Hazards of Dating While Jewish in Berlin

Romantic Flings Become Complicated When History is Invoked

Dater: Steven Blum has found dating in Berlin a perplexing endeavor.
Courtesy of Steven Blum
Dater: Steven Blum has found dating in Berlin a perplexing endeavor.

By Steven Blum

Published August 07, 2013, issue of August 09, 2013.
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‘So you’re Jewish, right?” Tobias asked while we were watching an episode of “Real Housewives” on his couch.

“Yup,” I responded.

Even though this was our first date after meeting in a yoga class — he was the flexible, relaxed one; I was schvitzing and falling — I let a few more details slip because I was feeling raw and uninhibited.

“My grandparents are actually from Germany,” I said.

“Oh my God, what happened here was so awful,” he said, dramatically elongating the “aw.” “I’m so sorry, on behalf of Germany.”

“I mean, it wasn’t you,” I said, trying to sound conciliatory. “Besides, I can’t accept apologies. I wasn’t alive back then.”

We turned our eyes back to the television and watched as one of the “real housewives” berated her maid. “My grandfather was a Nazi. Pretty high up, too,” Tobias said.

“Oh.”

“Sorry, that was more like a 15th date admission! I’m such a spaz.”

“No, that’s fine. I can take it,” I said, lying.

I told Tobias I needed to visit the little boy’s room, and I went to look at myself in the mirror. “This is crazy,” I mouthed to my reflection. I wondered if Tobias would show me pictures of gramps next. I envisioned him rotting away in a Soviet prison.

When I sat back on the couch, it seemed as if Tobias was so wrapped up in his own traumatic admission that he couldn’t even look at me. I was no longer the boy he talked to about New Age philosophy after yoga class — I was an emotional trigger.

When he looked back at me to laugh about the shenanigans of one housewife, I found myself thinking there’s something devilish, almost sinister, about his grin. Oh my God, I thought, why did we have to have the Nazi talk already?

For American Jews in Berlin, dating can feel like an endurance challenge, the object of which is to be comfortable and open enough to handle the most naive and arbitrary questions, ambiguous silences and disturbing admissions of familial guilt.


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