“The city focused on by Nils Roemer in German City, Jewish Memory: The Story of Worms was one of many where Hebrew flourished in the Middle Ages, at least in... [continued in Reviews below]”—Tablet Magazine
A remarkable, in-depth study of Jewish history, culture, and memory in a historic and contemporary German city
German and Jewish ways of life have been interwoven in Worms, Germany, for over a thousand years. Despite radical changes brought about by expulsion of Jews, wartime devastation, social advancement, cultural and religious renewal, and the Jewish community’s destruction during the Holocaust, the Jewish sites of Worms display a remarkable degree of continuity, which has contributed to the development of distinct urban Jewish cultures, memories, and identities.
Tracing the recollection and invention of local Jewish historical traditions in religious commemorations, historical writings, museums, and historical monuments, and the transformation from “sites” to “sights” in the form of tourism from the Middle Ages to the present, Roemer’s rich study of Worms offers a blueprint for historians interested in developing similar studies of cities over the longue durée.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“The city focused on by Nils Roemer in German City, Jewish Memory: The Story of Worms was one of many where Hebrew flourished in the Middle Ages, at least in the work of its local celebrity. Roemer’s interest is in the continuities between the medieval city and its modern instantiations, and relations between Jews and Germans, before and after the tragedies of the Holocaust.”—Tablet Magazine
“Worms’s long and exceedingly complex historical legacy is deftly recovered and expertly analyzed by Nils Roemer in his erudite new book. After wonderfully summarizing the medieval days of devotion to Torah, pietism and unprecedented acts of martyrdom during the First Crusade of 1096, Roemer turns his attention to the long and shifting history of how the community of Worms became a central, if largely symbolic, element in German-Jewish collective memory. . . . Roemer’s book is the most original work I have yet to read on German-Jewish intellectual history. . . . A wonderfully sensitive thinker and gracious writer, Roemer has produced an utterly original study in the uses, and misuses, less of history than of memory; for beyond his thorough assessment of earlier historians’ treatments of Jewish Worms, he examines a wide array of less conventional sources. Indeed, among the book’s many merits is that it ignores no useful source for its subject.”—The Forward
“Roemer’s well-written, meticulously researched monograph, supplemented by 45 evocative illustrations and an extensive bibliography (including interviews with former inhabitants), integrates this puissant legacy within Jewish and German history. It examines the destruction and dispersion under the Third Reich and details Worms’s rebirth as a memory site after WW II, explicating the complex course of memory, artifacts, and representation between their local origins and the outside world. . . . Recommended.”—Choice
“The last chapters, describing Jewish attitudes towards the city of Worms in the post-Holocaust period, are particularly moving and fascinating. Besides academic collections that focus on Jewish history (medieval and modern), synagogues with interest in books on the Holocaust and about Jewish life in post-war Germany will be enriched by this book.”—Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
“Roemer’s best chapters [give] an account of the postwar efforts on the part of Jews and non-Jews alike to come to terms with the results of the Holocaust in Worms.”—Jewish Review of Books
"Nils Roemers' 'German City, Jewish Memory: The Story of Worms' . . . constitutes a major breakthrough in our approach to the German Jewish past." —American Jewish Studies Review
“Roemer shows how the same city officials, whoa few years earlier had stopped promoting Worms’s Jewish heritage and concentrated only on its Nibelungen past, as early as 1945 were eager to reintegrate the distant Jewish past, while being silent about the immediate one. Only since the 1980s, with the opening of a small Jewish museum and the active role of a new generation, has a more critical view emerged. Roemer’s account of the battle over objects and memory after the Holocaust is the best example of such a new and critical school of German-Jewish historiography and has much more than local significance.”—H-Net
“German City, Jewish Memory . . . offer a plethora of empirical details. While some of these details are of little more than local interest, the scholarly ambition of the book is larger (and also much more exciting) than the attempt to provide a conventional historical narrative of a local Jewish group would be. . . . The millennium of an iconic Jewish community German City, Jewish Memory tells is thus one of preservation, restoration and innovation. One of the great additional services of the book is that it shows how these three processes characterise the negotiation of the Jewish legacy of Worms even after the otherwise unbridgeable break of the Holocaust.”—European Review of History
“This is a wonderful book, imaginatively researched, highly informative, and daring. In describing the storied Jewish community of Worms from its earliest advent to the present, Roemer has tackled a millennium of history and has demonstrated, more convincingly than any book I know, the continuities of Jewish memory. Controversially, he also shows how the construction of Jewish memory borrowed from Christian memorial practices and reshaped them.”—Helmut Walser Smith, Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
“Nils Roemer’s new book brings together theoretical questions that pertain to local history, history and memory and Jewish-Christian relations in medieval, early modern and modern Europe. It opens up an exciting new way of telling the story of one city, providing thoughtful insights on how conceptions of time, place and community changed over a period of a thousand years. This book will be enjoyed by those who are interested in medieval and modern history alike.”—Elisheva Baumgarten, Bar-Ilan University
“Nils Roemers’ ‘German City, Jewish Memory: The Story of Worms’ . . . constitutes a major breakthrough in our approach to the German Jewish past.”—American Jewish Studies Review
NILS ROEMER is associate professor of Holocaust studies at the University of Texas, Dallas.