German Jerusalem: The Remarkable Life of a German-Jewish Neighborhood in the Holy City

Thomas Sparr

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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.


'… compelling chronicle of an oft-overlooked piece of 20th-century European history.' --Kirkus Review

'[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

'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

"‘An elegiac, anecdotal study’ - Literary Review"

"‘This engagingly written history brings a significant neighbourhood 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"

"‘Sparr… 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. German Jerusalem is a sparkling introduction with a dazzling cast.’ - TLS"

"‘Sparr's intellectual enterprise of reconstitution and research of half-erased traces is eminently seductive.’ - History: Reviews of New Books Journal "

‘Based on intimate knowledge, careful study and eloquent style, Thomas Sparr takes the reader through Rehavia…’ - Menachem Klein, author of Lives in Common

"‘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"

"‘Lively and poignant, German Jerusalem captures the key personalities and spirit of a remarkable time and place. The 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"

About the Author

Thomas Sparr worked at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Leo Baeck Institute from 1986 to 1989. Today he lives in Berlin where he works as an editor-at-large for Suhrkamp and as an independent writer and scholar. Stephen Brown is a playwright, translator, and cultural critic.

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