Jews in Nazi Berlin by Beate Meyer, Hermann Simon, and Chana Schütz

9780226521572Nonfiction — print. Translated from German by Caroline Gay and Miranda Robbins. University of Chicago Press, 2009. 392 pgs. Purchased.

Subtitled “From Kristallnacht to Liberation”, this book is surprisingly colorful and photographic exploration of life in Berlin, Germany during the reign of the Nazis. The book is divided into ten parts — 1938, emigration, Aryanization, the yellow star, Zionists, forced labor, deportation, betrayal, survival, and Jewish organizations. Stories of individuals and families are used in some instances while other subjects are presented on a large scale.

This collection of essays was one of the more interesting books I read for my class on the Holocaust this semester. While not specifically addressing the issues of rescue and resistance, Jews in Nazi Berlin provides a thorough introduction to the plight of the 153,000 Jews living in Berlin in August 1935.

Why did only 80,000 Jews manage to emigrate from Berlin between 1933 and 1939? Why did countries refuse to allow more Jews into their country? How is the line between collaboration and responsible action on the part of Nazi-established Jewish Councils in the city defined?Why did these councils not forewarn their fellow Jews about what really happened when one was “sent to the East”? How can a Jewish woman willingly and maliciously hand over other Jews?

Although some of the information was a repeat of what I already know about Berlin Jews, I particularly enjoyed reading about how some of the more difficult questions (see last three above) about the Holocaust are answered. The personal experiences highlighted in the book also made for interesting reads. The part about Stella Kübler Isaaksohn was fascinating!

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