Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism

Leo Spitzer, Author Hill & Wang $25 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8090-5545-6
Bolivia, a haven to Nazi war criminals including Klaus Barbie, the infamous Gestapo chief of Lyon, France, was also an asylum for tens of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Central and Eastern Europe. Dartmouth history professor Spitzer, born in La Paz, Bolivia, in 1939--the son of Austrian-Jewish immigrants who had arrived just three months before his birth--has produced a searing account of the Jewish refugees' checkered experience in ""Hotel Bolivia,"" as they called this mountainous country, which many of them regarded as only a temporary haven. Part memoir, part oral history, Spitzer's eye-opening study uses interviews with surviving refugees (now widely dispersed around the world), plus letters, photographs, family albums and archival documents to explore the trauma of displacement. He acutely describes these refugees' lives in terms of a dynamic of grief, nostalgia, adjustment and mourning for a shattered past, even as they kept up an identification with Austro-German Jewish bourgeois society. Spitzer, who moved to the U.S. with his family in 1950, notes ruefully that Bolivia's welcoming policy toward Jews was short-lived, as anti-Semitic agitation culminated in a right-wing military coup in 1943. Today, just 1500 Jews live in Bolivia. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 234 pages - 978-0-8090-0175-0
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