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Distributed for Haus Publishing

German Jerusalem

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

Translated by Stephen Brown

Distributed for Haus Publishing

German Jerusalem

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

Translated by Stephen Brown
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.

220 pages | 1 map | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2


Jewish Studies

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“A mostly compelling chronicle of an oft-overlooked piece of 20th-century European history.”


"Although Scholem’s youthful list of the essential components of Zionism was extreme in its idealism, the basic notions he articulated would have struck a chord with many of the German-speaking Jews from central Europe who, like him, moved to Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s. The years during which these figures became a dominating presence in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighbourhood form the subject of Thomas Sparr’s elegiac, anecdotal study German Jerusalem. For a period of four decades, give or take, a small cast of frequently brilliant polymath émigrés infused this leafy neighbourhood, a few kilometres west of Suleiman the Magnificent’s crenellated old city walls, with the aura of Mitteleuropean melancholy they’d sought to transcend by leaving Germany."

Literary Review

“Sparr, a German writer and editor who worked at Hebrew University in the late 1980s, 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.”

Times Literary Supplement

"This engag­ing­ly writ­ten his­to­ry brings a sig­nif­i­cant neigh­bor­hood 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

"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

"[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

"Jerusalem speaks many languages but in Little Berlin, Rehavia neighborhood of the mid 20th Century, German ruled. Based on intimate knowledge, careful study and eloquent style, Thomas Sparr takes the reader through Rehavia streets to meet with German speaking immigrants  and refugees, follow their debates and hopes as well as wonder on their traces in present Jerusalem."

Professor Menachem Klein, author of Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron

"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, Israeli architect and architectural historian of Jerusalem

"Lively and poignant, German Jerusalem captures the key personalities and spirit of a remarkable time and place. This 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, University College London

"Thomas Sparr weaves together various threads of memory, all of which are historically tied up in the Rehavia district; its European-style cafes; its bookshops; its cultural venues; its newspapers; and, above all, its intellectual  debates  and  disputes, which marked the Jewish philosophical and literary tradition of the twentieth century."

History: Reviews of New Books

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