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Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany [Kindle Edition]

Yascha Mounk

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Book Description

A moving and unsettling exploration of a young man's formative years in a country still struggling with its past



As a Jew in postwar Germany, Yascha Mounk felt like a foreigner in his own country. When he mentioned that he is Jewish, some made anti-Semitic jokes or talked about the superiority of the Aryan race. Others, sincerely hoping to atone for the country's past, fawned over him with a forced friendliness he found just as alienating.

Vivid and fascinating, Stranger in My Own Country traces the contours of Jewish life in a country still struggling with the legacy of the Third Reich and portrays those who, inevitably, continue to live in its shadow. Marshaling an extraordinary range of material into a lively narrative, Mounk surveys his countrymen's responses to "the Jewish question." Examining history, the story of his family, and his own childhood, he shows that anti-Semitism and far-right extremism have long coexisted with self-conscious philo-Semitism in postwar Germany.

But of late a new kind of resentment against Jews has come out in the open. Unnoticed by much of the outside world, the desire for a "finish line" that would spell a definitive end to the country's obsession with the past is feeding an emphasis on German victimhood. Mounk shows how, from the government's pursuit of a less "apologetic" foreign policy to the way the country's idea of the Volk makes life difficult for its immigrant communities, a troubled nationalism is shaping Germany's future.


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Review

Artful and thoughtful . . . One hopes that Mounk will keep his eyes trained on the deep paradoxes informing German-Jewish lives. --Paul Reitter, Bookforum [Mounk] is a gifted raconteur and aphorist, and if you want to learn about Germany's preverse, absurd love for its Jews--the flip side, or the bastard child, of its historical anti-Semitism--this book is a fine place to start . . . Mr. Mounk skillfully puts Germans and Jews on his analyst's couch . . . There is an adage, usually attributed to an Israeli psychoanalyst, that the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. If you want to understand how that can be, read this book. --Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times Mounk's account, one of the first on this subject addressed to a general English-speaking readership, is an intriguing and sometimes disturbing glimpse into an aspect of Jewish life of which most American Jews may not be aware. --Martin Green, Jewish Book Council [A] rich and remarkable memoir . . . Mounk's engaging and provocative book amounts to a kind of intellectual and emotional self-portrait of the author himself and, at the same time, a historical and cultural profile of post-war Germany. --Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal. Informative and entertaining . . . What is it like to be a Jew in Germany in the postwar era? What would lead even a handful of Jews to choose to make their lives in the country that was responsible for the Holocaust? And how did the descendants of the perpetrators treat the descendants of the victims? These are the questions at the heart of Mounk's book, which starts out as a memoir but evolves into something more like a history and a polemic. Accessibly written and full of humor, Stranger in My Own Country uses Mounk's own experiences to shed light on postwar German history and current German politics. Adam Kirsch, Tablet In Stranger in My Own Country, Yascha Mounk compellingly illustrates how the --Various

About the Author

Yascha Mounk is a PhD candidate in political thought in the Department of Government at Harvard University and is the founding editor of The Utopian. He frequently writes for newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune, The Nation, Slate,and Die Zeit.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1098 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (7 Jan. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E718YMY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #719,871 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal story and the difficult interaction of two peoples 8 Jan. 2014
By Joel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A smart and fascinating study of an impossible situation told in the context of Mounk's own experiences growing up in Germany: Germans and Jews trying against all odds to figure out how to be normal with one another, and failing. Not, as Mount takes pains to point out, for want of trying, but the historical legacy, with all its attendant ambivalence, guilt and resentment, is just too overwhelming to be overcome with mere goodwill. Mounk's survey of the ongoing tensions emanating from the Nazi past extend beyond autobiography to German cultural life (e.g., Martin Walser, Günter Grass) and public policy (debates on participation in NATO- or U.S.-supported wars, demands on the weaker economies within the EU). - You have to feel sorry for the Germans, who can't seem to win for losing. (Mounk is careful to emphasize, however, that white Americans, with our own painful history and fraught race relations, have no reason to be smug.) While reading this book, I learned from the newspaper that some 30,000 Israelis, mainly young people, are now living in Berlin, which got me to wondering whether the problems Mounk describes are to some extent trumped by the "normalcy" of being Israeli. - I found the most moving section of the book to be Mounk's description of German Chancellor Willy Brandt's falling to his knees at the Warsaw Ghetto monument in 1970: "For one long moment there is no movement. Faces freeze. Nobody breathes. After an eternity, Brandt's breath becomes visible: he exhales, perhaps surprised by his own gesture, undoubtedly relieved to have done justice to the occasion. He, who has no personal guilt, has issued a moving plea for forgiveness. He, who need not apologize to anybody, has kneeled on behalf of those who dare not or cared not to. It was a gesture that did as much for Germany's reconciliation with the victims of the Third Reich as thirty years [1949 - 1970?] of democratic rule."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars mingled history and memoir 26 Jan. 2014
By hmf22 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Yascha Mounk's Stranger in My Own Country is a rare, searching, bluntly honest account of the experience of living as a Jew in modern Germany. Beginning with his grandparents' generation, Mounk recounts the entwined histories of his own family and the country of his birth. As Mounk frankly acknowledges, he is an ethnic Jew and not in any way a religious one, so his Jewish identity has developed almost entirely from his grandparents' experience of the Holocaust and his own experience of growing up as a conspicuous, isolated minority in a country deeply (sometimes swaggeringly, sometimes skittishly) uneasy about its past. The book is tilted more heavily towards political history, and less towards personal memoir, than I anticipated from the subtitle and reviews, and that was a bit of a disappointment to me; I thought Mounk's own meditations were the best parts of the book. Still, it's a very compelling exploration of his theme.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eloquently written and moving. 8 Jan. 2014
By Daniel Hessel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Highly recommended! Mounk is a fantastic writer: clear and concise, but able to convey a full depth of emotion and detail. The story is fascinating, and extremely important for anyone who wants to understand what it is like to be a secular Jew in post-war Germany (and, indeed, Europe).
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A few good insights 13 Feb. 2014
By Bruce Jay Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book takes on interest when the author personalizes the material. Otherwise spotty unless you're interested in slow changes in the German government.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars doesn't understand identity 3 Mar. 2014
By Sivan Sincere - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
While the discussion about Jews in Germany seems insightful, the author doesn't really understand what identity means in the US where it is usually not forced on an individual. I think there is a sense of being damaged by growing up in a country which always see you as an "other." To choose freely ones own identity should be respected by others. To choose to be a cultural Jew, contrary to what the author believes, means feeling a connection with the history and the religion. Not necessarily being religious. This discussion is a personal memoir of why the author chooses New York over Germany. I can't fault him for that. But it's value is it it's insights about Germany. He really does not understand enough about the US and New York to explain exactly what he is identifying with.
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