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My Germany: A Jewish Writer Returns to the World His Parents Escaped [Kindle Edition]

Lev Raphael
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Haunted by his parents’ horrific suffering and traumatic losses under Nazi rule, Lev Raphael grew up loathing everything German. Those feelings shaped his Jewish identity, his life, and his career. While researching his mother’s war years after her death, he discovers a distant relative living in the very city where she had worked in a slave labor camp, found freedom, and met his father. Soon after, Raphael is launched on book tours in Germany and, in the process, redefines himself as someone unafraid to face the past and let it go.


Bookmarks, “Top Ten Nonfiction Titles of 2009”

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Germany was, Raphael says, “a country I had sworn never to visit . . . anywhere I turned in that country, I might face something that had belonged to a murdered relative.” But a book tour for his Holocaust-survivor novel The German Money (2003) took him there. Haunted by his mother’s experiences in a slave labor camp, he wondered whether forgiveness is possible. In this book, that leads to flashbacks personalizing the horrors of the Holocaust. A photo of relatives in pre-war Vilna, “as much at ease as a Jew could be in Poland,” prompted musings about the Poles’ anti-Semitism, which eventuates in recollections of his mother’s desperate retreat in 1941 from the Polish-Soviet border to Vilna, where Germans were rounding up Jewish men for mass execution. Encompassing recollections of childhood with parents grimly silent on the defining experience of their lives as well as accounts of historic atrocities, Raphael’s chronicle of growth and self-discovery isn’t easy reading, but his hard-earned healing and freedom from a tortured past make it remarkably satisfying. --Whitney Scott


It is impossible to read Raphael's story without feeling a sense of awe at what he was able to accomplish.
--Nicki Leone
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance --Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

"Once again, Lev Raphael has broken ground with new literary matter.  His memoir reads like a mystery novel." --Studies in American Jewish Literature

“Part travelogue and part detective story, My Germany is a wholly enthralling, beautifully written story of healing and forgiveness.”—Lynne Olson, author of Troublesome Young Men

“Lev Raphael writes with the precision of a neurosurgeon, the warmth of an ancient storyteller, and the soul of a people that has known the extremes of joy and sorrow, hope and despair, love and hate more than almost any other.”—The Jewish Bulletin, San Francisco

“Stunning and powerful. . . . Lev Raphael’s memoir is a superb work combining intellectual rigor with emotional honesty in exploring his three-fold identity as a son of Holocaust survivors, a Jew, and a gay man.”—Alan L. Berger, Raddock Family Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust Studies, Florida Atlantic University

Product Details

  • File Size: 975 KB
  • Print Length: 236 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 2, With a new coda edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003VS0H10
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,688 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A multifaceted tour de force March 11, 2009
By Heidi
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lev Raphael's latest book, My Germany, is a multifaceted tour de force that is at once shocking, compelling, informative and deeply moving. Raphael recounts his parents' horrific experiences as victims of the Holocaust. He delves into their unspeakable suffering as well as their triumphant survival. But Raphael goes beyond the atrocities of WWII. He explores the monumental impact of his parents' survivorship not only upon the victims themselves, but also upon their children. He paints a poignant, very personal portrait of what it is like to grow up in a house where ghosts of the past lurk in every corner. As he moves on in life, shadows of his parents' tragedies follow. In time, Raphael comes to cherish his Jewish heritage. He also finds love and embraces his gay identity. But it is not until he embarks upon a book tour throughout Germany that he truly faces, and conquers, his parents' demons.

Once in a great while, a book comes a long that imparts knowledge not only about the world around us, but also about the world within us. This is one such book. It is a rare treasure and a must-read for everyone.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Germany by Lev Raphael April 27, 2009
I could not put this book down. My background is similar to the author's. My parents are Jewish Holocaust Survivors. I experienced many of the same things in my traumatic childhood as he did. I grew up hating Germany and the German people for murdering my parents families in Poland and Czechoslovakia. In recent years, however, I have been re-examining my attitude toward Germany and, finally, emotionally and cognitively accepting that anyone born in Germany during and after the war are not to blame and don't deserve to be hated. In fact, as the author writes, this generation has also suffered greatly from the terrible guilt of their country's recent history.

I highly recommend Mr. Raphael's book. He's a wonderful writer.

Felicia P. Zieff
Association of Descendants of the Shoah (Holocaust) - Illinois
Chicago, IL, USA
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating... March 4, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've read everything Lev Raphael has written over the years. I am Jewish, but my family has been in the US for three, four, and five generations, on both sides. Other than hearing from my mother, a teenager in Chicago during the late 30's/early 40's, about her family's attempts to help relatives flee Germany and Czechoslovakia, we were largely untouched by Hitler's Holocaust. However, I am a voracious reader of Holocaust literature,both fiction and non-fiction.

Raphael grew up with two survivors as parents. Nearly everything in daily life was touched on by his parents' experiences. And, as with most survivors' families, they firmly boycotted anything produced in Germany. Lev did not meet a German til he was in college. He had no interest in ever visiting Germany, and in fact didn't do so til he was invited to give a speech there about ten years ago.

But wanting to investigate his mother's experience as a slave laborer during the war, he hesitantly visited Germany a few times, and eventually found his mother's story. He also found friends in Germany among the "new generation" of Germans, born largely after the war and brought up with full knowledge, and acknowledgment, of their parents' and grandparents' misdeeds.

He began to feel at ease during his trips to Germany, often doing speaking engagements when his books were published in German.

Raphael writes a great story of how his old taboos were recognised, acknowledged, and then discarded. I don't think he would have been able to "discard", without an exhaustive "recognition" and "acknowledgment" of both his feelings and the facts of post-war Germany.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant New Memoir April 14, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I savored this book until the very last page and even then, was sorry to put it down. This is a marvelous memoir, weaving a tapestry of multigenerational tragedy and survival, with acute and fascinating observations about the impact of history on the author's parent's lives, as well as his own. Much of their truth had been hidden from him as a child. Raphael has written a memoir that reads much like a contemporary mystery. You never know where the story will lead as he uncovers layer upon layer of his mother's past, culminating with the brutal reality of her experience at the hands of the Nazis. Raphael chronicles his own journey as a Second Generation Jewish writer coming to terms with his Jewishness, his sexual identity, and with Germany --the Germany of his parent's experience as well as his own. I couldn't recommend this memoir more highly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I was not able to put "My Germany" down till I read it cover to cover. As a child of two Holocaust survivors, it spoke to me in so many ways that were familiar and sometimes unspoken.

I don't know if anyone who has not lived thru survivor's post war lives can understand the complications, guilt and joy but reading "My Germany" is as close as you will get to it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important and fascinating memoir March 19, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this moving and elegantly written memoir, Lev Raphael confronts the demons he inherited as being the son of Holocaust survivors. Fearful, skeptical, angry, and plain curious, he travels to Germany on book tours. He discovers that modern Germany is not his parents' Nazi Germany, the country mainly responsible for the horrors perpetrated on the Jewish people.

This is a balanced account. The author presents as much detail as he can regarding the agonies his parents and the European Jews suffered, particularly in Germany and because of Germany. As an academic, he has done extensive research in Holocaust Studies. As a Second Generation Survivor, he has attempted to document the lives of his parents as fully as possible. He articulately presents all the reasons why the Germans should never be forgiven for their unspeakable crimes.

Nevertheless, Lev Raphael unexpectedly discovered that he is at peace with Germany today. He half jokes that he is even able to buy a German coffee grinder without guilt. As a member of the second-generation myself, I fully identify with his struggles. His account is highly readable, in spite of what would seem to be heavy subject matter. This book should be in every German and every Jewish home.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars very disappointing
I absolutely hate to criticize a book that has to with this subject matter. I really do. But now only did I feel that this was a poorly written memoir, I felt that the author was... Read more
Published 18 months ago by bookmagic
3.0 out of 5 stars I am waiting for his next book, MY RUSSIA, Returning to the world my...
Lev Raphael writes well enough about the position of being a coddled son of Holocaust survivors in New York City. Read more
Published on March 25, 2011 by Mary McGreevey
5.0 out of 5 stars My Germany: an act of love
Lev Raphael opens his heart in "My Germany" and invites the readers to get close to his soul. He speaks from the heart and (for me) this is the most important aspect of the book. Read more
Published on September 8, 2010 by Roque Neto
5.0 out of 5 stars My Germany also
"My Germany" is a remarkable book. Only twice before have I read books at one sitting. Robert Laxalt's "Sweet Promised Land" and Elie Wiesel's "Night. Read more
Published on May 16, 2010 by avraham
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book
"My Germany" was a moving and important book for me, the daughter of an American soldier and German war bride from Berlin. Read more
Published on April 2, 2010 by Loraine Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Layers of Understanding
I choose to read this book because Lev Raphael is one of my favorite authors of short stories, comedy of manners mysteries, and essays. Read more
Published on March 8, 2010 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Why is this entitled "My Germany"?
Somehow "My Germany" did not touch me emotionally. I was born in Germany, emigrated to the U.S. in 1936 at the age of nine. Read more
Published on March 4, 2010 by hobby fan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Memoir Worthy of its Genre
It's almost a dichotomous memoir, this eloquent story of two generations tied together by more than blood. Read more
Published on August 20, 2009 by Lauren
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sensitive Seeker Questions
Lev Raphael's varied and multi-layered work continues to delight and inform his readers. He is, by all accounts, the number one writer of the second generation of survivors. Read more
Published on July 24, 2009 by Molly Bertsdatter
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
This book was not what I thought it would be. Perhaps as a non-Jew or child of a survivor I couldn't appreciate it as much as the previous reviewers did. Read more
Published on July 5, 2009 by Tara
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More About the Author

Lev Raphael has wanted to be an author since he was in second grade, and he's not only achieved his dream, he's published twenty-four books in genres from memoir to mystery to Jane Austen Mashup; had his books translated into nearly a dozen languages; appeared in two documentaries; won various prizes; done hundreds of invited talks and readings on three different continents; recently sold his literary papers (92 boxes!) to the Michigan State University Libraries (MSUL); been the subject of scholarly articles, papers and book chapters; and seen his work taught at colleges and universities around the country. Which means he's become homework. Who knew?

Born and raised in New York, he got over it and has spent half his life in Michigan. He's a pioneer in writing about children of Holocaust survivors, which he's been doing since 1978, longer than almost any other American author. He frequently tours with his books (check for his current schedule) and is currently touring with My Germany, a memoir/travelogue exploring the role Germany has played in his family, his life, and his career.

After he escaped academia to write full-time, he reviewed extensively for over a decade for the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Radio, The Washington Post, Jerusalem Report, The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Forward, Boston Review, and Lambda Book Report. He now reviews for and WKAR 90.5 FM/East Lansing Public Radio, and when he's not busy, he sometimes imagines some graduate student years from now in the MSUL archives puzzling over his handwriting.

A seasoned reader of his own work, with a background in theater and teaching, he loves the performance aspect of touring, as well as meeting people he'd never meet back home. And the sightseeing. And the foreign foods. For photos from his previous German book tous, go to


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