German Travelogue Unveils Stubborn Anti-Semitism

'I Sleep in Hitler's Room' Sheds Light on Lingering Hate

One of Us: Writer and editor Tuvia Tenenbom’s Aryan appearance disarmed his subjects and allowed them to reveal their prejudices.
Courtesy Tuvia Tenenbom
One of Us: Writer and editor Tuvia Tenenbom’s Aryan appearance disarmed his subjects and allowed them to reveal their prejudices.

By Rukhl Schaechter

Published January 14, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
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After a profound disagreement regarding Rowohlt’s editing of the manuscript, Tenenbom decided to publish it elsewhere. “There was no way I could accept these changes, because it was no longer the book that I had written,” he said.

The walls of Tenenbom’s tiny office reflect his multifaceted accomplishments. Ther are posters of his theatrical productions — “The Last Virgin” and “Last Jew in Europe.” A dark wooden bookcase is filled with books on various topics, including, surprisingly, Jewish holy books written in Hebrew. As it turns out, the secular, cosmopolitan Tenenbom hails from a Haredi home in Israel.

Tenenbom is a warm conversationalist, chatting easily about diverse topics, and often with a twinkle in his eye. This affable quality may have been the reason that his subjects in Germany opened up to him so readily. His light skin and blue eyes didn’t hurt, either. He admits that he didn’t always tell his subjects he was Jewish, calling himself a journalist from New York. “If I’d told them I was Jewish, do you think they’d tell me what they were really thinking?” he asked.

One of his most controversial visits was to the Neo-Nazi bar Club 88 (8 representing H, the eighth letter of the alphabet, HH being an abbreviation of “Heil Hitler”) in Neumunster. Telling his fellow patrons that his name was Tobias and that his German parents had immigrated to America when he was 1 year old, Tenenbom added, for good measure, “I’m a perfect Aryan.” It wasn’t long before Frank, the club owner, offered him drinks on the house and showed him a book about “the Jewish devil.”

What disturbed Tenenbom most, however, was the anti-Semitism he discovered among the everyday, supposedly liberal, Germans he encountered. Often, these people didn’t hesitate to state that the Jews controlled the economy or the media. “They like the Jews that were killed during the war, but hate the Jews of today,” Tenenbom said.

Tenenbom is also sharply critical of the Jewish community in Germany. After the chief rabbi of Munich informed him that the Orthodox community there has 9,000 members, Tenenbom joined him for services at the multimillion-dollar synagogue, apparently paid for by the German government.


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