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My Germany
Cover of My Germany
My Germany
A Jewish Writer Returns to the World His Parents Escaped
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Haunted by his parents' horrific suffering and traumatic losses under Nazi rule, Lev Raphael grew up loathing everything German. Those feelings shaped his Jewish identity, his life, and his career. While researching his mother's war years after her death, he discovers a distant relative living in the very city where she had worked in a slave labor camp, found freedom, and met his father. Soon after, Raphael is launched on book tours in Germany and, in the process, redefines himself as someone unafraid to face the past and let it go.

Bookmarks, "Top Ten Nonfiction Titles of 2009"

Haunted by his parents' horrific suffering and traumatic losses under Nazi rule, Lev Raphael grew up loathing everything German. Those feelings shaped his Jewish identity, his life, and his career. While researching his mother's war years after her death, he discovers a distant relative living in the very city where she had worked in a slave labor camp, found freedom, and met his father. Soon after, Raphael is launched on book tours in Germany and, in the process, redefines himself as someone unafraid to face the past and let it go.

Bookmarks, "Top Ten Nonfiction Titles of 2009"

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About the Author-
  • Lev Raphael has spoken about his work on three continents and has been publishing fiction and prose about the Second Generation for more than thirty years—longer than any other American author. His nineteen books include The German Money, Writing a Jewish Life, and Dancing on Tisha B'Av. He lives in Okemos, Michigan.

Table of Contents-
  • Acknowledgments

    Prologue: A Tale of Two Trains

    Part One: Haunted House

    Part Two: Mysterious Jews

    Part Three: Voyage of Discovery

    Epilogue: Legacies

    Works Consulted

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    February 15, 2009
    Novelist and memoirist Raphael (Hot Rocks, 2007, etc.), contemplates with stark honesty his changing attitude toward the nation that persecuted his parents.

    His mother, whose comfortable family had lived in Vilna since the 17th century, was a slave laborer at a munitions factory in Magdeburg, Germany, during World War II. His father, who grew up in eastern Czechoslovakia, was conscripted for forced labor on the Russian front, then sent to Bergen-Belsen, where he became a Kapo and tried to alleviate the sufferings of other Jews. Both lost family members in the Holocaust, and these ghosts created a wall of silence and sadness around them in Raphael's childhood home in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood. His parents spoke Yiddish to each other and did not share stories about their experiences with their two sons. They openly scorned the prewar German Jews of Washington Heights and the Reform synagogue down the street; indeed, Raphael absorbed his parents' hatred of all things German and their shame at being Jewish. Ironically, their decision not to circumcise their sons separated the boys not only from other Jews, but also from the majority of Americans. The author records his gradual, painful coming to terms with his identity as a Jew, a gay man and a writer finding his voice. Recognizing that he deeply craved more knowledge about his Jewish heritage, he attempted to break the silence imposed by his parents and"heal my own split from Judaism" in his first published story, which appeared in Redbook in 1978. Compared to the memoir's searing early chapters, Raphael's recollections of pleasant book tours through modern Germany seem rather pallid, despite stirring descriptions of his visits to the camps that haunted his parents' dreams. Nonetheless, it's moving to read that the author finally felt liberated from his family's tragedy by the warm reception he received from contemporary German audiences.

    A cleansing, passionate memoir.

    (COPYRIGHT (2009) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from March 15, 2009
    Raphael contributes again to the genre of second-generation Holocaust literature in which he is a pioneer. In this poignant memoir, he takes readers on his journey to reconcile with the past. Having grown up in New York with survivor parents who hated Germans and everything German, Raphael is nervous when given the opportunity to do a book tour in Germany for his book "Secret Anniversaries of the Heart". With much trepidation, he visits the places that haunted his family and caused him to bear the burden of their pain. True to his other works, his book is powerful and captivating to the end, painting vivid pictures of his parents' suffering, his hatred of Germany, and eventually his healing and reconciliation.Holly S. Hebert, Rochester Coll., MI

    Copyright 2009 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    University of Wisconsin Press
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