My German Question

By Peter Gay,

Book cover of My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin

Book description

In this poignant book, a renowned historian tells of his youth as an assimilated, anti-religious Jew in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1939-"the story," says Peter Gay, "of a poisoning and how I dealt with it." With his customary eloquence and analytic acumen, Gay describes his family, the life they…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked My German Question as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Peter Gay was a child in Nazi Berlin in the 1930s. I read his book to see what life was like there while writing my third novel, much of which takes place in Nazi Berlin. Gay was an academic historian but this memoir is deeply personal, laced with self-deprecating humour. His assimilated life (he and his father were staunch atheists) was relatively unaffected by the regime until 1933 when he became a Jew overnight by law. The Nazis quickly stripped the Jews of all rights, culminating in the violent Kristallnacht in 1938. He and his parents managed to escape to…

One of the foremost historians of his generation who taught for many years at Yale, Peter Gay writes with both the immediacy of a memoirist and the critical distance of a scholar looking back on his boyhood before his family escaped the Third Reich. The book is a slow burn, showing how even those not directly caught up in Nazi violence still experienced the constant lurking specter of anti-Semitism and exclusion. Gay and his family escaped (barely), but he refused to call himself a “survivor,” instead working through his own painful memories of his early years that haunted him for…

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