Friday, August 10, 2007

Edith Stein's Forward to Life in a Jewish Family

Edith Stein wrote the following in September 1933. On 9th August 1942 Edith Stein was murdered at Aushwitz.

'Recent months have catapulted the German Jews out of the peaceful existence they have come to take for granted. They have been forced to reflect upon themselves, upon their being and their destiny. But today's events have also impelled many others, hitherto non-partisan, to take up the Jewish question. Catholic youth groups, for instance, have bean dealing with it in all seriousness and with a deep sense of responsibility. Repeatedly in these past months, I have had to recall a discussion I had several years ago with a priest belonging to a religious order. In that discussion I was urged to write down what I, child of a Jewish family, had learned about the Jewish people since such knowledge is so rarely found in outsiders. A variety of other duties prevented me from taking up this suggestion in earnest at that time. Last March, when our national revolution opened the battle on Judaism in Germany, I was again reminded of it. In one of these conversations by which one seeks to arrive at an undestanding of a sudden catastrophe that has befallen one, a Jewish friend of mine expressed her anguish: "If only I knew how Hitler came by his terrible hatred of the Jews."
She had her answer in the programmed writings and speeches of the new dictators. From these sources, as though from a concave mirror, a horrendous caricature looked out at us. It may be that it was sketched in honest conveiction. Possibly, the specific traits may have been copied from living models. But does having "Jewish blood" cause an inevitable consequence in the Jewish people? Is Judiaism represented only by, or even, only genuinely by powerful capitalists, insolent literati, or those restless heads who have led the revolutionary movements of the past decades? Persons whose reply to that question will be in the negative can be found in every stratum of the German nation. These persons, having associated with Jewish families as employees, neighbours or fellow students, have found in them such goodness of heart, understanding, warm empathy and so consistently helpful an attitude that, now, their sense of justice is outraged by the condemnation of this people to a pariah's existence.
But many others lack this kind of experience. the opportunity to to attain it has been denied primarily to the young, who, these days, are being reared in racial hatred from earliest childhood. To all those who have been thus deprived, we who grew up in Judaism have an obligation to give our testimony.
What I shall write is not meant to be an apologia for Judaism. To develop the "idea" of Judaism and to defend it against false interpretation, to present the content of the Jewish religion, to write the history of the Jewish people - for all this, experts are at hand. And anyone desirous of instruction along these lines will find a broad selection of literature available. I would like to give, simply, a straightforward account of my own experience of Jewish life as one testimony to be placed alongside others, already available in print or soon to be published. It is intended as information for anyone wishing to pursue an unprejudiced study from original sources.'

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