“Other but not foreign”

Three Questions to David Ranan

Julia Jürgens
For his book, The shadows of the past are still long: Young Jews on their lives in Germany, culture researcher, David Ranan, conducted interviews with Jews between 20-40 whose grandparents survived the Holocaust and then settled in Germany after the war. The London-based author presented his book at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin on 7 July 2015, as part of the series New German Stories.

On 6 July 2015 Julia Jürgens did a short interview with David Ranan and asked him the following three questions:

Julia Jürgens: One question you asked your interviewees deals with the “packed luggage” the first and second generation seem to have at the ready, an expression of their inner conflict between being able to safely stay or having to again flee. Is there still this conflict within the third generation or how else would you describe its sense of belonging to Germany?

David Ranan: Jews in Germany don’t keep a bag packed anymore. Nearly all the interviewees confirm this. This doesn’t mean they feel a sense of belonging. One described the feeling as “other but not foreign.” There are differences within the third generation, but generally speaking the younger Jews feel more German than the older ones. This is most evident, for example, in sports. One of my older interviewees said, “During the World Cup, those 10 years younger than I are wearing Germany jerseys. Their faces are painted in the German colors. They root for the German national team. This would never have happened in my family or in my family’s Jewish social circles.”

Julia Jürgens: For our New German Stories series, we tend to present authors who have an (auto)biographical perspective of migration. Today, a large portion of Germany’s Jewish population includes Jews from the former Soviet Union. However, this new German-Jewish viewpoint doesn’t come through in your book. What were your criteria in choosing interviewees?

David Ranan: I was interested in the development within Germany’s Jewish community whose first generation was so traumatized it passed this onto the second generation born in Germany. These were people with a difficult relationship to both Germany and Israel. This study concerns itself with the third generation. That’s why I sought young Jews with grandparents who settled in Germany directly after the Holocaust or within a few years of it.


Book cover; Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Berlin

Julia Jürgens: The relationship to Israel is an important theme through your interviews. Where do Germany’s young Jews stand on Israel? What trends do you see?

David Ranan: The young speak emotionally about Israel and often mention it as a haven: if all else fails, they can go to Israel. A typical comment is, “You can always go there, but I couldn’t imagine doing so now because I feel at home here.” Nearly all felt the need to defend Israel from criticism. They themselves would rarely openly criticize Israel, even if they personally find much of the politics problematic, sometimes even very problematic. One interviewee even saw such criticism as betrayal.

The questions were posed by Julia Jürgens (Academy program on migration and diversity).

Portrait of the author; David Ranan

Citation recommendation: 
Julia Jürgens (2015), “Other but not foreign”. Three Questions to David Ranan.
URL: www.jmberlin.de/en/node/6349
Interview Series (12) New German Stories Show all

New German Stories

Since 2014, our colleagues from the Academy program on migration and diversity have been holding regular events at the Jewish Museum in a series called New German Stories. The guests' lives speak to Germany, past and present, as a society of migration, and the events take these life stories as a springboard for exploring these themes. Beforehand, the guests are almost always interviewed. We have compiled these interviews for you here.

Karamba Diaby

26 May 2017
“We should close this representation gap”

Anita Awosusi

6 February 2017
On her book Our Father – A Sinti Family Recounts

Ármin Langer

18 October 2016
“The boredom of peaceful coexistence“

Marion Kraft

6 July 2016
"The part Black soldiers played in the liberation of Germany from Nazism has been largely neglected"

Çiçek Bacık

13 October 2015
“We’ve always been spoken and written about”

Fereshta Ludin

16 September 2015
“I wish more people would look in my eyes instead of at my scarf”

David Ranan

6 July 2015
“Other but not foreign”

Ahmad Milad Karimi

9 March 2015
On his book Osama bin Laden is Sleeping with Fishes

Alina Gromova

8 September 2014
Generation “kosher light”
Young Jews of Russian descent in Berlin

Canan Turan

4 July 2014
Kıymet or:
A cinematic tribute to my grandmother

Urmila Goel and Nisa Punnamparambil-Wolf

19 March 2014
Dealing creatively with ethnic classifications

Alice Bota, Khuê Pham, and Özlem Topçu

29 January 2014
“New German stories”