Jewish History Walking Tour with Adam Schonfeld by Brailey Harris and Emma Fowkes

Brailey Harris

Umwelt is a German philosophical concept which identifies the inherent self-centeredness of the individual’s world perspective. This is a notion I learned within my first week at Colorado College. Now, in Berlin, it informs my understanding of how marginalized communities so distinct from my own respond to and resist the marginalization that affects them. Critical Race Theory challenges binary notions of race that guide past and present day institutions (including our legal systems) and forms remembrance of the past. This walking tour expanded my understanding of processes of racialization, especially through the example of the Nuremberg Laws. These laws tracked the ancestry of Germans and labeled any individual with at least one Jewish grandparent “Jewish,” regardless of their religious affiliation, personal identification, and, to an extent, phenotypic features. Here, Nazi Germany effectively created a common, racially based, enemy of the state. This exposes race as an institutional structure that preserves the sociopolitical supremacy of the ruling class. Transnational Feminist Theory also informs my understanding of Jewish people in Germany, especially because the racialization of the Jewish population necessitated homogenization across racial, political, and gender lines. In “Troubling Categories I Can’t Think Without: Reflections On Women in the Holocaust,” Ruth Linden emphasizes the harm this causes for women affected by the Holocaust, because it negates the cultural differences that inform the ways women reacted to and resisted subjugation under the Nazi regime. In addition, our tour guide Adam explained that a disproportionate percentage of elderly women who died in the Holocaust actually committed suicide, choosing to end their life on their own terms. Umwelt has become increasingly important to my understanding of the theoretical frameworks guiding this course, because it necessitates an understanding of intragroup differences and, therefore, the persistent exercising of individual autonomy as a form of resistance.

Brailey Harris is a rising sophomore at Colorado College and a Texas native. They enjoy slam poetry, speaking out of turn, and playing rugby for the school’s Cutthroat Trout club team. Brailey’s major is currently undeclared, but they hope to intertwine their passions for understanding both people and the planet.

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Emma Fowkes

Adam told us the story of Martha Liebermann as we stood around her memorial plaque, one of more than 70,000 “Stumbling Stones” placed outside of Holocaust victims’ last known residence. He explained how the majority of  Jews who were able to escape Germany before the war were wealthier, educated, men. It was much more difficult for women, especially widowed women with fewer resources, to secure a job in their destination country. As a result, large numbers of elderly women were left behind. Liebermann’s life was certainly not representative of most German Jewish women, as she was the wife of a very prominent artist, but I would argue her death was. After being subject to years of socioeconomic abuse by the German government, left by her other family members, and prevented from fleeing, she took her own life the day before her planned deportation to a concentration camp. The way Jewish women experienced the violence of the Holocaust is often not revealed by these memorials alone, but by paying attention to the particulars of someone’s story. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “intersectionality” calls on us to investigate difference. Contributing to both Black Feminist and Critical Race theories, she describes how the experiences of Black women “cannot be captured wholly by looking at the race or gender dimensions of those experiences separately.” Along these lines, Jewish women experienced sexism and antisemitism. As Liebermann’s story shows, ones experience during the Holocaust was especially impacted by wealth, marital status, and age. The tour also gave us tools to think critically about memorials. Similarly, Sabine Offe writes about Jewish museums as mechanism that isolate memories of the Holocaust from contemporary everyday life, providing a contained environment for non-Jewish Germans to deal with generational guilt. The “Stumbling Stones,” along with many of the sites we visited, present a new way of remembering. Highly public, omnipresent, and individualized, these memorials offer an opportunity to remember continually and honestly without immediately seeking to contain, control, and move on.

Emma Fowkes is a rising senior at Colorado College majoring in Sociology but doing her best to take classes across as many disciplines as possible. She spends a lot of her time training in the sprints, jumps, throws, and hurdles for the college’s track and field team, as well as leading Injustice Watch, the student court-watching organization. After Berlin, she is planning on returning to her family’s home in Wilmette, Illinois to do research on the El Paso County Judicial System and work as an usher at a local music venue. Recently, she completed her first “moderate” level sudoku puzzle.

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