Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany

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Oxford University Press, 1999 - History - 290 pages
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Between Dignity and Despair draws on the extraordinary memoirs, diaries, interviews, and letters of Jewish women and men to give us the first intimate portrait of Jewish life in Nazi Germany.

Kaplan tells the story of Jews in Germany not from the hindsight of the Holocaust, nor by focusing on the persecutors, but from the bewildered and ambiguous perspective of Jews trying to navigate their daily lives in a world that was becoming more and more insane. Answering the charge that Jews should have left earlier, Kaplan shows that far from seeming inevitable, the Holocaust was impossible to foresee precisely because Nazi repression occurred in irregular and unpredictable steps until the massive violence of Novemer 1938. Then the flow of emigration turned into a torrent, only to be stopped by the war. By that time Jews had been evicted from their homes, robbed of their possessions and their livelihoods, shunned by their former friends, persecuted by their neighbors, and driven into forced labor. For those trapped in Germany, mere survival became a nightmare of increasingly desperate options. Many took their own lives to retain at least some dignity in death; others went underground and endured the fears of nightly bombings and the even greater terror of being discovered by the Nazis. Most were murdered. All were pressed to the limit of human endurance and human loneliness.

Focusing on the fate of families and particularly women's experience, Between Dignity and Despair takes us into the neighborhoods, into the kitchens, shops, and schools, to give us the shape and texture, the very feel of what it was like to be a Jew in Nazi Germany.
 

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User Review  - tess_schoolmarm - LibraryThing

The author's purpose for writing the book, imho, was to illustrate that the violence and anti-semitism that occurred in Nazi Germany began with the small things, not the violence that we normally read ... Read full review

BETWEEN DIGNITY AND DESPAIR: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany

User Review  - Kirkus

An exceptional Holocaust study from the vantage point of German Jewish women. German Jews in general have been accused of loving Germany too much and of suffering less than their Eastern European ... Read full review

Contents

IN PUBLIC JEWS ARE TURNED INTO PARIAHS 19331938
17
Political Lawlessness and Economic Oppression
18
Food Shelter and Relationship with Other Germans
32
Jewish Social Life and Jewishness
46
IN PRIVATE THE DAILY LIVES OF JEWISH WOMEN AND FAMILIES 19331938
50
The Household
54
The Challenges of New Roles and the Tenacity of Old Ones
57
The Emigration Quandary
62
WAR AND THE WORSENING SITUATION OF JEWS
145
Outbreak of War
150
Popular and Jewish Attitudes
160
Jewish Social Life in Wartime
161
The Odyssey of One Elderly Jewish Couple
169
FORCED LABOR AND DEPORTATIONS
173
Despair and Suicide
179
The Transition from Social Death to Physical Annihilation
184

JEWISH AND MIXED FAMILIES
74
Mixed Marriages and Mixed Families
83
Divorce
87
THE DAILY LIVES OF JEWISH CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN THE THIRD REICH
94
Hostile Environment Beyond School
106
Jewish Teens
109
Children Leave Home
116
THE NOVEMBER POGROM AND ITS AFTERMATH
119
The Pogrom
121
Womens Roles and Reactions during the Pogrom
125
Emigration
129
LIFE UNDERGROUND
201
The Dilemmas of an Illegal Life
203
Jewish Resistance
212
Three Accounts of Hiding
216
CONCLUSION
229
German Perpetrators and Bystanders
232
Notes
239
Bibliography
265
Index
275
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About the author (1999)


Marion Kaplan is Professor of History at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the author of The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany, which won the National Jewish Book Award and the German History Prize and The Jewish Feminist Movement in Germany. She lives in New York City.

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