Ten years ago, a number of packing cases were discovered in an attic in Stockholm. They contained letters, diaries, old exercise books, newspaper cuttings and a cigar box with black and white photographs inside. Memories from a life that lasted 70 years. Right at the bottom of one of the boxes lay a plastic bag containing 32 postcards in old German handwriting, sent from Hamburg in Germany during World War II.
These postcards tell the story of a group of people who are doomed, and the city in which they lived. But most of all this is a story of love and belief in the future. Now that we know what happened, it is easy to condemn the German-Jewish epoch as a failure, and to refer to its horrific conclusion. But making judgements on history with hindsight is not necessarily the best approach if we want to understand a particular epoch and what really happened.
The history of Germany’s assimilated Jews is more than the story of a tragedy. For a long time it was also the story of an incomparable success. The closest comparison is perhaps with the Jews in North America today. Germany had its first German-Jewish Foreign Minister, Dr Walter Rathenau, as early as the beginning of the 1920s. It was fifty years before the USA had its first German-Jewish Secretary of State, Dr Henry Kissinger.
Rarely has there been such a fruitful and fatal fusion between two cultures as that between the German and Jewish cultures. Today we are concerned with other minorities, but the problems are identical throughout Europe. The great challenge of our era is learning to deal with issues regarding integration and assimilation while maintaining our individuality.
On 32postkarten.com you will be able to read 32 authentic postcards sent from Hamburg to Sweden during 1940 and 1941. The first of these was published on March 29th 2010, seventy years to the day since it was written. The following 31 postcards will be published in ‘simulated real time’ – on the date they were written, but 70 years later.