BOUND UPON A WHEEL OF FIRE by John V.H. Dippel

BOUND UPON A WHEEL OF FIRE

Why So Many German Jews Made the Tragic Decision to Remain in Nazi Germany

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A revealing glimpse into the lives of six German Jews and their motives for lingering on in Nazi Germany. From a wide ``archival diaspora'' of letters, diaries, and other documents, Dippel, an editorial consultant, pieces together the lives of six leading, but very different, German Jews who passed up every opportunity to leave Nazi Germany before 1939; the study is an attempt to suggest why the majority of German Jews, despite legal and physical assaults, did not flee that nation. Dippel follows both the private and very public lives of his six subjects. Rabbi Leo Baeck represents German Jewry's religious and political leadership. We watch this proponent of interfaith dialogue as he slowly comprehends that the Jews' position in Germany is untenable. Finally broken, he is dragged off to the camps (which he survives), after asking the Gestapo for an extra minute to pay his gas bill. Journalist Robert Weltsch discovers Zionism, remains dedicated to showing German Jews that Palestine will play ``a central role in Jewish life,'' and ultimately sees the fractured community accept his thesis that Jews, too, are a volk with a ``fatherland.'' Nobel Prizewinning chemist Richard Willstatter develops the gas mask, screens himself from reality in his scientific ivory tower, and survives only because of a miraculous escape. Society columnist Bella Fromm socializes with diplomats and top Nazis to save hundreds of refugees and then manages, barely, to save herself. Financier Max Warburg also grows from a hedonistic German into a heroic, defiant Jew who sacrifices much so that many others can escape before him. Only Jewish fascist Hans-Joachim Schoeps (``no one can tear Germany out of our hearts'') conforms to the pathological profile that we so glibly confer on those determined to deny reality and their own identity. This dramatic, multidimensional history adds much-needed depth to our understanding of the enigmatic German-Jewish community that dallied with Hitler.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1996
ISBN: 0-465-09103-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1996




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