. For them, love between partners would instead be both cause and effect of a new loving Jewish collective that would carve out a shared life primarily in the United States and what would become Israel. The chapter moves on to discuss those Jewish families who stayed in or moved to West Germany. It compares Eastern European Jewish and German Jewish families' understandings and experiences of love, focusing particularly on the struggles of the next generation. Sons and daughters often felt pulled in different directions between mistrustful parents and German contemporaries, among whom they would most likely find their future partners. For these young Jews, satisfying romantic scripts often proved out of reach.
The conclusion takes an experimental approach. It begins with two idiosyncratic personal accounts that invite reflection on how this study has used individual life histories to construct a composite image of Jewish love relationships. It reflects on the reciprocal relationship between emotions and the stories individuals construct around them. The chapter concludes by considering how open the field of German Jewish history now appears and how this book can contribute to ongoing discussions.