A History of Jews in Germany since 1945: Politics, Culture, and Society

A History of Jews in Germany since 1945: Politics, Culture, and Society

A History of Jews in Germany since 1945: Politics, Culture, and Society

A History of Jews in Germany since 1945: Politics, Culture, and Society


Originally published in German in 2012, this comprehensive history of Jewish life in postwar Germany provides a systematic account of Jews and Judaism from the Holocaust to the early 21st century by leading experts of modern German-Jewish history. Beginning in the immediate postwar period with a large concentration of Eastern European Holocaust survivors stranded in Germany, the book follows Jews during the relative quiet period of the fifties and early sixties during which the foundations of new Jewish life were laid.

Brenner's volume goes on to address the rise of anti-Israel sentiments after the Six-Day War as well as the beginnings of a critical confrontation with Germany's Nazi past in the late sixties and early seventies, noting the relatively small numbers of Jews living in Germany up to the 1990s. The contributors argue that these Jews were a powerful symbolic presence in German society and sent a meaningful signal to the rest of the world that Jewish life was possible again in Germany after the Holocaust.

This landmark history presents a comprehensive account of reconstruction of a multifaceted Jewish life in a country that carries the legacy of being at the epicenter of the Holocaust.


Michael Brenner

No one would have ventured to contradict Rabbi Leo Baeck when, after World War ii, he stated that the age of German Jewry had come to a definitive end. Modern German-Jewish history, which began with the Enlightenment and continued to unfold through the Weimar Republic, could simply not continue seamlessly as if nothing had happened. As a result, after 1945 the leading figures in the Jewish community came to reject the notion of “German citizens of Jewish faith,” which was how German Jews had viewed themselves prior to 1933, and instead chose to call their organization the Central Council of Jews in Germany. This name signaled a break with the understanding that German Jews of previous generations had developed about their relationship to German society as a whole. It also acknowledged the fact that the majority of Jews now living in Germany came from Eastern Europe.

In the years immediately following the war, approximately 250,000 persons who had survived the Holocaust in Eastern Europe (the so-called displaced persons, or DPs) joined the 15,000 or so German-Jewish survivors and returnees from exile in camps mostly in the American sector in Germany. a distinctive topography developed in the Jewish community in Germany during the decades following the war. the German Jews began to coalesce around the Central Council and later the Allgemeine Jüdische Wochenzeitung (Jewish weekly newspaper), headquartered in Düsseldorf, while Eastern European DPs tended to gather in Munich, where most of the American facilities were to be found. the actual center of Jewish life during those years, however, the vibrant center of intellectual and economic life, was located in Frankfurt am Main, the “functional capital” of the Federal Republic. Although Berlin had lost its position as the dominant metropolis in Jewish life—before 1933 fully a third of Jewish citizens had lived there—the western part of the city continued to harbor the largest postwar German-Jewish . . .

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