This is a study of how the Jewish community of Breslau—the third largest and one of the most affluent in Germany—coped with Nazi persecution. Ascher has included the experiences of his immediate family, although the book is based mainly on archival sources, numerous personal reminiscences, as well as publications by the Jewish community in the 1930s. It is the first comprehensive study of a local Jewish community in Germany under Nazi rule.
Until the very end, the Breslau Jews maintained a stance of defiance and sought to persevere as a cohesive group with its own institutions. They categorically denied the Nazi claim that they were not genuine Germans, but at the same time they also refused to abandon their Jewish heritage. They created a new school for the children evicted from public schools, established a variety of new cultural institutions, placed new emphasis on religious observance, maintained the Jewish hospital against all odds, and, perhaps most remarkably, increased the range of welfare services, which were desperately needed as more and more of their number lost their livelihood. In short, the Jews of Breslau refused to abandon either their institutions or the values that they had nurtured for decades. In the end, it was of no avail as the Nazis used their overwhelming power to liquidate the community by force.
About the author
Abraham Ascher is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Graduate Center, City University of New York. His recent works include P. A. Stolypin: The Search for Stability in Late Imperial Russia (Stanford, 2000) and The Revolution of 1905: A Short History (Stanford, 2004).