#74 / Editorial

K. is fortunate to have an editor like Julia Christ in its ranks; she gives no quarter to platitudes. Christ, born in Germany and now a researcher at the École des Hautes Etudes in Paris, is our point-person for affaires outre-Rhin. Her origins count less than her deep familiarity with Germany’s intellectual and political history; Christ’s academic writings range from a dissertation on Theodor Adorno and the Frankfort School to a recent volume on Hegel’s conception of the universal (L’oubli de l’universel: Hegel critique du libéralisme, Presses Universitaires de France, 2022, untranslated). Germany, the continent’s economic powerhouse, the nation that perpetrated the Holocaust, remains the elephant in the room from both a Jewish and European perspective.

K.’s summer reprise this week continues with a series of Christ’s articles on contemporary Germany. The first piece deals with the country’s “new historians’ quarrel,” in which a coterie of far-left intellectuals from around the world have attempted to shift the nature of Holocaust memory in Germany itself. The Holocaust, according to the group, is but one episode in a series of atrocities committed by Europe’s imperial powers. Jews, in highlighting the singularity of the Holocaust, stand as a ‘privileged’ victim class, whose suffering occludes that of others and enables the ‘imperialist’ state of Israel.

Christ dismantles in a cold rage this piece of sophism, which, based on the second article, appears to have gained purchase in German cultural milieux. This edition of Germany’s Documenta art festival, held twice a decade in Cassel, showcases a plainly antisemitic painting. Called “People’s Justice,” the canvas features two antisemitic images: the first of a Jew (a Star of David affixed to his shirt) with a pig head; the second of a man in an SS uniform drawn with stereotypical ‘Jewish’ features. The reluctance of some in the German elite to condemn the opus has much to do with the ‘subaltern’ nature of this edition of the festival, organized under the rubric of “The Global South” and hosting artists exclusively from the Third World, or collectives interested in related issues.

Add to the guilty conscience of German officialdom the bad faith of the festival’s organizers, who invoked cultural pluralism as an excuse for not having “understood” how the painting could be “read” as antisemitic “in the context of German history.” How do Germans cope with the guilty conscience that lingers seven decades after the Holocaust? One answer is mimesis, attempting to fill the void of one’s own identity with that of the persecuted group. Such is the solution of the protagonist is Katrina Volckmer’s novel, Jewish Cock, which Christ reviewed earlier this year. The work’s main character, a German woman undergoing a gender transition, relates her desires for not only a penis, but a Jewish one, circumcised. Volckmer’s character is sterile and self-obsessed; one suspects this might not be a purely personal trait.

Does the Holocauste constitute a unique crime that marks a turning point in European history? Or should we count it just as another crime that is not extraordinary in itself?…

What happened that caused the newspaper published by the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to demand that the Minister of Culture resign? The presence of a blatantly anti-Semitic painting in the world’s largest contemporary art exhibition – the documenta, which has been held every five years since 1955 in the city of Cassel. It was due to the presence of the painting but also the result of a long debate before the fact about the anti-Semitic character of the 2022 edition of documenta, on which the minister did not want to take position in the name of freedom of art. Julia Christ reports on the crazy sequence of discussions and false humility consequent to the appearance of this work.

Born in Germany, from which she fled to London, the narrator of “The Appointment” pours out her heart while being examined by her gynecologist, Dr. Seligman. Resolutely provocative, mixing sexual fantasies about Hitler with sharp insights into our contemporary society, the novel is a satirical parable over which the shadow of Philip Roth, Woody Allen and Thomas Bernhardt hovers.

With the support of:

Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.