My German Question by Professor Peter Gay
Growing Up in Nazi Berlin

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Synopsis

In this book, an historian tells of his youth as an assimilated, antireligious Jew in Nazi Germany from 1933-1939 - "the story" says Peter Gay, "of a poisoning and how I dealt with it". Gay describes his family, the life they led, and the reasons they did not emigrate sooner, and he explores his own ambivalent feelings - then and now - toward Germany and the Germans. Gay relates that the early years of the Nazi regime were relatively benign for his family: as a schoolboy at the Goethe Gymnasium he experienced no ridicule or attacks, his father's buiness prospered, and most of the family's non-Jewish friends remained supportive. He devised survival strategies - stamp collecting, watching soccer, and the like - that served as screens to block out the increasingly oppressive world around him. Even before the events of 1938-39, culminating in Kristallnacht, the family was convinced that they must leave the country.
Gay describes the bravery and ingenuity of his father in working out this difficult emigration process, the courage of the non-Jewish friends who helped his family during their last bitter months in Germany, and the family's mounting panic as they witnessed the indifference of other countries to their plight and that of others like themselves. Gay's account adds a further perspective to the history of German Jewry.
 

About Professor Peter Gay

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Peter Gay lives in New York City and Connecticut.
 
Published October 7, 1998 by Yale University Press. 222 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War, Gay & Lesbian. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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But there are some passages when his writing does have a certain crisp immediacy, as when he describes a family friend whom Gay encountered a month after the friend was released from a concentration camp: “he had visibly aged, looked deathly pale, seemed disoriented, I thought almost senile.— He ...

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Publishers Weekly

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In one episode, he recalls his father desperately doctoring a family certificate: ""I can still see him at work committing this crime: using a straight razor, he gently scratched away at the ink, with St. Louis and May 13 growing paler and paler."" This smart, funny, personable and resourceful ma...

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The New York Review of Books

The following address was given in Munich on November 22, 1999, by Mr. Gay, after he received the Geschwister-Scholl Prize for the German translation of his book My German Question.

Feb 10 2000 | Read Full Review of My German Question: Growing U...

Project MUSE

Peter Gay, My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).

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