Bottled up for the next three years in displaced persons camps, they created the most poignant - and the last - episode of Yiddish-speaking culture: a final incandescent moment that played itself out on German soil. When the camps emptied in 1948 after the establishment of Israel and with special legislation in the United States, the Jews dispersed. But the loss of their center meant the end of a thousand years of Eastern European Jewish culture. By 1950 a little community of 20,000 Jews remained in Germany: 8,000 native German Jews and 12,000 from Eastern Europe.
Ruth Gay's enthralling account tells of their contrasting lives in the two postwar Germanys. After the fall of Communism, the Jewish community was suddenly overwhelmed by tens of thousands of former Soviet Jews. Now there are some 100,000 Jews in Germany. The old, somewhat nostalgic life of the first postwar decades is being swept aside by radical forces from the Lubavitcher at one end to Reform and feminism at the other. What started in 1945 as a "remnant" community has become a dynamic new center of Jewish life.