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Philosemites had a tough time after 1945. Their professions of love for Jewish culture and the Jewish people met with considerable skepticism in the aftermath of the Nazi genocide. Where had all these philosemites been when Hitler and his followers perpetrated the “Final Solution?” The lack of credibility was particularly pronounced in West Germany, where political leaders eagerly embraced philosemitic stereotypes without being able to dispel serious doubts about the sincerity of their pro-Jewish sentiments. To contemporary intellectual observers, the philosemitism that blossomed in West Germany's public sphere appeared to be a particularly egregious example of political opportunism. By embracing philosemitic values West German elites appeared to be currying favor with their Allied overlords, who worried about the denazification of Germany. Moreover and more disturbingly, the belated enthusiasm for everything Jewish seemed to be intrinsically linked to antisemitic dispositions of previous decades and centuries.
The field of Jewish studies has generally confirmed this negative judgment. Most experts argue that the public display of pro-Jewish attitudes represented a convenient way for Germans to distance themselves from the Nazi past, identify with the new political status quo, and resume their lives and careers without significant self-reflection. In their scholarly opinion, there is no need to study philosemitism as a phenomenon sui generis, least of all as a model of dealing with ethnic and social diversity that is worth emulating. I am offering the following case study on West German philosemitic television as a corrective to these dominant trends in Jewish studies.