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Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a…

Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism

by Leo Spitzer

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0809001756, Paperback)

When, in the mid-1930s, Jews began to leave Europe in flight from Nazi persecution, they found that they were welcome only in a few countries. One of them was Bolivia, which, despite the presence of many pro-Nazi German émigrés, readily accepted 20,000 Jewish refugees. Thousands of miles away from the unfolding Holocaust, these newcomers struggled to rebuild their lives--to find work, to begin families, to make a home among strangers. And they struggled to retain the memory of their now destroyed homelands, to preserve their customs and languages in the shock of displacement. Leo Spitzer, born in La Paz to Austrian Jewish refugees, offers an ethnographic historical account of the world of the Bolivian Jews, an account made richer by his explorations of his family's past. At the heart of his study is a troubling question: should not all the Jews of Europe, well aware of Hitler's intentions, have left their homes and come to places like Bolivia? His consideration of why so many stayed to face death lends philosophical weight to what is already a valuable contribution to Holocaust studies--even if Spitzer modestly closes by suggesting that the story of the Bolivian Jews may well "shrink to a paragraph, a sentence, even to a footnote within the larger story of Nazi persecution." --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:04 -0400)

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