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Jewish Life in Nazi Germany—A View “from Below”

Reviewed by Guy Miron

  1. Kaplan’s previous and most familiar book is The Making of the Jewish Middle Class, Women, Family and Identity in Imperial Germany (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).
  2. Martina Kliner-Fruck, “Es ging ja ums Ueberleben,” Juedische Frauen zwischen Nazi-Deutschland, Emigration nach Palaestina und ihrer Rueckkehr (Frankfurt and New York: Campus Verlag, 1995). The first part of this study (pp. 21-109) deals with Jewish women in Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s on the basis of personal testimonies. Sybille Quack, Zuflucht America, Zur Sozialgeschichte der Emigration, deutsch-juedischer Frauen in die USA 1933-1945 (Bonn: Dietz, 1995), pp. 39-82. Before taking up the lives of German-Jewish emigres in the United States, this study discusses their lives in Germany in the 1930s. Lisa Pine, Nazi Family Policy 1933-1945 (Oxford and New York: Berg, 1997). Chapter 5 in this study (pp. 147-178) deals with Jewish family life in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s on the basis of personal testimonies; it cites several of Kaplan’s sources, although less extensively. A new study currently being conducted by Daniel Fraenkel, deals with the daily lives of Jews in Nazi Germany as reflected in the archives of the Centralverein. Several studies in recent years have discussed the feminine angle of German society in various aspects. See, for example, Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family, and Nazi Politics (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987); Gudrun Schwarz, Eine Frau an seiner Seite, Ehefrauen in der “SS-Sippengemeinschaft” (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1997).
  3. The repressionist tendencies of contemporary non-Jewish Germans and their manner of reconstructing the past in personal testimonies are discussed, for example, in Gabriele Rosenthal, ed., “Als der Krieg kam, hatte ich mit Hitler nichts zu tun,” Zur Gegenwaertigkeit des “Dritten Reiches” in Biographien (Opladen: Leske & Budrich, 1990); and Barbara Keller, Rekonstruktion von Vergangenheit, Vom Umgang der “Kriegsgeneration” mit Lebenserinnerungen (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1996).
  4. The precise distinction between the two categories of marriage is more complex; it also concerns itself with whether the couple had children and, if so, with their status; see pp. 148- 149.
  5. From testimony of Benjamin Sommer, Yad Vashem Archives, 03/10479, pp. 9, 13. I thank Irena Steinfeldt for calling my attention to this part of the testimony.
  6. Erich Lucas, Juedisches Leben auf dem Lande, Eine Familienchronik (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1991), p. 122.
  7. Men who describe their past usually tend to focus on their careers and professional accomplishments, whereas women—even if they had careers—tend more strongly to mention family, social environment, and—above all—experiences that engaged their emotions more directly. The discourse on female autobiography has explored this tendency in the past few years. See, for example, Estelle C. Jelinek, The Tradition of Women’s Autobiography: From Antiquity to the Present (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986), p. 187. For discussion of the theory that stations the relationship with a significant “other”—which may be the social milieu generally—at the forefront of women’s memoirs, in contrast to men’s memoirs, which focus on the authors themselves, see Sidonie Smith, A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography, Marginality and the Fictions of Self-Representation (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 18.
  8. For a discussion on the reflection of the experience of leaving Germany in the autobiographical memoirs of German Jews who emigrated to Palestine, see my doctoral dissertation: Guy Miron, German Jews in Palestine/Israel—Self-Consciousness Viewed through Patterns of Autobiographical Memory (Hebrew) (presently under review, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, submitted 1998), pp. 109-114; for two accounts that display a similar level of intensity in the persons’ attachment to the German homeland, see Martin Feuchtwanger, Zukunft ist ein blindes Spiel (Munich: Langen Mueller, 1989), p. 173; and Charlotte Stein-Pick, Meine verlorene Heimat (Bamberg: Bayerische Verlagsanstalt, 1992), pp. 76-78.
  9. Bertha Katz, Autobiography (mss.), Leo Baeck Institute Archive, New York, ME355, p. 54.
  10. David Bankier, The Germans and the Final Solution: Public Opinion under Nazism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992).
  11. Kaplan does not always explain where and when these actions took place.
  12. Kaplan explores this insight on p. 51, on the basis of psychological research performed at Harvard on memoirs and on the basis of interviews with emigres from Nazi Germany.
  13. In these matters, see, for example, Yehoyakim Cochavi, Jewish Spiritual Survival in Nazi Germany (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Ghetto Fighters House and Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1988).
  14. Kaplan, The Making of the Jewish Middle Class.