Peter C. Appelbaum

Jewish Self Hate - Theodor Lessing

Author: Theodor Lessing
Translated and annotated by Peter C. Appelbaum
Introduction by Sander L. Gilman
Afterword by Paul Reitter
Edited by Benton Arnovitz

202 pages, index

ISBN  978-1-78920-986-0 
Hard Back $149.00/£110.00  Not Yet Published (March 2021)

ISBN  978-1-78920-992-1
Paperback $34.95/£27.95  Not Yet Published (March 2021)

eISBN 978-1-78920-987-7
eBook Not Yet Published

Berghahn Books

The diagnosis of Jewish self-hatred has become almost a commonplace in contemporary cultural and political debates, but the concept’s origins are not widely appreciated. In its modern form, it received its earliest and fullest expression in Theodor Lessing’s 1930 book Der jüdische Selbsthaß. Written on the eve of Hitler’s ascent to power, Lessing’s hotly contested work has been variously read as a defense of the Weimar Republic, a platform for anti-Weimar sentiments, an attack on psychoanalysis, an inspirational personal guide, and a Zionist broadside. This new edition makes a seminal text in Jewish thought accessible to English readers for the first time.

Theodor Lessing was a German-Jewish philosopher. He taught at the Technical University of Hanover until right-wing student protests forced him to leave in 1926, after which he worked as an independent scholar and journalist. He was assassinated in 1933 by two National Socialists.


"The 'self-hating Jews' portraited by Lessing used to be highly praised icons of German culture. Lessing's rendition sheds light on the transition from the German Empire to the Weimar Republic and what that meant for the mentality and the rising or declining success of German-Jewish writers. For the first time Lessing's text is accessible to readers who have trouble dealing with the German language. The truthful translation by Peter Appelbaum, including Lessing's own footnotes, manages to make this book better readable than the German original. Two essays by Sander Gilman and Paul Reitter provide context and the wisdom of hindsight." • Frank Mecklenburg, Leo Baeck Institute

"Written but three years before Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany, Theodor Lessing’s Jewish Self-Hate is a work of considerable importance. It reminds one that Gershom Scholem's famous essay on German-Jewish dialogue was actually a monologue: Jews talking to fellow Jews about how German they are. Exploring the lives, careers and writings of six Jews who internalized the venom with which Jews and Judaism were treated in 19th- and 20th-century Germany, it is a poignant reminder of the achievement of Zionism and of American Jews, who can feel pride in themselves as Jews and what their tradition and history has to offer. The book is a veritable intellectual feast but also a sober reminder of how much antisemitism, even before Hitler's Germany, could destroy the soul well before it destroyed the body. Lessing concludes his exploration with an admonition: 'So let us determine to be what we are!'" • Michael Berenbaum, American Jewish University


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