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Tuvia Tenenbom, Artistic Director
The Jewish Theater of New York


By Rhonda Spivak, Sept 2, 2012

In his book, ‘I Sleep in Hitler's Room: An American Jew Visits Germany’, Tuvia Tenenbom writes a candid expose about his six months of travel throughout Germany.
I don't have a lot of time to read books but Tuvia Tenenbom 's Sleep in Hitler’s Room: An American Jew Visits Germany. almost read itself to me-I couldn't put it down. It is such a compelling read, darkly funny and a real eye opener.
After spending six months traveling throughout Germany and visiting close to 40 cities, Tenenbom, shares his sobering impressions of the anti-Semitism that he finds still exists there today. Although the subject matter is very serious, Tenenbaum has the gift of being able to write it with biting humour, and rare wit.
To begin with the book’s back story, as Tenenbom relates it in his preface is quite a story in itself . Tenenbom who recorded his observations during his travels, taping his interviews, had a contract with the major German publisher Rowohlt, which accepted the completed manuscript and planned to bring the book out in April 2011. But then the head of Rowohlt demanded a bunch of cuts and changes–ones that would have significantly diluted Tenenbom’s bald findings about German anti-Semitism. Tenenbom, to his credit, completely refused.
“Germans are a tribe, I was told,” explains Tenenbom in the book's preface, “and the tribe will protect itself. This is something I am not used to. Walk into any American bookstore and you will find quite a number of books that are fiercely anti-American. … But Germany … is not America.” An unpleasant struggle ensued, confirming for Tenenbom that German “hate for the Jew then, and the hate of the Jew today … is the same exact hate.”
The book has appeared under the imprint of the Jewish Theater of New York, of which Tenenbom is the founder and artistic director.
The book details Tenenbom’s travels, as he interviews German locals, as he interviews locals and finds that the majority of Germans, knowingly or subconsciously, still harbor anti-Semitic views--he even finds neo-Nazi clubs that deny the Holocaust and advocate the killing of all Jews today. In encounter after encounter, planned and spontaneous, traces of anti-Semitism appear as ingrained in the landscape and its people. The antisemitism is more evident in smaller towns and rural areas, but also in larger, urban areas as well. Many of the people Tenenbom spoke with did not realize that Tenenbom is Jewish.
Tenenbom writes of his meeting with a man named Frank:
Let's hope, says Frank, that "the Nigger American president takes care of the Jews of Israel, who steal the water from the Palestinians, and stops those Jews once and for all."
He likes to sing sometimes. He sings for me a little song, a romantic tune. Let me share it with you: "We have crematoriums, and in each crematorium there's a little Jew . . ."
He smiles as he sings it. He has a good voice, by the way.
And I think: Probably that's how my family was led to death. With a song and a smile.
In a chapter entitled, “From the Entertainment Center of Buchenwald Concentration Camp to a Demonstration Against Israel”, Tenenbom relates a conversation he had with a German actor:
“What we did to the Jews in World War II is horrible, those Jews were very nice and we should have never sent them to Auschwitz. But the Jews today? All of you, to Auschwitz!”
“I smile. I don’t know if that actor meant it as a joke or if he was serious. But I laughed."
During his travels, Germans keep telling Tenenbaum that there’s more anti-Semitism in the U.S. than in Germany. This is the case, they say, because there are more Jews in the U.S. It is a given to them, that if there are more Jews in the U.S, there must be more Jew-hate. 
Tellingly,Tenenbaum meets secondary-school students who complain that their teachers don’t tell them much about the Nazi era: “Just numbers and dates. They don’t go into depth. They don’t tell us what really happened. We want to know more.”
Tenenbaum finds that he can't get away from the Jewish issue, because the Germans remain obsessed with the Jews. In one encounter, he meets an Iranian woman who fled the Khomeini revolution for Germany, who commiserates with him.
"With the financial crisis going on in the world, she asks me, 'What will happen to the Jews?'" Should something special happen to the Jews? I ask her.
"Now the Jews will be blamed," she says.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.