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Berlin for Jews: A Twenty-First-Century Companion seems to be directed at an insider community of Jews who care about Jewish history, especially those considering a trip to Germany. The book's meandering look at Berlin is broader and more nuanced than a travel guide, with close attention to how Jews of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries understood their own relationships to Jewishness. Still, it remains unclear who beyond a small subset of travelers will be interested in Leonard Barkan's writing on Berlin. That the author is not an expert in either German or Jewish Studies has both merits and drawbacks. As a professor of comparative literature, art and archaeology, classics, and English, Barkan has written a type of memoir for a general audience that scholars in German or Jewish Studies might not venture or desire to write. The first two chapters use a cemetery in Prenzlauer Berg and a neighborhood in Schöneberg as windows into specific eras of history. Chapters 3 through 5 present Barkan's own "special Jewish pantheon" of Berlin Jews: salon hostess Rahel Varnhagen, art collector James Simon, and writer Walter Benjamin, whose legacies are intertwined with the history, people, and places of Berlin. Barkan concludes with a brief discussion of Holocaust memorialization and tourism, with a few poignant pages on Jewish daily life in Nazi Germany. One highlight throughout is the book's emphasis on architecture and works of art. [excerpt]


Review of Berlin for Jews: A Twenty-First-Century Companion By Leonard Barkan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.





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