Jews, Ger­mans, and Allies: Close Encoun­ters in Occu­pied Germany

Ati­na Grossmann
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012

This is a metic­u­lous­ly and exten­sive­ly researched account — the result of ten years of study of post-war Ger­many and the inter­ac­tion of Ger­mans, Jews, and Allies, with empha­sis on Berlin and the dis­placed per­sons’ camps. There are 80 pages of notes on the text and an eight page bibliography. 

A quar­ter of a mil­lion Jew­ish sur­vivors of the Holo­caust lived among the defeat­ed Ger­mans in Allied occu­pied Ger­many. These sur­vivors includ­ed those released from con­cen­tra­tion camps, those who had man­aged to hide, and those who had been in the Sovi­et Union as slave labor. 

The book focus­es on Berlin, called the great­est pile of rub­ble in the world” by res­i­dents and occu­piers. In May, 1945, there were a half mil­lion dis­placed per­sons, from many nations, in Berlin. Six­ty per­cent were female. The men had been killed, wound­ed or impris­oned. Life in gen­er­al has a strange, unre­al qual­i­ty.” One out of three women in Berlin was raped by Sovi­et sol­diers, labeled the Red Beast.” Vene­re­al dis­eases, unwant­ed preg­nan­cies, and mass abor­tions were preva­lent, as the Sovi­ets retal­i­at­ed for the Ger­man inva­sion of the Sovi­et Union. 

The dis­placed per­sons’ camps in the Amer­i­can Zone are well doc­u­ment­ed, espe­cial­ly those of the Jew­ish refugees. There was a baby boom. The Jews required a new life— a final solu­tion out­side Europe.” Many want­ed to go to Pales­tine, but the British object­ed to large num­bers going. 

The Ger­mans con­sid­ered them­selves vic­tims. They resent­ed the return­ing Jews because they had to return homes and prop­er­ty they had con­fis­cat­ed. They also resent­ed that the Amer­i­can Zone was a haven for the Jews. 

This book presents much need­ed research into an era that needs even more exam­i­na­tion, as the author her­self notes. A seg­ment about her grandfather’s involve­ment pro­vides per­son­al his­to­ry. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, glos­sary, index, notes.

Arlyne Samuels a grad­u­ate of Brook­lyn Col­lege, taught and super­vised Eng­lish in New York City for 40 years. She was the coor­di­na­tor of the book club of the Greater Worces­ter (MA) Chap­ter of Hadas­sah. Arlyne passed away in May 2009 and will be missed by the Jew­ish Book World team.

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