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After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany
     

After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany

by Michael Brenner
 
This landmark book is the first comprehensive account of the lives of the Jews who remained in Germany immediately following the war. Gathering never-before-published eyewitness accounts from Holocaust survivors, Michael Brenner presents a remarkable history of this period. While much has been written on the Holocaust itself, until now little has been known about the

Overview

This landmark book is the first comprehensive account of the lives of the Jews who remained in Germany immediately following the war. Gathering never-before-published eyewitness accounts from Holocaust survivors, Michael Brenner presents a remarkable history of this period. While much has been written on the Holocaust itself, until now little has been known about the fate of those survivors who remained in Germany. Jews emerging from concentration camps would learn that most of their families had been murdered and their communities destroyed. Furthermore, all Jews in the country would face the stigma of living, as a 1948 resolution of the World Jewish Congress termed it, on "bloodsoaked German soil." Brenner brings to life the psychological, spiritual, and material obstacles they surmounted as they rebuilt their lives in Germany. At the heart of his narrative is a series of fifteen interviews Brenner conducted with some of the most important witnesses who played an active role in the reconstruction--including presidents of Jewish communities, rabbis, and journalists.

Based on the Yiddish and German press and unpublished archival material, the first part of this book provides a historical introduction to this fascinating topic. Here the author analyzes such diverse aspects as liberation from concentration camps, cultural and religious life among the Jewish Displaced Persons, antisemitism and philosemitism in post-war Germany, and the complex relationship between East European and German Jews. A second part consists of the fifteen interviews, conducted by Brenner, with witnesses representing the diverse background of the postwar Jewish community. While most of them were camp survivors, others returned from exile or came to Germany as soldiers of the Jewish Brigade or with international Jewish aid organizations. A third part, which covers the development of the Jewish community in Germany from the 1950s until today, concludes the book.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An all-too-brief but informative introduction to German Jewry since 1945, consisting of two essays by Brenner and 15 short autobiographical statements by Jewish communal, religious, and cultural leaders.

Brenner (Jewish History and Culture/Univ. of Munich), himself a child of Holocaust survivors, notes that the Jewish community in Germany, which today numbers close to 50,000, has consisted of three streams: Holocaust survivors, overwhelmingly from Eastern Europe, who decided to settle in Germany for a wide variety of personal reasons; German Jews who had fled Nazi Germany and returned following the liberation; and immigrants from Israel and, starting in the mid-1980s, from the USSR. In the immediate post- Holocaust period, the community was so traumatized that a US chaplain described the survivors as "demoralized beyond the hope of rehabilitation." The community also suffered both external neglect—help from American Jewish and other Diaspora organizations was late in coming—and internal divisions. While the returnees tended to be less religiously observant and more assimilated, the Eastern European survivors were largely Orthodox Jews and Yiddish speakers. In time, the two communities learned to work together and reconstituted old or established new Jewish structures in Germany. Brenner's thematic approach to this reconstruction leaves some important areas undercovered, but he does deal succinctly with a great deal of interesting material, including the recurrence of German anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, the tensions between Yekkes (German Jews) and Ostjuden (Eastern European Jews), and two major intracommunal financial scandals. Brenner reveals a community that demographically has grown surprisingly strong and durable, but that religiously and culturally remains weak, with communal leaders who have only a "cursory awareness" of their heritage.

A very readable and useful study, written with the engaged sympathy of an insider and the balanced judgments of a fine historian.

The Boston Book Review - Noah J. Efron
The history that Brenner deftly recounts confounds any urge to extract simple lessons from the Holocaust or its aftermath.... Brenner has instead provided something more fragile and more valuable, a reminder that the way people reassemble their lives after tragedy is miraculously complicated.
From the Publisher
"A very readable and useful study, written with the engaged sympathy of an insider and the balanced judgments of a fine historian."Kirkus Reviews

"If the middle section of interviews seems redundant, it is only because Brenner has covered the material so well and so succinctly elsewhere [in the book]."Publishers Weekly

"The history that Brenner deftly recounts confounds any urge to extract simple lessons from the Holocaust or its aftermath.... Brenner has instead provided something more fragile and more valuable, a reminder that the way people reassemble their lives after tragedy is miraculously complicated."—Noah J. Efron, The Boston Book Review

The Boston Book Review
The history that Brenner deftly recounts confounds any urge to extract simple lessons from the Holocaust or its aftermath.... Brenner has instead provided something more fragile and more valuable, a reminder that the way people reassemble their lives after tragedy is miraculously complicated.
— Noah J. Efron

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691026657
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/13/1997
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
6.39(w) x 9.57(h) x 0.77(d)

What People are Saying About This

Walter Laqueur, Chairman, International Research Council
A masterly short survey, the best in existence, of Jewish life such as it was in Germany after the defeat.
Sander L. Gilman
[Michael Brenner] proves the historical resiliency of the Jewish community.... An exciting and accurate chronicle.
Sander L. Gilman, The University of Chicago
[Michael Brenner] proves the historical resiliency of the Jewish community.... An exciting and accurate chronicle.
Walter Laqueur
A masterly short survey, the best in existence, of Jewish life such as it was in Germany after the defeat.
Walter Laqueur, Chairman, International Research Council
Peter Gay
The appearance of this book in English is most welcome. . . . It is a sobering book but a necessary one.
Peter Gay, Professor Emeritus, Yale University
Gilman
[Michael Brenner] proves the historical resiliency of the Jewish community.... An exciting and accurate chronicle.
Sander L. Gilman, The University of Chicago

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