Doc 'Germans & Jews' Furthers a Conversation That's Been Going On for Centuries
For a film encompassing generations of fraught history, Germans & Jews is awfully short, but hardly superficial. Condensed rather than compact, it features dozens of voices both German and Jewish — and sometimes both, though the fact that the two identities can overlap is often forgotten in discourse on the Holocaust and what's happened in German society since.
With subtle, skillful editing, director Janina Quint wisely allows such paradoxes to arise on their own while giving the viewer enough historical context to make sense of them. Quint's interviewees seem conscious that they are continuing a conversation that, in Germany, is at least two hundred years old and was once known, darkly, as the "Jewish question." (The Jewish tradition of ongoing conversations resulted, somewhat differently, in the Talmud.) Are we responsible for the wrongs of our ancestors? Are Germans victims as well as perpetrators? Can a Jew ever be at home in Germany? Germany's Jewish population is growing, yet many Germans find themselves afraid to say "Jew" or "Jewish," as if they were slurs — and many Jews recoil instinctively at the sound of spoken German. How can it all be true at once?