Drawing on Scholem’s published correspondences, I argue in this essay that Scholem’s thoughts and sentiments about postwar Germany were truly consistent only in the sense that they were consistently marked by deep-seated tensions between the principled and the pragmatic, between pessimism and optimism, between disillusionment and yearning, between attraction and repulsion. Scholem expressed them not only, depending on the addressee, with varying emphases and nuances in registers ranging from sensitive to extremely blunt, but also with an intense awareness of his own limitations in terms of what might, in principle, be desirable.
One would have hoped that the publication of Michael Hofmann’s superb translation of Fred Wander’s novel The Seventh Well (New York 2008) might finally help secure Wander’s text the attention it deserves, alas, as yet to no avail. Fred Wander, probably best known (if at all) as the widower and executor of Maxie Wander, was a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. First published in East Berlin in 1971, The Seventh Well is a semi-fictionalized account of his experiences in the camps (and an attempt to lend those of his peers who did not survive a posthumous voice).
The publication of the correspondence between Theodor W. Adorno and Gershom Scholem in 2015 is a major landmark, offering fresh insights into their personalities and the remarkable intellectual relationship and growing personal friendship between them. In this short piece, some of the evidence for the intensity of the relationship between Adorno and Scholem is presented, followed by a discussion of their shared emphatic negation of the notion that any such thing as a ‘German-Jewish Dialogue’ had existed prior to 1933. Henceforth, anyone who wants to continue dismissing Scholem’s remarks about the non-existence of a ‘German-Jewish dialogue’ prior to 1933 out of hand in the cavalier fashion in which it has become common-place to do so will need to reckon not only with Scholem but also with Adorno.