After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany

Michael Brenner, Author, Barbara Harshav, Translator Princeton University Press $55 (208p) ISBN 978-0-691-02665-7
In 1945, the newly reestablished Jewish community of Dusseldorf was confronted by a municipal official ""holding a writ of attachment, to collect `unpaid property taxes from 1938 to 1945,'"" complete with late fees and monitory charges. It's just a small story, but one that's indicative of the rather surreal position of Jews in Germany after WWII. Brenner starts with what is usually the end--the Allied liberation of the death camps. However, most Jewish survivors were DPs (displaced persons) and moved to camps that were equally overcrowded, unhealthy and restricted, and, to boot, they sometimes shared these camps with their former tormentors. Brenner's examination of the DP camps captures the combination of apathy, anxiety for loved ones, a bit of cautious hope and the horrid fear that the DPs were still forgotten. By the early 1950s all but a very few Jews had emigrated, and those who remained were often in or born of mixed marriages, which meant that people on the fringes of Jewish society had the responsibility of recreating it. Equally ironic was the large influx of Yiddish-speaking, unassimilated Eastern European Jews, which often made the tiny Jewish community more noticeable than the larger prewar ones had been. After the war, Brenner notes, everyone wanted a Jewish friend (a 1946 Jewish newspaper headline declared ""Jewish Grandmothers at Black Market Prices.""), and he follows this trend to today when almost any klezmer concert or Jewish studies course is packed with non-Jews curious about a lost culture. If the middle section of interviews seems redundant, it is only because Brenner has covered the material so well and so succinctly elsewhere. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-691-00679-6
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