'The heart must have something to hope for'.
A family history of Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Göttingen: Wallstein, 2018.
Title in translation
This book deals with European religious history in the kaleidoscope of a family memory. Around 1900, many Germans toyed with Eastern philosophies and religions that seemed to offer them worthy alternatives to European traditions. Two developments paved their way. The German Life Reform movement adopted Theosophy and esoteric religion as a means to experiment with religious otherness. Simultaneously, missionaries from the East such as Buddhists, Baha’i, and Muslims, founded mission stations in the European capitals.
With the help of the private archive of a Jewish-Prussian family - the Oettingers from Marienwerder (Western Prussia) - Gerdien Jonker unfolds the various narrative strands and places them against the horizon of early globalization. Tracing the changing milieus, she lends four Jewish generations her voice: German-Jewish assimilation during the German Empire; experiments with the Life Reform in the Weimar Republic, in which a reformed, cosmopolitan Islam played a pivotal role; survival strategies during National Socialism, finally, a new start in England after the war.
Connecting family storytelling with the history of European religions, the author coined historical sources to ethnographical inquiry, capturing memory particles that were
handed down in the Oettinger family and placing them in their historical context. The result is a new chapter of European religious history.
Table of Contents
A Traditional Jewish Family
‘We Want to Be German, Nothing Else’
The Experiment with Islam
Surviving National Socialism
In Search of Home
Epilogue: What Remains of History
Genealogy of the Oettinger Family
Some press voices
"A great achievement" (Günther Roth)
"A new side of the buried complexity of the 20th century" (Frank Mecklenburg)
"As exciting as a (good) novel" (Gisela Bock)