Roanoke College professor’s book recounts the lives of German Jews before and after the Holocaust


SALEM, Va.--Meet Richard Frank. He was a respected Jewish businessman, living in Leipzig, Germany, and owner of a factory in the early 1900s. But the reign of the Nazis and the resulting Holocaust significantly altered his personal and professional life. Frank was spared from deportation, and he regained some status after the Holocaust as a leader in a Jewish religious community and in a trade and industry chamber. Still, in the 1950s, he fled the country because of turmoil between the communist state and the Jews. His status as a victim under the Nazis was revoked.

Roanoke College associate history professor, Dr. Robert Willingham, recounts Frank's story and the lives of other Jews in his book, "Jews in Leipzig, Germany under Nazism, Communism and Democracy."

Willingham uncovers the details of this 20th century period that he believes is overshadowed by the deadly Holocaust, during which at least six million European Jews died and were persecuted under the Nazis.  His book, published in March by the Edwin Mellen Press, chronicles the lives of Jews in Leipzig during four German regimes. That includes the period before 1933, during the Holocaust and in the years afterwards at the time of the East German communist state.

The book represents nearly 10 years of research that includes Willingham's own travel in Leipzig, New York, Berlin and Jerusalem.

Willingham said he was most surprised to learn, through his research, the details of "how much autonomy Jews in East Germany had after the Holocaust." In the years after the Nazi regime, many Jews that remained in Leipzig banded together politically.

Still, 1952 and 1953 were marked by the anti-Semitic purge by the communist state that forced many leaders in the Jewish community to flee. Eventually, the fall of the communist regime years later allowed Leipzig's Jews to rechart the future.

In the forward of Willingham's book, David Crew, a history professor at the University of Texas, describes the work as a "welcome contribution to a still developing field."

Willingham, who teaches a class about the Holocaust at Roanoke College, said he eventually would like his book to be translated into the German language.

The book is available for sale on the Edwin Mellen Press' website.

Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as one of the "Best 376 Colleges" in its 2012 guidebook, which includes the top nine percent of colleges, and U.S. News & World Report ranks Roanoke the number seven "Up-and-coming National Liberal Arts College."

For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282.

Released: June 15, 2011
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