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July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
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I Slept in Hitler’s Room and Germany Went Ballistic

Germany, I sadly found out, was obsessed with Jews.
Jewish bestselling author Tuvia Tenenbom is obsessed with the German obsession with Jews.

Jewish bestselling author Tuvia Tenenbom is obsessed with the German obsession with Jews.

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Three years ago I was contacted by an editor of Rowohlt, one of the biggest book publishers in Germany. She said she loved my articles in the Zeit, the prestigious German newspaper I’ve been writing for, and would like me to come to Germany for a few months, interview people and write about them “in the same style you write for the Zeit.”

It didn’t take long to convince me and soon enough I showed up in Germany.

Unbelievable landscapes, delicious food, shiny museums, celebrated intellectuals, tireless farmers, sleepless artists, blasphemous zealots, faithful atheists and a highly modern society welcomed me. All I had to do was to befriend everybody.

Germany, I sadly found out, was obsessed with Jews. Even those who claimed to like Jews had very strange thoughts about them. I interviewed people from all walks of life.

From the famous chain-smoking iconic Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, to the forlorn heroin addicts on the streets of Frankfurt; from the publisher of the largest European daily, Bild, to obscure bloggers; from the Prime Minister of Saxony, to bored museum guards; frail WWII veterans, to sporty high schoolers; radical leftists who want to overthrow the government, any government, to neo-Nazis who won’t settle for anything less than Adolf Hitler; top officials of Mercedes and Volkswagen, to street sellers of cheep necklaces; educated and illiterates; rich and poor; on the east and on the west, in the north and in the south.

We ate together, drank together, and they talked.

Hardly a day passed by without at least one interviewee talking to me about the “rich Jews,” the “shrewd Jews,” the Israelis who eat Palestinians for breakfast on a daily basis, the “manipulating Jew,” or anything else “Jew.”

Germany, I sadly found out, was obsessed with Jews. Even those who claimed to like Jews had very strange thoughts about them. Some told me that all Jews knew each other, others said that all Jews helped each other, and still others claimed that all Jews were “very good” with money.

The people thus talked and I wrote down what they said, word for word. I submitted the book, a testimonial to the rampant anti-Semitism in today’s Germany, to my editor.

We met a week later and she told me that she cried and laughed when reading the book and that it was even better than what she had expected it to be. But the head of the publishing company, who comes of Germany’s top families, went into a rage. He told me that I couldn’t write and that the book needed serious editing.

I asked him to show me what good writing was.

He did..

If there was a line in the book about people not liking “Jews,” he demanded that I change the word to “Israel.”

A chapter about a club that preached the killing of all living Jews had to be erased, he ordered. If somebody told me in an interview that the Jews were “the real Nazis,” their words had to be changed or cut. Only if I obeyed him, I was led to understand, would I become a “good writer.”

He didn’t stop there. He went really low, at one point calling me a “hysterical Jew.” And then he broke our contract.

No American publisher I approached agreed to give the book life. No matter what evidence at hand, mainstream American publishers were not willing to take on Germany. Taking on a Western ally, I guess, is not on the agenda of present-day publishers.

Fearing that the book’s findings would get forever lost, the Jewish Theater of New York decided to make the book available to Americans and published it under the title “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room.”

In December of 2012 one of the most prestigious of German publishers, Suhrkamp, made the book available in Germany, under the title “Allein unter Deutschen.”

Initially, German critics went ballistic, passionately denying the book’s findings that most Germans today hold anti-Semitic views.

One of them, in the highly regarded Liberal newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, didn’t shy away from going racist, shamelessly referring to me as “the Jew Tenenbom.”

Responding to the growing claims against me, I offered to face any intellectual willing to debate me in public.

Standing before the people who demanded honesty, it soon became very clear that my staunchest critics assailed the book without actually reading it.

Happily, other critics took a closer look at the book and published glorious reviews. Tens of thousands bought the book, sending it to the top 10 of Spiegel magazine’s best sellers list (equivalent to the New York Times best sellers list in the U.S.), and thousands of the book’s fans attended public readings across Germany.

At its conclusion, I ended my journey into Germany having many more friends than when I started it.

This makes me happy, as having new friends is always good, but this doesn’t mean that I’m not worried. I am, and much more than I ever was.

Germany is a wonderful, beautiful country, its society one of the more sophisticated of our time. Germany’s cultural institutions, such as museums, theater and journalism, are the most advanced in the Western world — which probably explains why its society’s stars are not movie actors but intellectuals.

To me, and as far as I could witness, most of those intellectuals are pseudo intellectuals: they are brainy beyond repair, full of themselves, have a very narrow view of the world, lack a healthy sense of reality and, worse yet, suffer from acute anti-Semitism. Again and again, history teaches us where this senseless hate will lead.

Before WWII, just as now, Germany was very advanced for its time, proudly holding one of the best human rights records. But then as now, the people had hate inside their hearts at the same time their mouths were uttering the loveliest words of freedom.

It was Adolf Hitler who knew to their deeper thoughts and he turned them into the most sadistic known to humanity.

If today Germany doesn’t wake up to its inner hate, a more sophisticated Adolf will appear and nobody will be powerful enough to stop him.

It is time to tell Germany, in the clearest of words: People who suffer from cancer can’t afford to ignore it. Germany must wake up to its cancer, before it will be fatally consumed by it.

Telling Germans the truth is not hate but the purest form of love. I deeply love them, and therefore I deeply care.



Tuvia Tenenbom is a Spiegel bestselling author and columnist for Die Zeit, Germanys prestigious weekly newspaper. He is the author of “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room: An American Jew Visits Germany”which was published in Germany as “Allein Unter Deutschen.” In addition to his work for Die Zeit, his writings have been published in newspapers such as Corriere della Sera of Italy and Yedioth Ahronoth of Israel. He holds advanced degrees in both fine arts and science and is the founder and artistic director of The Jewish Theater of New York.

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20 Responses to “I Slept in Hitler’s Room and Germany Went Ballistic”

  1. Anonymous says:

    You better look a little farther into the beginning of Anti Jewism. With the literal loan sharking in the east Europe and Russia for ages against the peasants. Also dragging Pagan Europe into Christ-insanity backfired on jews.

  2. Gil Gilman says:

    This is too-too ridiculous. Were you in the book? If not you should be added to the appendices in the 2ND edition.

  3. Eva Feld says:

    I was in Germany twice. I had encounters with lots of born, bred, educated and fully informed Germans, or so they thought. "Why do you speak English to your daughter but to the waitress good German." "I am a Jewess. I am a survivor." Silence. This happened a few times to the point that my husband felt embarrassed. For Germans it is second nature to hate everything that isn't either Catholic or Evangelic. Jews is a relatively new term for them. Don't know Jews, they meet very few of them – relatively speaking. To know Jews they fly to Israel either with church groups or as an "adventure before or after Abitur – The equivalent of University entry exams. Some even stay and work in a kibbutz as volunteers, but most go back to say ""Aber Fabelhaft" – it is wonderful. The Germans are an insular society.

  4. …and Jews DO NOT GET IT.

  5. Alana Ronald says:

    When I lived in Israel I met a German couple who came to Israel out of curiosity, didn't come as part of any group, did love what they experienced, and invited me to visit them in Dusseldorf. They actually said, "Jews remind us of Germans. Their work ethic is unsurpassed, what they did to build this country is like what we had to do to rebuild our own after the 2nd WW, and you love art and culture, as we do."

  6. Mr, Tenenbom you R a hero to me as you didn't obey them just for the sake of publishing the book and thank you for not stopping there, the liberalism world of to day R not interesting with the truth, their only interest is money.

  7. It is very good that the US is spying over Germany it looks very nice but behind is the devil, don't forget the two WW.

  8. The Germans are jelous to the Jews they know that we are much better than they, we survived all the empires, monarchies and goverments, and still we are here with all together if they like or not.

  9. Ivo Brncic says:

    My own experience tells me is that there is no more antiSemitism in Germany today than in Sweden or Norway. And by far less than in Poland, Russia, Hungary etc.

  10. What a candid discourse. Very few would venture there.

  11. Shockingly revealing article. I know we cannot condemn a whole nation for the sins of their fathers, but my encounter with many Germans was a testimony to a culture that is inherently anti-semtic in its core. One example that came into mind was when I was a teacher at Bellaire High School in Houston Texas. We had an exchange programme with a German school. I entered a conversation with of of the German teachers once and we discussed Yiddish and its Germanic origins. To my questions as to whether German adopted any iddish words,, the teacher told me, "Yes, we use the word 'ganove'" For those of you who do not know, the word means "thief" and it is Hebrew in origin. In y Israeli Chutzpah, I turned to him and said, "Of ALL the beautiful words that exist in Yiddish, it is a shame that your language chose to adopt that one!" I turned and walked away!

  12. Cody Flecker says:

    The Jews are the smartest people on earth. The German Jews were even smarter. Germans today know that fact and are really embarrassed to admit the fact that they and their ancestors tried to kill that intelligence now and in the past. Anti semitism is rampant all over the world. In the USA, and in the former Soviet Union. The Jewish People know this and when things get too "hot" for them, they just move on, as well as they should. As a society, the Jews truly advanced in Germany much more than in the USA. It is hard for Germans to explain just why the Jews were so successful in Germany, as it is for Americans to explain the reasons why the Jews achieved so much, yet the Jews make up such a small percentage on the overall population. For the Germans, this is a baffling proposition.

  13. Philip Ziosa says:

    I'm german and I have to agree that there arel horrible antisemitic mechanisms in this country. I spoke a lot with my jewish, german and turkish friends about it and we tried to analyse why there is no progress. When I was in Israel for three months I spoke to the people there and we had conversations full of emotions, it was hard for both sides, but neccessary. We have to ask more. Inform ourself. I think we need to distance ourselves from the intolerant hater-concept and I have to say for sure we are not reaching there with some comments below. "Germans will for sure go there again…" and so on. This in not helping! Think about it.

  14. Rose Galston says:

    …back in 1975 I was in Munich on business with 3 other men….the first evening the 3 Jews went for a walk to the town square…there as we watched… along with a large crowd…the little figures came marching out of the clock tower….and then the crowd joined hands in a circle and began to sing…"Deutschland Uber Allus"….we quietly moved back to the buildings behind us and silently escaped into the night!
    No German Nationalism? My Ass!
    NG

  15. Jenni Jenx says:

    ah ok you 're from quito, equador, one of the most corrupted country in the world ?

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