Wendy Kobylarz-Chouvarda's Reviews > Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany

Between Dignity and Despair by Marion A. Kaplan
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Jan 13, 13

Read from December 24, 2012 to January 13, 2013


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Wendy Kobylarz-Chouvarda Kaplan’s book traces the plight of Jews in Germany from the time the Nazis took power to the end of WWII.

Unlike many other histories, Kaplan not only shows and analyzes the tightening of the noose around the necks of Jews living in Germany, but she focuses on the ways in which women and children were affected by these changes and how they responded. By briefly
describing a few specific laws and following with examples from interviews, memoirs and diaries of victims and survivors of the Holocaust, Kaplan gives an emotional, personal dimension to the horrors, which, as she shows, began less as horrors and
seemed, to many Jews, simply a new round of anti-Semitism that may not go any further.

Although I would have liked to see Kaplan give more dimension and weight to how the non-bourgeois Jews adapted to or fought these Nazi decrees, I was pro-
foundly emotionally affected by this book.

Because Kaplan’s focus here is primarily on women and children, I also began wondering: what about lesbians? What about single people? She touches briefly on single women, and it's likely that there weren't that many single women around in Germany in the 1930s, but there must have been some, and the thought crossed my mind. I realize data on Jewish lesbians must also be pretty difficult to find, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether the situation was any different for them (as a whole) or not.

There were a couple instances where she uses adjectives unnecessarily, as well: "hapless Jews" -- that's pretty obvious; and "cruelly" in some cases Jews were herded into slaughterhouses. Yes, slaughterhouses are cruel. Those words take away from the power of the actions, I think; no editorializing is necessary. She has shown very well the sadism of the Nazis and of many non-Jewish Germans.

Overall it's an excellent read, though, and especially good for anyone interested in a non-male perspective, or anyone who is interested in the Holocaust and looking for a book to begin with.


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