AFTER THE HOLOCAUST by Michael Brenner


Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany
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 An all-too-brief but informative introduction to German Jewry since 1945, consisting of two essays by Brenner and 15 short autobiographical statements by Jewish communal, religious, and cultural leaders. Brenner (Jewish History and Culture/Univ. of Munich), himself a child of Holocaust survivors, notes that the Jewish community in Germany, which today numbers close to 50,000, has consisted of three streams: Holocaust survivors, overwhelmingly from Eastern Europe, who decided to settle in Germany for a wide variety of personal reasons; German Jews who had fled Nazi Germany and returned following the liberation; and immigrants from Israel and, starting in the mid-1980s, from the USSR. In the immediate post- Holocaust period, the community was so traumatized that a US chaplain described the survivors as ``demoralized beyond the hope of rehabilitation.'' The community also suffered both external neglect--help from American Jewish and other Diaspora organizations was late in coming--and internal divisions. While the returnees tended to be less religiously observant and more assimilated, the Eastern European survivors were largely Orthodox Jews and Yiddish speakers. In time, the two communities learned to work together and reconstituted old or established new Jewish structures in Germany. Brenner's thematic approach to this reconstruction leaves some important areas undercovered, but he does deal succinctly with a great deal of interesting material, including the recurrence of German anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, the tensions between Yekkes (German Jews) and Ostjuden (Eastern European Jews), and two major intracommunal financial scandals. Brenner reveals a community that demographically has grown surprisingly strong and durable, but that religiously and culturally remains weak, with communal leaders who have only a ``cursory awareness'' of their heritage. A very readable and useful study, written with the engaged sympathy of an insider and the balanced judgments of a fine historian. (For a profile of a postwar German-Jewish community in New York City, see Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer and Michael Kirchheimer, We Were So Beloved, p. 1438.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-691-02665-3
Page count: 185pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997


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