WE WERE SO BELOVED by Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer


Autobiography of a German Jewish Community
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 These probing interviews with German-Jewish survivors of Nazi Germany, most of them current or former residents of Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood, will bring readers as close as memory can to the life in extremis led by Jews in Germany between 1933 and 1945. In 1986, Manfred Kirchheimer (Film/School of Visual Arts), himself a child of Washington Heights, wrote and produced a documentary film called We Were So Beloved, about the history and present circumstances of the community that raised him. The original interviews, much condensed for the film, are here reproduced in fuller form, edited and annotated by the filmmaker's wife. To the original interviews Kirchheimer adds more recent ones with current residents of his birthplace, Saarbrucken, Germany, including both Jewish returnees to Germany and non-Jewish Germans. In the kaleidoscope of memories that results, the harsh distinctions the Holocaust calls up between innocence and guilt, oppressor and victim, native and foreign, begin to blur; the authors imply that in the moral chaos of the times remembered here, and in the opinions and attitudes of those who remember, stark oppositions break down. One interviewee recalls his German education with fondness; another remembers kindnesses from German police and soldiers; others note tensions within the Jewish refugee community, between those from eastern and western Europe; still others feel accused by, even as they verge on accusing, those who lacked the stamina or resources to escape. The raw material of the interviews cries out for a grandly reconciling interpretation, which the authors wisely confine to a brief foreword by Steven Lowenstein of the University of Judaism and an afterword by Dan Bar-On of Ben Israel's Gurion University of the Negev. The largely uninterpreted data of the interviews effectively re-creates for readers the feelings of fragmentation and loss of bearings the interviewees knew firsthand. (34 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8229-3997-5
Page count: 440pp
Publisher: Univ. of Pittsburgh
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997


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