Goldstein, Moritz

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GOLDSTEIN, MORITZ (Egon Distel, Michael Osten, Inquit ; 1880–1977), German journalist and writer. Following his studies in German literature in Berlin, Goldstein, born into an assimilated family, intended to become a writer. Following the advice of Gustav Karpeles, he wrote in 1898–1900 the play Alexander in Jerusalem (published 1921) and from then on continued writing plays, stories, and novels, of which only a few were published (e.g., Die zerbrochene Erde, 1927; Katastrophe, 1927). Whereas Goldstein remained without any success as an author, he was widely known for spurring the debate about the role of Jews in German culture with the publication of his essay "Deutsch-juedischer Parnass" (1912) in Der Kunstwart (hence known as the "Kunstwart debate"). As early as 1906 Goldstein published the essay "Geistige Organisation des Judentums," where he followed the cultural-Zionist demand for a new Hebrew culture. In his Kunstwart essay, however, he moved away from a clear Zionist position. He still emphasized the need for the Jews to rebuild their own culture set against the politics of assimilation. Nevertheless, he doubted the possibility of a renaissance of Hebrew language and literature and instead proposed a new Jewish national literature in the German language. This compromise was controversial: Assimilated Jews (e.g., Ernst *Lissauer) and Zionists (e.g., Ludwig Strauss) both criticized Goldstein, demanding a radical either/or answer – either to become German or Jewish. Goldstein, surprised by the strong reaction to his essay, defended his position in Begriff und Programm einer juedischen Nationalliteratur (1913). After the World War i Goldstein continued working as a journalist, mainly for the Vossische Zeitung. In 1933 he fled to Italy, where he worked on a political-philosophical analysis of power (only the second part was published under the title Fuehrers Must Fall: A Study of the Phenomenon of Power from Caesar to Hitler, 1942) and on a historical analysis of the Jews, Die Sache der Juden (unpublished). In 1938 Goldstein fled to America. Until his death in 1977, he lived in New York, never feeling at home, as he described it in the autobiographical novel Die Goetter von Manhattan (written 1954, unpublished).


A. Kilcher, in: Weimarer Beiträge, 45 (1999); S. Aschheim, in: S. Gilman (ed.), Yale Companion to Jewish Writing and Thought in German Culture (1997); J.H. Schoeps (ed.), Deutschjuedischer Parnass. Rekonstruktion einer Debatte (2002).

[Andreas Kilcher (2nd ed.)]