Edgar and Brigitte: A German Jewish Passage to America is the fruit of an extraordinary archive of personal journals, letters, speeches, and published writings left by Edgar and Brigitte Bodenheimer, who emigrated from Nazi Germany in 1933 and became American law professors. More German than Jewish, highly educated, and saturated to the core in the German cultural ideal of Bildung, Edgar and Brigitte embody many of the qualities of their generation of German Jews in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
The couple’s encounters with the strange new dynamics of race, religion, and the workplace in their new American home offer a compelling account of the struggles that faced many immigrants with deep German roots. It is also an intimate portrait of a now-vanished German Jewish culture as it played out in the lives of Bodenheimer’s parents and her grandparents from the 1920s to the late 1960s, a story of emigration, assimilation, and the private struggles that accompany those forced shifts in orientation.
The Bodenheimers’ letters and journals offer engaging perspectives into their personal lives that retrospective memories cannot match. Braiding intimate biography together with history and memoir, Edgar and Brigitte will appeal both to historians of the European Jewish diaspora and to readers interested in the struggles and resilience of people whose lives were upended by Hitler.