Cover image for Safe among the Germans : liberated Jews after World War II
Safe among the Germans : liberated Jews after World War II
Gay, Ruth.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiv, 347 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.G332 G35 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This volume tells the little-known story of why a quarter-million Jews, survivors of death camps and forced labour, sought refuge in Germany after World War II. Those who had ventured to return to Poland after liberation soon found that their homeland had become a new killing ground, where some 1500 Jews were murdered in pogroms between 1945 and 1947. Facing death at home, and with Palestine and the rest of the world largely closed to them, they looked for a place to be safe and found it in the shelter of the Allied Occupation Forces in Germany.

Author Notes

Ruth Gay has written extensively on Jewish history.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

How has there come to be a Jewish population more than 100,000 strong in the land Hitler promised to make "Judenrein"? As Gay shows in this intriguing if uneven history, Germany ironically served as a haven for Eastern European Jewish immigrants immediately after the war, when a quarter-million Jews were housed, under the protection of the Allies, in displaced persons camps. Gay's discussion of this is the strongest part of her book, as she deftly examines the dynamics of the "surviving remnant" of European Jewry as it tried to rebuild itself amid the ashes of the Holocaust, creating schools, arts organizations and families. As Gay notes poignantly, "the last flowering, the last living moment of Polish Jewish culture, played itself out in the D.P. camps in Germany." As soon as they could, however, most of the Jews emigrated. Germany's Jewish population then struggled with small numbers and the legacy of Nazism for more than 40 years. As Gay (who won a National Jewish Book Award for Unfinished People: Eastern European Jews Encounter America) tracks the life of Jews in both East and West Germany, the book loses focus. But as she details the influx of tens of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, the narrative picks up again as she shows how this latest set of refugees has the opportunity to create a new, vibrant German Jewry. 30 illus. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this succinct and well-documented study, Gay, a renowned writer of Jewish history and winner of the 1997 National Jewish Book Award, illustrates the many tensions that have existed for Germany's postwar Jewish population. She draws on both primary and secondary sources to organize her work into six lengthy chapters, each discussing a different aspect of prewar and postwar Jewish experience. Although the title implies that Jews were "safe" in Germany, it is somewhat misleading, as the author clarifies the many difficulties encountered by Jews in reestablishing their communities, their businesses, and their sense of self in both the Allied and the Soviet sectors of Germany. Lynn Rapaport's Jews in Germany After the Holocaust: Memory, Identity and Jewish-German Relations and Michael Brenner's After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Post-War Germany complement Gay's more in-depth analysis of this troubled period. Gay's scholarly yet readable work includes photographs, notes, and an index (not seen). Recommended for all academic libraries. Maria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll. Lib., Painesville, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Why, in the wake of WWII and the Holocaust, did some survivors not immigrate to the US or Israel but instead choose to rebuild their shattered lives and rekindle the Jewish faith in Germany? Gay provides an emotionally charged but historically balanced account in this story of religious introspection among Jews in postwar Germany and their relations with the broader gentile community. These goles (Yiddish for exile) and their search for religious and national identity serve as Gay's principal themes, and the Jewish Holocaust survivors of Eastern Europe as her protagonists. Hardened by centuries of persecution at the hands of Polish gentry and Russian tsars, Eastern European Jews were masters of adaptation and survival. Gay traces their lives in the displaced persons camps, illuminates their resourcefulness in reestablishing Jewish/Yiddish culture in the "New Germany," and explores their recurring tensions with German Jews, who persisted in regarding them as "unwelcome strangers." The bulk of the book is devoted to the late 1940s, but also includes a depressing portrayal of Jewish life in communist East Berlin and a brief discussion of Jews in reunited Germany. Originally published in 2001 in Germany, this thoroughly readable, enjoyable, and instructive piece of scholarship is for anyone interested in Jewish history. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/collections. M. Shevin-Coetzee formerly, George Washington University