German Jerusalem: The Remarkable Life of a German-Jewish Neighborhood in the Holy City (Hardcover)
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In the 1920s, before the establishment of Israel, a group of German Jews settled in a garden city on the outskirts of Jerusalem. During World War II, their quiet community, nicknamed Grunewald on the Orient, emerged as both an immigrant safe haven and a lively expatriate hotspot, welcoming many famous residents including poet-playwright Else Lasker-Schüler, historian Gershom Scholem, and philosopher Martin Buber. It was an idyllic setting, if fraught with unique tensions on the fringes of the long-divided holy city. After the war, despite the weight of the Shoah, the neighborhood miraculously repaired shattered bonds between German and Israeli residents. In German Jerusalem, Thomas Sparr opens up the history of this remarkable community and the forgotten borderland they called home.
About the Author
Thomas Sparr is a Publisher-at-Large for the German publisher Suhrkamp and former chief editor at Siedler. For many years, he worked at the Hebrew University and Leo Baeck Institute in Jerusalem.
Stephen Brown is a playwright, translator, and cultural critic. His translations from German include Sartorius’s The Princes’ Islands and Birgit Haustedt’s Rilke’s Venice.
“A mostly compelling chronicle of an oft-overlooked piece of 20th-century European history.”
"Although Scholem’s youthful list of the essential components of Zionism was extreme in its idealism, the basic notions he articulated would have struck a chord with many of the German-speaking Jews from central Europe who, like him, moved to Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s. The years during which these figures became a dominating presence in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighbourhood form the subject of Thomas Sparr’s elegiac, anecdotal study German Jerusalem. For a period of four decades, give or take, a small cast of frequently brilliant polymath émigrés infused this leafy neighbourhood, a few kilometres west of Suleiman the Magnificent’s crenellated old city walls, with the aura of Mitteleuropean melancholy they’d sought to transcend by leaving Germany."
— Literary Review
“Sparr, a German writer and editor who worked at Hebrew University in the late 1980s, is an engaging guide, with a fine eye for detail. Ably translated by Stephen Brown, he walks us through apartments, schools and cafes and takes us into the lives of Rehavia’s former luminaries and visitors.”
— Times Literary Supplement
“an outstanding contribution to image science as well as to the value of visual exegesis in inter-religious studies”
— Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations Journal
"This engagingly written history brings a significant neighborhood to life as it narrates the story of its residents, enticing those who may not be familiar with this part of Jerusalem to further explore its historical roots as well as its modern joys."
— Jewish Book Council
"While others sang of building Jerusalem 'in England's green and pleasant land', Hitler refugees in the 1930s set about transforming Jerusalem into Weimar-era Berlin. The greatest Weimar poets, thinkers and creators gathered in a couple of elevated neighbourhoods and dreamed an impossible dream. Thomas Sparr brings it brilliantly to life in this scintillating evocation of an intellectual paradise."
— Norman Lebrecht, author of Genius and Anxiety
"[Sparr’s] tome effectively performs the function of a topographical Gedenkbuch – a memorial book comprised of a dense, spatio-temporal network of names and addresses, recording who settled here when. And, intriguingly, who said what to whom and fell out as a result."
— Professor Nicolas Whybrow, University of Warwick
"Jerusalem speaks many languages but in Little Berlin, Rehavia neighborhood of the mid 20th Century, German ruled. Based on intimate knowledge, careful study and eloquent style, Thomas Sparr takes the reader through Rehavia streets to meet with German speaking immigrants and refugees, follow their debates and hopes as well as wonder on their traces in present Jerusalem."
— Professor Menachem Klein, author of Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron
"I highly recommend this book which brings to life a first-class historical/human story of Rehavia as Jerusalem's intellectual, cultural and architectural landmark."
— David Kroyanker, Israeli architect and architectural historian of Jerusalem
"Lively and poignant, German Jerusalem captures the key personalities and spirit of a remarkable time and place. This book will no doubt contribute to a greater appreciation of vital aspects of Jerusalem’s history that are in danger of being eclipsed from memory."
— Michael Berkowitz, University College London
"Hongkew in Shanghai, Washington Heights in Manhattan, Swiss Cottage in London – all became homes for Jewish refugees from Germany after 1933. Rehavia in Jerusalem was another such enclave. But it was different because it was largely designed by German Jews themselves, because it harboured the political headquarters of the Jewish National Home, and because of the intellectual character of much of its population. Thomas Sparr, an observant literary-historical flâneur, explores the past and present of the district. He sketches cameos, real and imagined, of the thoughts, actions, and interactions of some of its luminaries, such as the philosopher-theologian Martin Buber, the architect Erich Mendelsohn, the poet and dramatist Else Lasker-Schüler, and the kabbalist Gershom Scholem. As we wander with Sparr into their living-rooms, libraries, and cafés, peer into their correspondence, and overhear their conversations, a unique milieu of modernist culture emerges into view."
— Bernard Wasserstein, author of On the Eve: The Jews of Europe before the Second World War