Between Dignity and Despair draws on the extraordinary memoirs, diaries, interviews, and letters of Jewish women and men to give us the first intimate portrait of Jewish life in Nazi Germany.
Kaplan tells the story of Jews in Germany not from the hindsight of the Holocaust, nor by focusing on the persecutors, but from the bewildered and ambiguous perspective of Jews trying to navigate their daily lives in a world that was becoming more and more insane. Answering the charge that Jews should have left earlier, Kaplan shows that far from seeming inevitable, the Holocaust was impossible to foresee precisely because Nazi repression occurred in irregular and unpredictable steps until the massive violence of Novemer 1938. Then the flow of emigration turned into a torrent, only to be stopped by the war. By that time Jews had been evicted from their homes, robbed of their possessions and their livelihoods, shunned by their former friends, persecuted by their neighbors, and driven into forced labor. For those trapped in Germany, mere survival became a nightmare of increasingly desperate options. Many took their own lives to retain at least some dignity in death; others went underground and endured the fears of nightly bombings and the even greater terror of being discovered by the Nazis. Most were murdered. All were pressed to the limit of human endurance and human loneliness.
Focusing on the fate of families and particularly women's experience, Between Dignity and Despair takes us into the neighborhoods, into the kitchens, shops, and schools, to give us the shape and texture, the very feel of what it was like to be a Jew in Nazi Germany.
"This is a devastatingly powerful book. By vividly illustrating how the Holocaust began with seemingly inconsequential acts of humiliation, Kaplan offers readers a message of contemporary relevance."--The New York Times Book Review "Fascinating....Kaplan works at the intersection of Holocaust history and women's studies."--The Philadelphia Inquirer "An exceptional Holocaust study."--Kirkus Reviews "An innovative and suggestive exploration of a surprisingly neglected piece of Jewish history."--Publishers Weekly "Kaplan's gendered approach is of considerable methodological interest. She distinguishes between the experience of Jewish women and men because, in her words, being male or female mattered. Kaplan makes an interesting distinction between the fate of Jewish men and women." Review Essays "An excellent description of the life--and death--of Jews in the Third Reich. It is especially compelling for the period after Kristallnacht."-- Marvin Schwartz, University of Massachusetts, Amherst "My students got a lot out of this book. They said that it made them understand what it felt like to be Jewish in the 1930s. The 'social history' was easy to digest, and the book is clear in its goals and objectives."--- Chet Defonso, Northern Michigan University "Pioneering.... Kaplan's book is provoking when she writes about women's perspectives, attitudes and feelings."--Los Angeles Times Book Review "An intimate portrait of Jewish life in Nazi Germany. Relying on a host of memoirs, letters and interviews, she paints a deeply moving picture of German Jewry. She pays particular--though not exclusive--attention to women's voices. Well aware the Holocaust history, by underemphasizing women, has transformed the male experience into the universal experience, Kaplan is intent on telling a more nuanced story.... This is a devastatingly powerful book. By vividly illustrating how the Holocaust began with seemingly inconsequential acts of humiliation, Kaplan offers readers a message of contemporary relevance."--The New York Times Book Review "An intimate reconstruction, built from memoirs, letters, and interviews, of endless humiliations, from stupid to atrocious."--The New York Times Book Review, A Notable Book of 1998 "Marion A. Kaplan's Between Dignity and Despair insists on gender as an indispesable category of analysis in understanding the Holocaust.... Especially fascinating is Kaplan's chapter on "The Daily Lives of Jewish Children." Kaplan also writes well on the pressures applied to "mixed families," in which Jews were married to "Aryans."--The Philadelphia Inquirer "This is a significant milestone in Jewish women's history and a substantial contribution to the history of the Third Reich and the Holocaust.... Kaplan...writes with enormous sensitivity and many passages...are intensely moving. This study which utilizes many original and neglected sources, fills a gap.... [It] will appeal to more than an audience of historians."--Award citation for the Fraenkel Prize of the Wiener Library, London (written by Prof. David Cesarani, Director, Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library, London) "A gripping account of the everyday life of Jews under conditions of isolation and persecution, focusing especially on the responses of women, as gathered from memoirs and letters. An empathetic reconstruction of the ambiguities of that ever-darkening life where the end was unimaginable. A work of humane scholarship, nuanced and written with lucid restraint, free of simplistic answers, by a seasoned historian. An essential corrective to so much ignorant misinterpretation about Jewry and Nazism."--Fritz Stern, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University "Of all the descriptions of Jewish life in Germany during the Nazi era, this is probably the most complete as well as the most poignant and sensitive one. Marion Kaplan has written an outstanding book."--Saul Friedlander, Professor of History at Tel Aviv University and UCLA "Writing compassionately from a gender perspective, Kaplan provides us with an intimate account of what it meant to be a Jewish woman, man, or child forced to react to Nazi brutality. Gender roles were often reversed and even children played heroic roles in their families. Thus Kaplan investigates not the perpetrators nor the organized response of German Jewry to Nazi persecution but the inner sanctum Jewish life. In a unique way she gives us the victims eye view of Nazi barbarism, the tormenting personal feelings and the voices of Jews struggling for escape and survival as the noose tightened around them."--Monika Richarz "Exceptional...a major addition to Holocaust studies."--Kirkus Reviews "An innovative and suggestive exploration of a surprisingly neglected piece of Jewish history."--Publishers Weekly "In her vivid new book Marion Kaplan takes us inside the German Jewish family as the Hitler regime went about destroying their world. She shows us the surprising dynamics of Jewish life as men and women made different assessments of the urgency of their situation. Her subtle and insightful appraisal gives us a new way of examining the old and vexed question: `Why didn't they leave?' Kaplan then follows the history of those who remained, telling through their own words the bewildering and horrifying events that led to the destruction of the German Jewish community. Her recreation of those last years is unforgettable."--Peter Gay
Series: Studies in Jewish History
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Number Of Pages: 302
Published: 1st July 1999
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 20.96 x 13.34 x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.25