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Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany (Studies in Jewish History) [Paperback]

Marion A. Kaplan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Nov 1999 Studies in Jewish History
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 from the vantage of 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; many others went underground and endured the terrors of nightly bombings and the even greater fear 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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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; unknown edition (4 Nov 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195130928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195130928
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 345,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"This is a devastatingly powerful book. By vividly illustrating how the Holocaust began with seemingly inconsequential acts of humiliation, Kaplan offers readers a message of contemporary relevance."--The New York Times Book Review"Fascinating....Kaplan works at the intersection of Holocaust history and women's studies."--The Philadelphia Inquirer"An exceptional Holocaust study."--Kirkus Reviews"An innovative and suggestive exploration of a surprisingly neglected piece of Jewish history."--Publishers Weekly

About the Author

, whose own parents escaped Nazi Germany, is Professor of History at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the author of

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
From the outset, the Nazi government used legislation, administrative decrees, and propaganda to defame and ostracize Jews and to lower their social, economic, and legal standing. Read the first page
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Scholars of the Holocaust tend to focus on the horrors of the concentration camps. While people need to be aware of these horrors, it is also important to know the details about Jewish life in Germany before the "final solution" went into effect. Marion Kaplan provides us with these details, and the Holocaust emerges as far more terrible than most people imagine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing analysis 26 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read so much about all aspects of the holocaust I wondered whether this book would add much to my knowledge of this part of history. Focusing primarily upon the women's aspect I found it a wonderful insight in to these terrible years. The book is written in an academic format but that only helped to indicate the dreadful heaping on of humiliation and violence suffered upon the German Jewish community.
There were instances of moral and physical support from German Gentiles however it clearly shows that so many Germans were actively anti-semitic even in small gestures. Overall, one of the most informative books on the German holocaust.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intersection between Jewish and Women's history 30 Nov 2001
By Dizziey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In Between Dignity and Despair, Kaplan sought to examine the everyday lives of Jewish people under the Nazi Regime. Many Holocaust historians tend to approach the Jewish history from the male perspective (as men were involved in politics). Kaplan sought to explain the importance of women's roles in the Jewish society and how Jewish women urged their husbands to leave Germany when the Nazi gained power and influence.
Kaplan also sought to explain what it felt like to be a Jew living under the Nazi regime and how they became isolated from the rest of the society. She also explained how by and large Germans participated in this persecution and by this she did not mean physical persecution but social persecution.
She gave special attention to the Jewish women and how the women tried to adapt to their new roles and the new situation. The women were able to provide mental and emotional support to their families when their husbands lost their jobs. It was indeed insightful to see how the women were able to cope and how they were the first group to realize the isolation that took place, mainly because of their interaction with neighbors, store owners, public officials, etc.
I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about the Jewish life under Nazi Germany and the focus here is not those who suffered under the concentration camps but the "ordinary people" who had to cope with their new situation.
34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and painful. 20 Feb 2000
By M. Galishoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Between Dignity and Despair is haunting and painful. The statistics of the Holocaust and "sadistics" of its perpetrators can never capture the true cost in Human terms. History is more than a chronicle and analysis of events. It is also an understanding of the experiences of the people who lived through those events. These experiences do not lend themselves to quantitative assessment and validation. None-the-less, the stories and letters of the people who lived during that time are essential to our interpretation of the geopolitical, military and social events that have shaped our world.
The great question facing us today involves the "collective guilt" of the German people for the persecution and genocide of their Jewish neighbors. The frightening and logical extension of this question is: if such horrors can arise from the children "of the enlightenment," could it not also come from "the sons and daughters of liberty?" It is clear from these accounts that the society as a whole, actively and passively, participated in this process. When studied in Human terms, it is inconceivable that it could have happened any other way.
Cain, after murdering Able, asked of God "Am I my brother's keeper?" The response of the German people to the obvious disenfranchisement, persecution and suffering of the Jews seemed to be: "It depends on your definition of `brother.'" It teaches us that our high and noble beliefs such as equality, liberty, freedom, and brotherly love, are empty words if not applied universally. This lesson was painfully learned in 19th century America when the statement "all Men are created equal" was understood as only applying to those of White, Northern European ancestry.
Between Dignity and Despair is haunting and painful because within its pages we see our own demons and feel the fragility of our own Humanity. We also see to what extreme our quiet personal prejudices can lead us when they go unchecked by the better angels of our nature.
Ms Kaplan has contributed to our understanding of the horrors of systematic psychological terrorism practiced by the Nazis. No revisionist, seeking to absolve German society, can deny the conclusions drawn from the experiences she has documented. Her work is essential to an understanding of the Holocaust.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book fills a large void in Holocaust literature. 1 Jan 1999
By ksilfen@vmsvax.simmons.edu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Scholars of the Holocaust tend to focus on the horrors of the concentration camps. While people need to be aware of these horrors, it is also important to know the details about Jewish life in Germany before the "final solution" went into effect. Marion Kaplan provides us with these details, and the Holocaust emerges as far more terrible than most people imagine.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful, Necessary Account of Jewish Daily life Under Nazi Occupation 21 May 2013
By Poetman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A richly detailed, comprehensive account of Jewish life under Nazi rule that comes with important--and hitherto neglected--attention to the particular role of women.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book gives a very comprehensive account of what it was like to live in Nazi Germany. It is powerfully written. 5 May 2013
By Carol Mutterperl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
THe book gives a very comprehensive account of life in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. It offers personal illustrations of lived experiences and accounts left behind by those who perished. It was emotional without being sentimental.
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