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SephardismSpanish Jewish History and the Modern Literary Imagination$
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Yael Halevi-Wise

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804777469

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804777469.001.0001

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The Strange Career of the Abarbanels from Heine to the Holocaust

The Strange Career of the Abarbanels from Heine to the Holocaust

Chapter:
(p.114) Four The Strange Career of the Abarbanels from Heine to the Holocaust
Source:
Sephardism
Author(s):

Jonathan Skolnik

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804777469.003.0005

In 1840, Heinrich Heine published Der Rabbi von Bacherach (The Rabbi of Bacherach), a fictional narrative about an accusation of ritual murder in fifteenth-century Germany. Aside from Heine, several German-Jewish writers repeatedly turned to the figure of Don Isaak Abarbanel, a Sephardic court Jew who died in the sixteenth century. A Bible scholar and statesman, Abarbanel was a figure widely acknowledged for what he has done to German Jews. By refusing to submit to conversionist intimidation, Abarbanel became a symbol of unwavering adherence to Judaism. Writers of historical fiction such as Alfred Nossig, Phöbus Phillipson, Hermann Reckendorf, Leo Perutz, and Hermann Kesten employed fictionalized Abarbanel figures as reference points for a wide range of differing ideological positions, from assimilation to orthodoxy, Zionism, and religious liberalism. This chapter analyzes how these literary depictions of Abarbanel reveal the different facets of Heine's own portrayal of the man.

Keywords:   Heinrich Heine, Der Rabbi von Bacherach, Don Isaak Abarbanel, German Jews, Judaism, historical fiction, Zionism, Leo Perutz, Hermann Kesten, Alfred Nossig

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