Monday, February 02, 2015

The Last Jews In Berlin

The Last Jews In Berlin
By Leonard Gross
Published by Open Road Media
January 2015

Before the Second World War, Berlin had a large Jewish community of 160,000  which took part in most aspects of Berlin's commercial and cultural life. The rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party meant that by 1943, fewer than 5,000 Jews remained there, a truly staggering diminution of numbers. Some lucky ones had fled Germany in the early days of the war, others were sent to the dreaded concentration camps, still others were killed in Allied bombing raids or starved to death in abject poverty or even committed suicide as a last resort.

At the end of the war, there were only a thousand Jews left in Berlin, and this is the quite amazing story of how some of them managed to survive epidemic disease, starvation, predatory Nazi officials, unfriendly neighbours and the infamous "Catchers", who managed to survive themselves in exchange for finding and denouncing others to the official regime.

Based extensively on interviews with the survivors, Gross outlines the stories of twelve Jewish men and women, from all backgrounds (from a teenage orphan to an intellectual) who relied on their own skill and wits, compassionate people and serendipity to survive the last hideous few years of the War and emerge to rebuild their lives once more.

This is a book which will certainly appeal to anyone interested in German history, the Second World War, the Holocaust or Jewish history, but I would advise that if you are thinking of buying this book as a gift, do check with the intended recipient that they do not already have a previous version of this book which was released in 1985 and again in 1999.

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