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A Jewish Family in Germany Today: An Intimate Portraitby Y Michal Bodemann
Synopses & Reviews
Immediately after the Holocaust, it seemed inconceivable that a Jewish community would rebuild in Germany. What was once unimaginable has now come to pass: Germany is home to one of Europe’s most vibrant Jewish communities, and it has the fastest growing Jewish immigrant population of any country in the world outside Israel. By sharing the life stories of members of one Jewish family—the Kalmans—Y. Michal Bodemann provides an intimate look at what it is like to live as a Jew in Germany today. Having survived concentration camps in Poland, four Kalman siblings—three brothers and a sister—were left stranded in Germany after the war. They built new lives and a major enterprise; they each married and had children. Over the past fifteen years Bodemann conducted extensive interviews with the Kalmans, mostly with the survivors’ ten children, who were born between 1948 and 1964. In these oral histories, he shares their thoughts on Judaism, work, family, and community. Staying in Germany is not a given; four of the ten cousins live in Israel and the United States.
Among the Kalman cousins are an art gallery owner, a body builder, a radio personality, a former chief financial officer of a prominent U.S. bank, and a sculptor. They discuss Zionism, anti-Semitism, what it means to root for the German soccer team, Schindler’s List, money, success, marriage and intermarriage, and family history. They reveal their different levels of engagement with Judaism and involvement with local Jewish communities. Kalman is a pseudonym, and their anonymity allows the family members to talk with passion and candor about their relationships and their lives as Jews.
"The German Jewish community was decimated after Hitler came to power in 1933, reduced from 600,000 to less than 10,000 by the end of WWII. Now, there are well over 100,000 Jews in Germany, and the number continues to increase. Bodemann, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto, has written one book (Out of the Ashes) and edited another (Jews, Germans, Memory) dealing with contemporary German Jewry. His new book approaches the same subject by examining the experiences of one Jewish family consisting of four concentration camp survivors and their ten children. The one female survivor and her husband moved to the United States with their young son, who went on to become a successful financial analyst with little relationship to his cousins. The male survivors remained in Germany, where they established a large kitchen appliance business. Three cousins moved to Israel, and the rest remained in Germany, where Bodemann began interviewing them in 1990. Although the stories have considerable human interest, they represent raw data that require interpretation and analysis. Bodemann gives verbatim accounts of the interviews without regard to the repetitious content. Readers will come away frustrated if they seek clear answers to the questions of why Jews remain in Germany and why so many are attracted to the land that once fostered Nazism." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"These interviews are valuable and frank documents. The experiences of the Kalman family are representative of many Jewish families in the period 1945-2000. Y. Michal Bodemann's astute questions and obvious intimate acquaintance with the family bring out the problematic aspects of being Jewish in Germany today. He deals not only with questions of anti-Semitism but also with the secularization process of German Jews."--Jack Zipes, coeditor of "Unlikely History: The Changing German-Jewish Symbiosis, 1945-2000"
"Why did Jews choose to live in postwar Germany? Most scholars have looked for answers to this question in the official institutional history. Y. Michal Bodemann turns our view to the private sphere and thus reveals for the first time a more intimate and at the same time more complex picture of the German Jewish community as mirrored by one family."--Michael Brenner, author of "After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany"
Shares the life experiences of the children of 4 siblings who out of eight siblings, parents and grandparents, survived the Holocaust. It explores the ways in which these children from the same socio-cultural background have built diverse lives in German
Interviews with three generations of a German Jewish family explore contemporary Jewish life in Germany and in the diaspora.
About the Author
“The lives of the Kalman family provide the perfect palette from which to understand the conflicts and the compromises and commitments that Jews have had to make to live not only in Germany but in the modern world.”—Sander L. Gilman, author of Jewish Frontiers: Essays on Bodies, Histories, and Identities
“These interviews are valuable and frank documents. The experiences of the Kalman family are representative of many Jewish families in the period 1945–2000. Y. Michal Bodemann’s astute questions and obvious intimate acquaintance with the family bring out the problematic aspects of being Jewish in Germany today. He deals not only with questions of anti-Semitism but also with the secularization process of German Jews.”—Jack Zipes, coeditor of Unlikely History: The Changing German–Jewish Symbiosis, 1945–2000
“Why did Jews choose to live in postwar Germany? Most scholars have looked for answers to this question in the official institutional history. Y. Michal Bodemann turns our view to the private sphere and thus reveals for the first time a more intimate and at the same time more complex picture of the German Jewish community as mirrored by one family.”—Michael Brenner, author of After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany
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