Latkes and Vodka: Immigrants from the former Soviet Union are Transforming Jewish Life in Germany

January 3, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Economist

IN 1938 Julius Schoeps's parents did what many German Jews who were prescient or lucky did at the time: they left. They went to Sweden, where Julius's father worked as an archivist. Julius was born there in 1942.

Then in 1947 Mr Schoeps did something few German Jews did at the time. He went back, followed by his wife seven years later, to join what for decades was a tiny, insular community. “These were years of silence. Everyone suffered because nobody would talk about the Nazi years. My father, who taught at university, often questioned his decision to return to Germany,” says Mr Schoeps. His father grieved for his own parents, Käthe and Julius Schoeps, who had stayed behind in Germany: his mother to die in Auschwitz, his father in Theresienstadt.

German Jews who survived in Germany, or in exile, had a deeply ambivalent relationship with their homeland. Apart from guilt—that they had survived, and even stayed in the killers' country—many felt an almost physical revulsion when they came into close contact with Germans. So they retreated to live in yet another form of ghetto.