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Martin Lövinson Recalls Jewish Emancipation and Enthusiasm for the German Wars of Unification (early 1870s)

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The year 1864 brought the German-Danish War, the victorious end of which we were privileged to experience from the window of our business, Unter den Linden, when as spectators we watched the festive entrance of the troops. Our father was filled with lofty patriotic enthusiasm by the splendid course the war had taken after so many years of peace. His enthusiasm manifested itself in the fact that he acquired the wood of seized enemy artillery mounts from the army administration and in his factory had all kinds of keepsakes carved from it, which were sold for the benefit of the war victims. Ashtrays, cigar cutters, and similar little things can still be found in the possession of family members.

The business had taken a real upturn at this time. Our house was frequented by well-known architects, such as Oppler, the designer of the synagogues in Breslau and Hannover. Employing Gothic motifs, he had designed a little table with two small benches, which was intended for the children’s room and served all of us children as our first desk.

[ . . . ]

The literary needs of the family were served by the Vossische Zeitung, which was still coming out as a small-town weekly, and by the big illustrated magazines Gartenlaube and Über Land und Meer. But we probably did no more than look at the pictures, since we were still too small to stay up when mother read aloud every night. I know for sure, however, that it was still on Bellevuestrasse that we became acquainted with our later favorite Wilhelm Busch, whose Münchener Bilderbogen was a preferred birthday wish of ours.

I have probably told everything that I remember from my first six years, during which I did not leave my hometown, since the custom of summer trips was still restricted to the more prosperous circles, while we regarded ourselves as belonging to the middle class. At most, there was perhaps sometimes an “excursion to the country,” the goal of which, however, was always grandfather’s estate in Treptow. As far as I know, the annual factory outing was always to Pichelsberge. The workmen and clerks set out early in the morning in charabancs, and in the afternoon the bosses and their families followed after them in their landaus.

[ . . . ]

The High Jewish Holidays always brought about an enormous change in our daily schedule. I have mentioned the installation of the house synagogue, which our father had set up mainly to make it possible for our mother, who at that time would not have used a vehicle on the holidays at any price, to attend the services. The example for the children, who by all means were to be familiarized with a strictly religious life, was no doubt decisive in this undertaking. Of course, quite early there arose within us questions as to whether it was entirely consistent that our father unhesitatingly used the streetcar on the Sabbath and High Holidays, that we did write in school on the Sabbath, indeed, that we were allowed to participate in the Christian religious instruction until the first year of secondary school. But for all of these inconsistencies we were given an explanation in accordance with the prevailing enlightened views, especially, for example, that the fulfillment of civic duties had to go hand in hand with the recognition of complete equality of civil rights. Whoever was now admitted to the public schools, as we were, had to comply with the general school regulations; whoever opened a business in the German homeland also had to keep it open to customers on the generally accepted workdays and close it on the public day of rest.

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