Journal Article

Berlin and Florence in the Age of Enlightenment: Jewish Experience in Comparative Perspective

Ulrich Wyrwa

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 21, issue 1, pages 1-28
Published in print January 2003 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online January 2003 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
Berlin and Florence in the Age of Enlightenment: Jewish Experience in Comparative Perspective

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Into the 1930s, the Jewish population in Germany used the term Enlightenment (Aufklärung) emphatically to formulate its self-image. At the end of the twentieth century scarcely anything remained of the once emotional semantics. The most recent literature on relations between Jews and the Enlightenment elaborates the hostility of the German Enlightenment towards Jews with philological acuity.

The essay examines the relationship between the Enlightenment and Jewry and Jewish experiences in the eighteenth century from a comparative perspective. The Berlin Enlightenment is compared with its Florentine counterpart. This comparison shows that intellectuals in the Prussian capital were far more open and unbiased towards Jews than their Tuscan counterparts. While in Berlin Jews were admitted to the academies and convivial societies, this was largely denied them in Tuscany.

Despite the altered climate at the end of the Enlightenment period, the article emphasizes that, if there was ever a period in German-Jewish history that may be deemed balanced, then it was the age of Enlightenment. The comparison between Prussia and Tuscany can thus help us to understand how the Enlightenment could become such an emphatic and emotional point of orientation for German Jews in the nineteenth century.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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