History, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 1999


Published in The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 90, No. 1/2 (Jul.-Oct., 1999), pp. 230- 234. Copyright © 1999 University of Pennsylvania Press. Used by permission


The edited volume of documents under review ... brings together materials reflecting a wide spectrum of Jewish communal activities in Germany from just before the advent of the Nazi regime to 1939. A second volume, covering the period 1939-1943, is in preparation. The chronological division of the volumes follows milestones in the organizational evolution of German Jews in the Nazi era. In 1932, in the face of intensifying antisemitism, an attempt was made to overcome factionalism within the German-Jewish community. The resulting umbrella association, which came to be known as the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden, encompassed the majority, but not the entirety, of German Jewry. Orthodox Jews refused to join an organization that would inevitably be dominated by the more mainstream Liberal form of Judaism, while Jews who were oriented toward German nationalism objected to the Reichsvertretung's acquiescence in a "ghetto mentality" as well as to its toleration of Zionism. These ideological divisions, and efforts to overcome them so as to protect Jewish interests more effectively, constitute one of the volume's major themes. These divisions paled, however, as conditions deteriorated, and the dissenting groups had joined the Reichsvertretung by 1939 when, under government pressure, it was transformed into the more centralized Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland. Whereas the present volume is devoted to the material generated by the Reichsvertretung, the succeeding volume will document the history of the Reichsvereinigung.

The editing of this volume is masterful. Each document is preceded by an effective introduction, explanatory footnotes clarify potentially obscure passages, and bibliographical footnotes guide the user to up-to-date published scholarship. The editors have also appended an almost 100-page reference glossary of names and terms, an exhaustive bibliography of publications. and a detailed chronology. The language barrier may prevent access to non-specialists, but the collection will undoubtedly serve to promote further study of the subject by scholars and students who can read German. Hopefully the improved understanding of the Jewish experience in Nazi Germany made possible by this volume and its successor will ultimately trickle down to a wider readership.

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