Origins; institutions of Jewish life; from the Middle Ages to the court Jews; the return to history and the struggle for emancipation; the struggle for emancipation; in the 50-year empire; the end.
A rich, often-forgotten culture springs to life in this panoramic, popularly written history. The first German Jewish settlement occurred in the fourth century A.D. in the Rhine valley, where Jews became winegrowers and craftspeople. Over the next 1500 years, German Jews struggled against endemic anti-Semitism; confined in ghettos until their emancipation in 1871, they created self-governing communities. Gay ( Jews in America ) illuminates her subjects' robust daily lives, their religious institutions and their activities as cattle traders, manufacturers, artists, scientists and railroad builders. German Jewry's hope of integration into the larger society ended when the short-lived dream of the Weimar Republic turned into the nightmare of Nazi genocide. Today, Gay writes, the remaining Jews of Germany live ``on an edge, in exile.'' Some 300 superb illustrations and excerpts from period writings amplify this moving narrative. History Book Club selection. (Aug.)
Gay has produced a highly readable and most informative popular history of Germany's Jews. The narrative extends from the emperor Constantine's decree in 321 C.E. that Jews could be called to the Curia of Cologne to the last shipment of Jewish armament workers from Berlin to Auschwitz on February 27, 1943. While the book does not neglect the devastation of the Holocaust nor the abuse German Jews endured from medieval times, it is more a celebration than a lamentation. Gay assumes very little knowledge of Judaism on the reader's part, explaining both the Sabbath and Passover, but she also delineates in some detail the differences between the rabbinical seminaries in 19th-century Germany. Scholars may find small errors (e.g., Germany was no longer divided into more than 300 states after 1815), but the well-balanced text accompanied by lavish illustrations and passages from a wide variety of highly pertinent documents will appeal to virtually anyone with an interest in the European past. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-- Robert W. Frizzell, Hendrix Coll. Lib., Conway, Ark.