When German authorities established the Theresienstadt Ghetto for Bohemian and Moravian Jews in late 1941, the site initially functioned much like other ghettos and transit camps at the time, as a mere way station to sites of extermination further East. The decision to reconfigure the ghetto as a site of internment for select “privileged” groups of Jews from Germany and Western Europe, and its advertisement as a “Jewish settlement” in Nazi propaganda, constituted an apparent paradox for a regime that sought to make the Greater German Reich “judenrein” (clean of Jews). This article investigates the Theresienstadt Ghetto from a historical-spatial perspective and argues that varying prejudices and degrees of antisemitism shaped divergent “spatial solutions” to segregate Jews from non-Jews, wherein the perceived divide between so-called “Ostjuden” and assimilated Western Jews played a central role. In this analysis, Theresienstadt emerges as a logical culmination to paradoxical policies designed to segregate select groups of German and assimilated Western European Jews.
This paper closely examines the translation of the Hebrew word תהום – abyss (Genesis 1:2), in two versions of the Buber-Rosenzweig Bible: In the first edition of Die Schrift published 1926 the abyss is translated as “Abgrund”. However, after Rosenzweig’s death, the “Abgrund” is erased by Buber and replaced in later versions (1930/1952/1962) by the rather odd word “Urwirbel.” This paper reflects on the transition from “Abgrund” to “Urwirbel” and demonstrates the profound rootedness of Buber and Rosenzweig in the German philosophical vocabulary of the early twentieth century. It shows how the conversion from “Abgrund” to “Urwirbel” crystalized a moment in German-Jewish thought, a historical meeting point in the depths of the abyss between the German and the Hebrew languages. The encounter was covered by the course of history but deserves to be revisited and reinterpreted.