Review of Constantin Brunner: Der Judenhaß und die Juden, Philo Verlag: Berlin 2004 / by Dr. Thomas Meyer, Munich (this review first appeared in Süddeutschen Zeitung 07.05.2004). (Original review in German available here.)
Constantin Brunner, originally named Arjeh Yehuda Wertheimer, was a fascinating and singular individual. Philosopher, psychologist, man of letters and political publicist, he was born in a rabbinical family in 1862 in Altona and died in exile in The Netherlands on his 75th birthday. Even though he spent most of his life in seclusion with his family in Berlin, this obviously charismatic autodidact had many followers. In distant Czernowitz there was established in his honor an "Ethics Seminar" in which Rose Ausländer participated. Brunner established friendships with, among others, Gustav Landauer, Detlev von Liliencron and Walter Rathenau. His books and writings, including a magnificent text opposing Spengler's Decline of the West, stirred up an ever-widening furor. All that was near and dear to German Jewry, from Kant to Zionism, was subjected to sharp criticism. Buber therefore looked on Brunner from a distance but with respect.
Among philosophers—and this, too, in opposition to a part of the Establishment—Spinoza was Brunner's favorite, yet his work stands independently, as Jürgen Stenzel makes clear in his excellent book of two years ago. Politically, he saw his struggle against hostility toward Jews as his chief concern. It is therefore most welcome that Philo Verlag makes available again his truly masterful work, Der Judenhaß und die Juden of 1919.
"Hatred of Jews is hatred of men," he unequivocally states. The term "antisemitism" was according to him already an obfuscation of the facts just as clearly as was the dangerous fact of hatred of Jews itself. He judged Zionism to be an utterly mistaken and fatal answer to hatred of Jews: "But were the Jews a thousand times a nation—can this nation again be situated in Palestine? A nail stays in the wall, but if it is ever taken out, there is no use in putting it back in the hole: it never again holds there."
Brunner's book, which contains many interesting observations on relations within states and nations, calls German Jews to self-emancipation. For those who wish to inform themselves on the Jewish reaction to antisemitism in Imperial and Weimar Germany, Brunner's major essay is not to be neglected.