My Ger­many: A Jew­ish Writer Returns to the World His Par­ents Escaped

Lev Raphael
  • Review
By – December 22, 2011

Lev Raphael has writ­ten 19 books of fic­tion and non-fic­tion in over a 30-year peri­od. The son of Ger­man Holo­caust sur­vivors, he grew up hat­ing every­thing Ger­man, as so many of the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion have. In addi­tion to his her­itage, he final­ly revealed that he was gay. 

After his mother’s death, he decid­ed to do research in the coun­try that had enslaved his par­ents. After that, he received sev­er­al lucra­tive offers to take his book on tour in Germany. 

Those books, many on Jew­ish sub­jects, made him a celebri­ty, and he was very well treat­ed. He learned to accept all things in mod­ern Ger­many and basked in the pop­u­lar­i­ty he received. He said he dis­cov­ered not so much a new Ger­many but a new self, some­one unafraid to face the past and tran­scend it.” His reveal­ing of his sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and his accep­tance of Ger­many came at the same time. 

Sad­ness enveloped his child­hood. The fam­i­ly lived with ghosts: It was pros­per­ous in Vil­na, but like most Jews between the two world wars, Raphael’s fam­i­ly lived in pover­ty, depend­ing on assis­tance from for­eign Jew­ish char­i­ty or rel­a­tives abroad. 

Although the book is pub­li­cized as a mem­oir of the Holo­caust, it is essen­tial­ly devot­ed to the author’s expe­ri­ence as a mod­ern writer on book tours in Ger­many, and his homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. His suc­cess in Ger­many changed all his for­mer hos­til­i­ty to adu­la­tion. What would his par­ents think?

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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