Reposting a 2008 Article

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Donald Isler
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Reposting a 2008 Article

Post by Donald Isler » Mon Feb 25, 2019 12:20 pm

Below is a CMG article I wrote in 2008 about a lecture given at the weekly Senior Men's Club meeting of the Jewish Community Center in Tarrytown, to which my father belonged. The lecture was given by Dr. Gunter Lorenz, a most likeable and admirable man who was then 98, and recently died at the age of 109.


A Very Interesting Lecture

A fascinating lecture was given this morning to the Senior Men’s Club of the Tarrytown JCC by Dr. Gunter Lorenz, a retired physician, and, at 98, its senior member. The subject of the lecture was the Emancipation of the Jews in the countries that became Germany in the 19th Century. Dr Lorenz, who comes from Katowice, a German town at the time of his birth, and now a Polish one, gave his talk largely based on the book Gold and Iron, by the historian Fritz Stern, as well as from his own readings of history, and from his personal experience.


An essential point of the Stern book, according to Dr. Lorenz, was the importance of Gerson Bleichröder, a Jew, in assisting Bismarck and the Kaiser politically and financially in establishing modern Germany, and how the rise of the Jews from poverty and separateness paralleled this. Indeed, Dr. Lorenz had been completely surprised to learn about this, as he had never heard of Bleichröder when he was growing up.


He also spoke of the earlier influence of Moses Mendelssohn, who translated the Torah into German, and of Mendelssohn’s friend, Ephraim Lessing, a Christian, whose book Nathan Der Weise (Nathan the Wise) was the first popular book which depicted the Jews in a favorable light.


After the lecture, Dr. Lorenz took questions, and gave remarkably nuanced and knowledgeable answers on topics which, after all, were not about his profession, but about a subject he’s thought about for many years.


When asked why anti-semitism had such a terrible growth in Germany in the 20th Century, while it existed in other European countries as well, Dr. Lorenz said he believed this was because there were more Jews in Germany than in England and France, because of the huge war reparations Germany was forced to pay after World War I, and because of the perceived threat of Communism from the east, and from within Germany itself.


Several American-born members of the Club spoke of the anti-semitism they remembered from when they were growing up here in New York. Perhaps the most astonishing thing I heard was Dr. Lorenz’ reaction to this, when he said that in medical school in Germany just before Hitler came to power, some of his classmates were American Jews who had been rejected by American universities because of anti-Jewish quotas. In Germany, until Hitler came to power, all that mattered was your grades, and having successfully passed your previous courses.

It was a memorable lecture by a wise and knowledgeable man.

Donald Isler
Donald Isler

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