Judenstaat Paperback Notes

The notes that follow are not intended to be scholarly or comprehensive.   My hope is that they might serve as  a better guide than turning to the internet—or whatever will be used in a few years—to look up people or terminology that may or may not exist outside of this novel.   At points, I refer to a book or website that a reader may find useful for further exploration

As is the case with my heroine, Judit, I believe in facts.   At the same time, I acknowledge that all written history is selective and therefore tells a selective story.  This is mine.


16        GERMANY was the birthplace:   The structure of Judenstaat’s Declaration of Independence is drawn directly from Israel’s.   Of course its initial statement would only be true for those who self-define as Ashkenazi Jews.  For more on the legacy of Jews who returned to ancient Ashkenaz, see Amos Elon’s excellent The Pity of It All.

CHURBAN  Yiddish Term for Holocaust—literally “Catastrophe”

18        State Security Police or Stasi:  The term would co-exist in East Germany and Judenstaat

19        The Fire Returns   Reference to the American and British fire-bombing of Dresden,  1945

20        Bundists  A real Jewish socialist organization founded in 1897 with its primary base in Poland, Russia and Lithuania but some strength in the United States as well.  It was proudly secular and  international but also rooted in the concept of doikayt (hereness).   They would fight for the rights of workers not in an aspirational promised land, but right where they were.   For an excellent overview the Bund, go to www.yivo.org.   It may well be that Bundists would never have agreed to be the ruling party of a single Jewish State in Europe.   My speculation is not intended to deny the Bund’s actual, critically important place in Jewish history.  It is due for a revival.

Leopold Stein:   Fictional, though to some extent modeled on David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel who managed to be a Socialist and a Nationalist though most certainly was not a Bundist.

22        Moses Mendelssohn: 18th Century German Jew who shaped the principles of Jewish Enlightenment.   He worked to reconcile Judaism with the principles of a universalist and secular society.

23        Then go to Moscow:   Stalin believed himself to be an expert on the “National Question”.  Many important figures in the early years of the Soviet Union were Jews.   However, when Stalin consolidated power, he imprisoned or executed anyone who he perceived as threatening his position, and towards the end of his life, led explicitly anti-Semitic campaigns (see note for page 46).

Stephen Weiss: Fictional, though to some extent modeled on both David Ben Gurion’s opponent Jabotinsky and also Leon Trotsky (and, by the way, Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein).

  1. Is Stein naive to keep the country nonaligned? In other words, the country took no side in the coming Cold War.   Note that Israel was nonaligned at its inception, and one of its great supporters was the Soviet Union.

25        What would become of the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidjan[…] or England’s failed experiments in Palestine and Uganda?   These were all actual proposed locations for a Jewish National Home.  For a wonderful overview of the history along those lines, see Adam Rovner’s fascinating In the Shadow of Zion.

Cosmopolitan   Not a drink.   Rather, the term was used to refer to internationalists in general, primarily by Stalin who believed that they undermined his vision of  Socialism in One Country. During the Moscow Trials of 1938-1939, the term referred specifically to followers of the internationalist Leon Trotsky.   It also served and serves as a code-word for a Jew.

28        Something called Avid.   As Judenstaat is set in 1987-1988, it would have been a year early for this particular non-linear video editing system, but who could resist that name?   What was certainly true was that video was displacing film. and computer editing becoming increasingly standard.

29        black-hat parasites:   Judenstaat’s term for strictly religious Jews.  In Israel, they are called Haredi or those who “tremble” before God.  The men wear black hats, the women wigs.  In Judenstaat, as is the case in Israel, they generally are supported by the state.  The black-hats in this novel are closely modeled on the Yiddish-speaking Satmar I observed in Jerusalem.

            pashkevils:  Wall posters, enormous, generally in Yiddish, announcing births, deaths, and other important information to others in the black-hat (or Haredi) community.  Sometimes they’re in a secular language (such as English, Hebrew, or in Judenstaat, German) if the black-hats want to insult people outside of their own community.

30        Dresden’s Hygiene Museum:  There is an actual Hygiene Museum in Dresden.   However, many of the details were taken from Philadelphia fabulous Mutter Museum, particularly the drawers full of foreign objects children swallowed.

33        Bridge Between East and West   Fictional.   Throughout the East German period, the bridge in Dresden actually kept its original name: Augustus Bridge.   However, Judenstaat, like many Central European countries during this period, transforms and reinvents.   Layers often remain.  When I lived in Hungary in 1991, it was common to see streets signs with the names of Communists crossed out and replaced by their pre-1945 names which are sometimes those of out-right fascists.  Now, those initial names are erased completely.

35        Rosa Luxemburg  Real, a Marxist and and  antiwar activist who was assassinated during her role in Germany’s 1919 uprising.   She was Jewish, but it isn’t likely that it  played a role in her activism or overall identity.

36        Righteous Gentile Certificate  Real and Fictional These documents are based on those issued by Yad Vashem,  Israel’s Holocaust Museum, conferred on those who rescued Jews.   It is worth noting that those who are awarded these certificates and their immediately families are also granted Israeli citizenship.

39        Hall of the Churban:   Fictional but based on  Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem in an earlier iteration, when it was far more of a collection of such artifacts.   The new Yad Vashem still leads upward through a memorial to Israel’s soldiers and ends on Mount Herzl, thus creating a clear pathway from the murder of the Jews to Israel’s establishment in 1948.

40        Summers in Archeology Camp   Archeological discoveries have a central place in Israeli life and are also increasingly controversial, and their findings disputed, generally by Palestinians who live on the land where those digs take place.  See Meron Benvenisti’s Sacred Landscapes.  

45        The Stasi had no jurisdiction in Loshwitz.   See Mea Sharim, a Haredi enclave in Jerusalem on which Loshwitz is closely based.

46        The images of Weiss were hot stuff   As Arthur Koestler and others point out, it was common practice to doctor photographs of key events in the Russian revolution to ensure that those out of political favor were removed.  George Orwell makes much of this in Nineteen Eighty-four.

Six young ghetto fighters   Much of the armed resistance in the Warsaw and Vilna ghettos consisted of  Communists allied with the Soviet Army.  Within a few years, Moscow would have been a very dangerous place for those fighters as Soviet media launched an anti-Semitic campaign around a “conspiracy” of Jewish doctors who planned to kill high-ranking Kremlin officials:  the “Doctors’ Plot.”

47        Weiss in Yalta The Yalta conference took place in 1945.   Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin determined their particular zones of influence.

48        Helena Sokolov   Fictional, though to some extent based on a synthesis of Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel and Hilary Clinton.   Her Neustadt Party owes something to Hungary’s Fidesz which during its early years was youth-oriented and, in fact, had an upper-age limit for affiliation.  At this writing, Fidez is a right-wing nationalist party and the governing party of Hungary.

50        In Washington, an unpretentious president:   This is a reference to Ronald Reagan President of the United States from 1980-1988, and the point of view is, of course, Sokolov’s.   His “counterpart” is Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party from 1983-1991 whose reformist policies decentralized the economy and began a process of democratization.

55        Saxon Question:  Of course, as is the case with the Jewish Question or the Palestinian Question, the word “Question” could easily be replaced by the word “Problem”.   Much of the discourse here is paraphrased from writing about Palestinians, particularly the doubts about a credible identity.

58        One may speak of justice—a rough justice–   The period after the Second World War was full of such displacements as those mentioned here.   Those displacements may be attributed to many factors, but without question, they were involuntary, brutal, and often justified on grounds of national aspirations.

59        The Battle of the Languages  Real and Fictional In Judenstaat, the two languages in question were Yiddish and German, but as Palestine was settled by Zionists and they established their first institution of higher learning in 1913 the language that was fiercely defended against German was, of  course, Hebrew.  Hebrew won.  For the record, Yiddish—the language of exile—was never in the running even though surely, many of the European Jews who came to Palestine were fluent speakers.

Esperanto  Real. A rational, phonetic language intended to unify all nations, invented in 1887 by Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, a Jew.

60        1954: Dresden suburb raided for provisions: Real and Fictional These events are intended to roughly correspond to an uprising of East German workers during that period which was suppressed by the Soviet Union.  However, the more pointed reference is to the Baltic “Forest Brothers”  who waged guerilla warfare against Soviet troops.

61        the Protective Rampart :   Real, sort of.  This is the official name for what we know as The Berlin Wall which was completed in 1963; what followed was a period of isolation and stability.   It is also interesting to note that Israel constructed its “security fence” in response to a sequence of Palestinian attacks,  and it, too, has led to a period of isolation and stability.   In both cases, the barriers allow these countries to go on with their lives without facing what is on the other side.   For more on post-rampart life in East Germany, see Mary Fulbrook’s The People’s State.

62        Anton Steinsaltz and Khrushchev:  Steinsaltz is imaginary and simply corresponds to the sort of long-term politician who would serve his time during a quiet period in Judenstaat’s history.   Nikita Khrushchev, of course, was very real, and led the Soviet Union from 1953-1964.   The doctored photograph including Kennedy would have been a typical, clumsy product of the program Paintbox as administered by Sammy Gluck.

65        You know he can understand Yiddish:   The Yiddish language is roughly 75% German.  However,  it is written with Hebrew characters.

69        Chabad was different.  Chabad is real, the action-wing of the Lubavicher Hasidic Movement.   Hasidic Jews follow the spiritual teachings of a particular charismatic rabbi.     In this case, the leader is Rabbi Schneerson, the descendent of the original Lubavicher rabbi.   Under his leadership, Chabad was established with a mission to reach out to disaffiliated Jews and return them to God.   Chabad houses exist not only in cities with high concentrations of Jews but in remote villages where there isn’t a Jew for miles; the hope is that if a Jew happens to appear, that Jew will perform rituals such as lighting Sabbath candles or putting on phylacteries and therefore speed the coming of the Messiah.  Unlike most Hasidic movements, Chabad has a website: www.chabad.org.

74        Prosecute Bundist Assassins   In Israel’s Haredi neighborhoods, it isn’t uncommon to run across posters that blame Zionists for the Holocaust, primarily because  in the early decades of the 20th century, they returned to Jerusalem instead of waiting for the Messiah to come, and thus brought down God’s wrath.  Read “Zionist” for “Bundist” and you get the idea.   Some Haredi actively anti-Zionist.   This is not true of Chabad.

78        With liberation at our backs   It is important to remember that when the Soviets occupied territory held by Nazi Germany, they were seen by Jews, and many others, as liberators.

80        we were Easterners    Many Jews from Eastern European countries emigrated to Germany before the war, and they were considered backward and uneducated.   Ostjuden were often barred from German-Jewish organizations.   The same was true during the late 19th and early 20th century in the United States.

87        When the Messiah comes, there won’t be any countries.”   Religious Jews like Shaindel absolutely believe in Messianic times.  The precise nature of the Messianic Age appears to be a matter of debate, though clearly Jews will return to Jerusalem, and the Temple will be rebuilt.

88        There’d been debate about incorporating those photographs.   If the photographs were taken by Germans, they might have been considered perpetrator footage,  and thus a violation of the victims and their memories.  This controversy is part of why the documentary Shoah chose to use interviews rather than images.

89        1922 Ernst Lubitsch spectacle about the life of Moses Mendelsohn  Ernst Lubitsch, the director, is real, and was still making films in German in 1922.   However, the closest he got to the movie I imagined here is Das Weib des Pharao, released in the United States as The Loves of Pharaoh.

90        So he’s a Dybbuk.   I’ve heard of them.   A Dybbuk is not quite a ghost.   Rather, it is the soul of a dead person which enters the body of a live person.   The word Dybbuk is Yiddish for “cling” The intent is usually malicious, and the Dybbuk  speaks through the host’s mouth and changes the host’s personality.

98        The Book Peddler   The magazine is fictional but it is the name of an actual newsletter that was published by the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst Massachusetts.   The center is an important repository of Yiddish literature, but most of their material now appears to be digitized.   http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org

99        Studies in the Mother Tongue.   This magazine isn’t real.  However, it’s worth noting that Yiddish is referred to as the mother tongue or Mama Lashon, a term never used for, say, Hebrew.  Perhaps that’s the Father Tongue.   I’ll leave the implications to the reader.

100      Vladimir Ashkenazy.  Real, a pianist, born in Russia in 1937.   It is difficult to say where he would lived when Hans and Judit heard him play.   Like most musicians, he is a Cosmopolitan.

101      “You know, he wrote that right after he finally married Clara […]”    The Schumanns are both real.   Robert was the student of Clara’s disapproving father, and their marriage was delayed.   Later, Clara exchanged tender letters with the younger composer, “a certain Mr. Brahms” but the nature of their relationship is uncertain.

105      The first car to be manufactured in the country, the homely Yekke   Of course, the analogy is the Volkswagen, but Yekke is actually what Zionists  called German Jews who settled in pre-war Palestine.   The word was mildly derogatory.   It’s the Yiddish for “suit-coat”, and  implies formality and attention to detail.  The philosopher Martin Buber was a Yekke.

Hanns Eisler  Real, a Communist who wrote symphonic music as well as songs in collaboration with Brecht.   After living in exile in the United States, he returned to East Germany where he lived for the remainder of this life.

“May fortune and peace be granted”  This is Eisler’s actual anthem of the German Democratic Republic which I adapted for Judenstaat.

106      “Hymn of the Ghetto Partisans”    This song is real, and was sung by those partisans in Yiddish.

107      “Your own Anna Lehmann”   Lehmann is fictional, but the educated, emancipated woman that she typifies is quite real.   The model might be Hannah Arendt who would have been born at roughly the same time as my character.

108      National Parks had become controversial.   According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem,  Israel’s national parks encompass areas where Palestinians have lived for generations, and once the land is considered “national”, they’re evicted.

The best professors lost their jobs in 1968.   See time-line and later notes for pages 157 and following.

109      in the community hall that used to be Saint Thomas’s Church.  In Central Europe, after the murder of the Jews, former synagogues were routinely re-purposed as dance-clubs, galleries or community centers; the same is true of some mosques in parts of Israel.

110      the messianic element doomed it from the start.  The early Zionists who came to Palestine certainly believed that in the process of reclaiming and “redeeming” the land, they would transform themselves into new people; in fact, the revival of the Hebrew language was part of that process.   However, few of them would have used the term “messianic,” as they were also proudly secular.

117      They shaved the heads of girls like you in Paris  In 1944, women who collaborated with the Germans were, in fact, shamed in just that way.

121      She was a child of Weimar   The word “Weimar” stands for Germany’s The Weimar Republic, a period between 1919-1933 and takes its name from a constitution created in the town of Weimar.   This constitution protected freedom of expression and religious practice.

123      She’d come across a novel by a Hungarian reporter named Theodore Herzl.   Real and Fictional.   The book, The Old New Land, is real and is by Herzl who, in fact, was quite open to a Jewish National Home in Uganda or anywhere other than Europe.  However, Herzl set the book in Palestine.   Of course, that book was written in German, as was his earlier work, Der Judenstaat. 

124      until Dreyfus was framed   Alfred Dreyfus, a French Offer and an assimilated Jew, was falsely convicted of treason in 1894.   To some observers, Dreyfus’s conviction revealed the continuing depth of anti-Semitism, and evidence that Jews needed a refuge far from Europe.   Herzl’s Der Judenstaat was, in part, a response to the trial.

125      The Bund itself must be restructured along pragmatic, national lines.   Here, Stein acknowledges the internationalist nature of the Bund; the organization would take a very different form in the new Jewish state.

127      Thereisenstadt a Jewish ghetto—in fact, a concentration camp–  in Czechoslovakia which was originally intended for children, the elderly, and prominent Jews.   The camp was  was intended to be a show-case, and was the subject of  the German propaganda film “The Fuhrer Gives a Village to the Jews.”  The cast of the film was afterwards deported to Auschwitz, and by late 1944, there were only five hundred Jews remaining in Thereisenstadt; the rest had been transported to death camps.   For more information see the Virtual Jewish Library at jewishvirtuallibrary.org.

132      There are plans to transport these Jews to Siberia  During the last year of Stalin’s life, he did appear to be on the verge of a massive deportation of Jews, according to Nora Levin in her massive two-volume history The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917 to the Present.   That book was published in 1990, and since then, the claim is increasingly under dispute, as no evidence exists.   However, fear certainly did exist.

133      How much will you give us for our Jews, Mr. Stein   As there was no Mr. Stein, this conversation never happened.   However, a similar bargain was proposed in 1944 when Joel Brand, a Zionist representative, attempted to work out an exchange with the Nazis: one million European Jews would be evacuated from Hungary, Poland and Lithuania in exchange for ten thousand trucks and other supplies.  The deal was rejected by the British who arrested Brand.

141      The Yenidze Cigarette Factory   This is a real building in Dresden; it is currently used as a restaurant.   Apparently, the food isn’t very good.

143      Could it be Cyrillic?   With Gorbachev in power, restrictions loosened, and Jewish immigration increased, particularly to Israel as well as to the United States.   Thus, it is fair to assume that many would have emigrated to Judenstaat.  These Jews, predictably, tended to be secular and anti-Soviet.

146      Baruch Ha Shem   Bless the Name (a way to not say the sacred name of God which is forbidden to pronoun although even the word “God” itself is, of course a euphemism for an unpronounceable sequence of Hebrew letters).   Charlotte sprinkles what she says with Hebrew and Yiddish words, most of which can be understood from context.

147      Saxon towns and villages that weren’t even on the map now:   For an excellent discussion of the Israeli map-making and village-erasing, see Benvenisti’s previously mentioned Sacred Landscapes, as well as the website of the Israeli human rights organization Zochrot (Memory)

155      Une Spectre hant l’Europe  Judit can’t understand French, and it’s okay if you can’t either.   If you can’t bear the sense of dislocation, turn to page 253.

157      Those boys rolled into Prague to suppress a coup.   The 1968 uprising in Czechoslovakia was real.   Commonly called the Prague Spring, protests were an outgrowth of the Communist Prime Minister Dubček’s efforts at liberalization.  Much like similar uprisings in Germany and Hungary, the uprising was quickly crushed.  The troops who entered Prague to suppress the rebellion represented many neighboring countries which were allied with the Soviet Union.   .

159      How do we know they’re fascists?   These wall-posters that raise difficult questions are based on ones that that appeared on walls in Philadelphia during the first Gulf War in 1991.

160      Are we Moscow’s Court Jews?   A “Court Jew” essentially does dirty work for whomever holds actual power.   In return for being held responsible for a policy that benefits the powerful, the Jew is protected.  This historical pattern would be clear to those in Judenstaat.

164      He’s pardoning them   This outcome owes more to the aftermath of the 1956 Hungarian uprising than the 1968 Czechoslovakia uprising.   In Budapest, the result was compromise.   In Prague, the result was the reversal of Dubcek’s reforms.

177      Folded inside was an American dollar bill.   This has an element of truth. Rabbi Schneerson was famous for giving dollar bills to those who sought his advice or blessing.

208      Rough cut:  Fortieth Anniversary Project   The documentary here owes everything to my time in 2011 Vilnius Lithuania where heroic anti-Soviet partisans were central to that country’s new identity.  Meanwhile, Lithuanian’s  Jewish Ghetto Partisans—primarily Communists—were written out of the country’s history, and Vilnius’s Genocide Museum made no mention of Jews.   The museum has since changed its name to the Museum of Occupation and Freedom Fights and has a small exhibit on the Holocaust. For more information, see Dovid Katz’s “The Baltic Movement to Obfuscate the Holocaust” on the website Defending History.    The reconciliation here is entirely my invention, and is based less on forgiveness than historical erasure.

211      “German and Jewish survivors of Soviet sexual assault”    The rape of German women by Soviet Occupation forces is widely documented.   So is the rape of Russian women by German Occupation forces.

219      a volume of poetry by Peretz Markish  Real, head of the Yiddish section of the Soviet Writers Union.   He began as a Modernist, and after he settled in the Soviet Union, wrote poems and plays that interwove patriotic themes and Jewish life.  In 1949, he was among those arrested by the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee as part of a campaign against Yiddish writers.  He was “rehabilitated” in 1955.   Here, as in many places, I depend on information from www.yivo.org.

252      The Manifesto of Stephen Weiss  This document is entirely imaginary but owes its structure and to some extent its language to two sources, Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto which  famously begins “A specter is haunting Europe”, and Emmanuel Goldstein’s “book” which comes at a similar moment in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four.  Although I wrote the manifesto, I do not endorse it any more than I endorse a Jewish state in Germany.   That’s why I’m novelist rather than a polemicist.

271      Six million Germans   The circumstances here are fictional, but the desire for revenge is real, and Abba Kovner, a Zionist and former Vilna ghetto partisan, gathered fifty men together to form Nakam (Hebrew for “revenge”). Initially, the group tried to poison water pipes in five German cities, but Kovner was arrested.   More successfully, the poisoned the bread supply of German prisoners of war.  Although the number of actually fatalities is uncertain, according to a 1946 report from the Associated Press, nearly 1900 were poisoned as a result.

276     whose father perished in the Russian Civil War   That “Civil War” between 1917-1922 was a conflict between many parties and factions which ended with the success of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, but some of those factions were monarchist and would have characterized themselves as “whites” opposing “reds.”   This woman’s father was probably a “white”.

279      we would have had guns of our own   Anna Lehmann’s speculation here is a reference to what occurred in 1948 in Der Yassin, a village situated at a strategic vantage point between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.   Almost everything about what happened in that village has been disputed, particularly the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli fighters, but most recent interviews with participants make it clear that many of them were women and children.

283      Tear down that wall   Ronald Reagan said “this wall” rather than “that wall” but did make a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin with a similar demand in 1987.   The demand was made to Gorbachev whose reforms certainly began a chain of events in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and finally Dresden and East Berlin itself, that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall  in September of 1989, not long after East Germany’s fortieth anniversary.

299      Goyim kill goyim and they blame the Jews.  “Goyim” literally means “nations” as in people who aren’t Jews kill each other, and Jews are blamed.  The phrase was said in 1982 by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in reference to Israel’s war in Lebanon.  The Israeli military sent Phalangists—an authoritarian Christian party– into the West Beirut refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, where they massacred hundreds of Palestinians.   Given this reference and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s part in the Lebanese war—and Sharon’s later stroke—he also may be a model for Leopold Stein.

308     October yartzeit   An anniversary of a death, particularly of a family member.   It is traditional to visit someone’s grave on their yartzeit, and lay a stone on the marker to show that you have been there, or perhaps to keep their ghost from surfacing and clinging to you like a Dybbuk.

310      Leonora had allowed herself the unambiguous naches.   Naches is a Yiddish work for pride, joy, and gratification that you derive from the accomplishments of others—particularly your own children as in naches fun kinder.   This should not be confused with Mazel Tov which literally means “Good fortune” or “You’ve been lucky.”   It’s worth noting that this phrase does not imply you should feel proud of what you’ve accomplished yourself.

%d bloggers like this: