978-0-300-07670-7 / 9780300076707

My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin


Publisher:Yale University Press



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About the book:

Cultural historian Peter Gay (The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, Freud: A Life for Our Time) applies his considerable analytic skills to his memoir of his early years as a Jew in 1930s Berlin. Light-haired, blue-eyed, and culturally assimilated, the Frohlich family, as they were then known, convinced themselves that, despite the growth spurt of the Nazi party, anti-Semitism was on the wane among the German populous. Gay recalls that his daily life was relatively unaffected by the Totalitarian regime. That is until 1933, when, according to law, he became a Jew overnight. Soon the family found their living quarters shrinking and their awareness of their plight growing (though no one could possibly conceive of what would come). Though still a boy, Gay remembers that "one of the greatest moments in my life" came when the German women's relay team dropped their baton at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Then came Kristallnacht, which crystallized the family's sublimated fears and precipitated their flight from their home. After a certain suspenseful series of necessary deceits and circuitous travels, the family began their new life in America--12-year-old Peter spoke barely a word of English. Now, decades later, Gay employs his new native tongue to uncover the psychological impulses that fed his parents' decision to stay in Berlin as long as they did and governed his own behavior as a boy. The result is credible answer to the question: How could they have stayed?

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