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Safe Among the Germans

Safe Among the Germans: Liberated Jews After World War II

Ruth Gay
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Safe Among the Germans
    Book Description:

    This book tells the little-known story of why a quarter-million Jews, survivors of death camps and forced labor, sought refuge in Germany after World War II. Those who had ventured to return to Poland after liberation soon found that their homeland had become a new killing ground, where some 1,500 Jews were murdered in pogroms between 1945 and 1947. Facing death at home, and with Palestine and the rest of the world largely closed to them, they looked for a place to be safe and found it in the shelter of the Allied Occupation Forces in Germany.By 1950 a little community of 20,000 Jews remained in Germany: 8,000 native German Jews and 12,000 from Eastern Europe. Ruth Gay examines their contrasting lives in the two postwar Germanies. After the fall of Communism, the Jewish community was suddenly overwhelmed by tens of thousands of former Soviet Jews. Now there are some 100,000 Jews in Germany. The old, somewhat nostalgic life of the first postwar decades is being swept aside by radical forces from the Lubavitcher at one end to Reform and feminism at the other. What started in 1945 as a "remnant" community has become a dynamic new center of Jewish life.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13312-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    This book is about what happened to the Jews afterward—after the killings in the death camps had stopped, after the slave laborers had been freed, after the deportees to the Soviet Union had come home. These moments of release and deliverance are so powerful that most of the survivors who have told their stories stop and draw breath at that endlessly longed-for moment. When danger ends and life begins again, there no longer seems any reason to go on with the story.

    Most of the Jews who survived had experienced not only physical suffering but the dehumanization so thoroughly...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Where They Came From
    (pp. 1-40)

    The phenomenon of thousands of Jews from Eastern Europe freely choosing to migrate to Germany in the first years after World War II was a source of wonder to the Germans as well as to the Jewish communities elsewhere in the world. What these onlookers did not know was that the Jews in Eastern Europe came from a long past that had prepared them for nothing else but the disembodied life of the perpetual stranger in their quotidian lives. Among the most enduring images of twentiethcentury art are the paintings of Marc Chagall depicting the eternal shtetl—with its tumbledown...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Return to the World
    (pp. 41-94)

    After six years of war, Europe in 1945 was a mass of destroyed cities, displaced populations, and ruined industry, as its inhabitants awaited the future with confusion and anxiety. Immediately following the joy of peace came the realization of how much work lay ahead to rebuild a habitable world. As the war ground to a halt, nearly twelve million people in Western and Central Europe were not where they wanted to be. Coming originally from some twenty countries, they had been displaced through captivity, flight, or the search for safety. Now they were seeking reunion with their families and their...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Last German Jews
    (pp. 95-143)

    Deggendorf, a small town in southeast Bavaria, has long had a bad reputation in Jewish chronicles. In 1339 the Jews of the town were massacred, their property confiscated, and their synagogue razed because of their presumed desecration of the Host. This was a popular accusation by the medieval church, according to which the Jews pilfered the sacred wafers and then pierced them with knives, causing them to bleed—a symbolic reenactment of the Crucifixion. Then in 1348–49 the Jews were blamed for the Black Death which raged through Europe and killed off perhaps half of its population. A famous...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Jews Again in Berlin: The Gemeinde, the Camps
    (pp. 144-201)

    The magnetic center of the world, the goal of tens of thousands of Polish Jews after the end of the war, was Berlin, a place described by Berthold Brecht as “that heap of ruins near Potsdam.” Inge Deutschkron, who had been hidden in Germany during the war, walked six hours to get from Potsdam to Berlin and confirmed Brecht’s report. In July 1945, she wrote, Berlin was “a succession of piles of ruins made up of scrap-metal, stones and shredded trees. Like moles, people crawled out of these hills into the daylight. Tired and worn, they crept through the streets...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Jews in East Berlin
    (pp. 202-251)

    With the end of the airlift in May 1949, it was no longer possible to ignore the very real differences between the eastern and western sectors of Berlin. The early unwillingness of officials in the Russian sector to recognize the Jews as “fighters” against fascism now became symbolic of their general denigration of the Jews in the Soviet zone of occupation. Classifying Jews as merely “victims” placed them in a lesser category than “fighters.” We have already seen how Jewish claims for restitution of property or businesses were rejected as unacceptable capitalist demands in a socialist society. But the harsh...

  9. CHAPTER SIX New Generations in Germany
    (pp. 252-308)

    Germany a half-century after the end of World War II is filled with echoes. Voices, images, languages ricochet across time, arousing unexpected and profound feelings. When the Jews in Germany look back on that half-century, they find it hard to recognize their earlier, displaced, anxious selves in the confident, well-organized community they have built. Yet at the start of the twenty-first century, they also face unexpected problems as Germany’s economy faltered and its social fabric revealed some serious and ugly problems.

    As we have seen, the Eastern European Jews, the remnant of the Saving Remnant, who decided to remain in...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 309-330)
  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 331-334)
  12. Index
    (pp. 335-348)