cover image EXODUS TO BERLIN: The Return of the Jews to Germany

EXODUS TO BERLIN: The Return of the Jews to Germany

Peter Laufer, . . Ivan R. Dee, $26 (237pp) ISBN 978-1-56663-529-5

Germany's burgeoning Jewish population is one of the more compelling European phenomena during the past decade. Laufer, a former NBC News correspondent and award-winning documentary filmmaker, relies on dozens of interviews to paint a comprehensive—although less than compelling—portrait of the fastest-growing Jewish community in the world today. He scours the entire country and examines all the angles of the phenomenon: Holocaust survivors who never left; immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who have provided much of the growth; even Israelis of German descent who want to have German citizenship in case Israeli-Palestinian violence becomes too much to bear. All too often, one wishes that Laufer had probed a bit deeper into questions of identity; too many times, he asks only the simple question, "Do you feel German [or Ukrainian] or Jewish?" Laufer also explores the non-Jewish German side of the equation: he interviews German teens attending a demonstration against anti-Semitism and visits with a group of neo-Nazis and a rabbi who was taunted and then beaten for being Jewish. But the portrait that emerges is optimistic, of a society that is moving forward even as it struggles to deal with the terrible legacy of Nazism. Laufer even profiles Hellmut Stern, a Jewish musician who left Germany on the eve of WWII and has now returned to take up a chair in the Berlin Philharmonic. "They are dead," he says of the Nazis. "We are here. That is a triumph." The book is a partial triumph as well. B&w photos. (Oct. 3)