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Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism

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In the 1930s, many tens of thousands of people fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe found refuge in Latin America. And in the short, terrifying months between the Anschluss and Kristallnacht in 1938 and the outbreak of World War II, Bolivia was one of the few remaining places in the entire world to accept Jewish refugees; more than twenty thousand Central Europeans were soon rema In the 1930s, many tens of thousands of people fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe found refuge in Latin America. And in the short, terrifying months between the Anschluss and Kristallnacht in 1938 and the outbreak of World War II, Bolivia was one of the few remaining places in the entire world to accept Jewish refugees; more than twenty thousand Central Europeans were soon remaking their lives in this unknown land. With a subtle use of oral-history sources - interviews with survivors who left Bolivia and now live in Israel, the United States, Europe, and elsewhere - and unusual archival illustrations and photographs, he examines the effects of displacement on the experiences of people remaking their lives.


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In the 1930s, many tens of thousands of people fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe found refuge in Latin America. And in the short, terrifying months between the Anschluss and Kristallnacht in 1938 and the outbreak of World War II, Bolivia was one of the few remaining places in the entire world to accept Jewish refugees; more than twenty thousand Central Europeans were soon rema In the 1930s, many tens of thousands of people fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe found refuge in Latin America. And in the short, terrifying months between the Anschluss and Kristallnacht in 1938 and the outbreak of World War II, Bolivia was one of the few remaining places in the entire world to accept Jewish refugees; more than twenty thousand Central Europeans were soon remaking their lives in this unknown land. With a subtle use of oral-history sources - interviews with survivors who left Bolivia and now live in Israel, the United States, Europe, and elsewhere - and unusual archival illustrations and photographs, he examines the effects of displacement on the experiences of people remaking their lives.

30 review for Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    My grandparents were part of the group described in this book, survivors who escaped from the concentration camps who took refuge in Bolivia from the war, where my mother was eventually born and raised. Given the personal connection I found it fascinating.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book, for the most part, held my interest with its interweaving of personal narratives and historical details. I happened upon it by accident, while researching Bolivia, and discovered a Holocaust story not often taught: that of the experiences of those who managed to escape before the genocide began. Though I have learned about post-Holocaust refugees, it never occurred to me to think of those who got out before the Final Solution as refugees as well. This was an eye-opening, fascinating r This book, for the most part, held my interest with its interweaving of personal narratives and historical details. I happened upon it by accident, while researching Bolivia, and discovered a Holocaust story not often taught: that of the experiences of those who managed to escape before the genocide began. Though I have learned about post-Holocaust refugees, it never occurred to me to think of those who got out before the Final Solution as refugees as well. This was an eye-opening, fascinating read. I'm glad I found it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    An interesting book about the role Bolivia took in allowing more refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe fleeing the Nazis (largely but not entirely Jewish) than any other Latin American country - something I did not know. The author, who was born in Bolivia of parents who had fled Vienna, both writes about his family and those he could interview many years later about their experience but also about larger issues of identity. As someone who has visited Bolivia recently, I found this book fasci An interesting book about the role Bolivia took in allowing more refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe fleeing the Nazis (largely but not entirely Jewish) than any other Latin American country - something I did not know. The author, who was born in Bolivia of parents who had fled Vienna, both writes about his family and those he could interview many years later about their experience but also about larger issues of identity. As someone who has visited Bolivia recently, I found this book fascinating.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Agnes Kelemen

    It is better than I epected, it not only nicely tells a niche part of history, but summarizes a lot of important theory of refugee studies in a readable way. Perhaps a little too much personal sentimentalism and family history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Very reflective and romantic Was looking for more facts rather than a deep dive into the author's feelings. A bit dense and romantic stylistically, but still a good piece on an under the radar piece of history and migration as a concept. Very reflective and romantic Was looking for more facts rather than a deep dive into the author's feelings. A bit dense and romantic stylistically, but still a good piece on an under the radar piece of history and migration as a concept.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Maira

    "Indeed, in the panic months following the German Anschluss of Austria in March 1938 and Kristallnacht in November of that year, Bolivia was one of very few remaining places in the entire world to accept Jewish refugees. In the short period between then and the end of the first year of World War II, some twenty thousand refugees, primarily from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, entered Bolivia-more than in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India combined. When the war ended, a se "Indeed, in the panic months following the German Anschluss of Austria in March 1938 and Kristallnacht in November of that year, Bolivia was one of very few remaining places in the entire world to accept Jewish refugees. In the short period between then and the end of the first year of World War II, some twenty thousand refugees, primarily from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, entered Bolivia-more than in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India combined. When the war ended, a second, smaller wave of immigrants, mostly Eastern European Holocaust surviviors and displaced relatives of previous refugees, arrived in Bolivia." "There is certainly irony, if not injustice, in the fact that for many Europeans and North Americans, Bolivia has acquired a reputation primarily as a place sheltering Nazi war criminals, while its role as a saving haven for thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees and displaced persons is vitually unrecognized, if not unknown. In part, this is explained by the widespread lack of knowledge by "outsiders" of Bolivian history and politics, and by even less awareness (or considerable underestimation)of the importance of South America in general, and Bolivia in particular, for refugee and postwar "displaced-person" immigration. But it also reflects the international publicity generated since the early 1960's by the "discovery" of a number of war criminals in South America-especially, in the case of Bolivia, by the identification of Klaus Barbie there and by his extradition and trial in France." (175)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Both enlightening and disturbing, Hotel Bolivia is an account of the lives of German refugees in Bolivia during WW II. The author draws heavily on interviews with and documents from his family. His parents emigrated to Bolivia during the war and he was born shortly after their arrival. The prose is dense and, at times, difficult to navigate. But the topic is riveting. The reader is provided with enough details about the encroachment of Nazi Germany to provoke reflection of the "what would I do?" Both enlightening and disturbing, Hotel Bolivia is an account of the lives of German refugees in Bolivia during WW II. The author draws heavily on interviews with and documents from his family. His parents emigrated to Bolivia during the war and he was born shortly after their arrival. The prose is dense and, at times, difficult to navigate. But the topic is riveting. The reader is provided with enough details about the encroachment of Nazi Germany to provoke reflection of the "what would I do?" nature. How easy it is in hindsight to wonder about people who didn't leave when they had the chance. But the noose tightened slowly and most of us are inclined to cling to our homeland until things become truly dire. As with all history, the story is relevant to events in our current world. Maybe even give some pause regarding the current flood of refugees seeking the freedom to just be without the fear of violence and death for who they are.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    It was more PhD dissertation than history, but interesting, vaguely.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Clare

  10. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meghan Paradis

  12. 4 out of 5

    WP

  13. 4 out of 5

    L**

  14. 4 out of 5

    Janis

  15. 5 out of 5

    Denisse

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jody Russell Manning

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alice Ann Swartz

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rannie

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tessa PatiƱo

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gene

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  22. 4 out of 5

    Val

  23. 5 out of 5

    Valeria Sandoval

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lee

  25. 4 out of 5

    michaelben

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Grudic

  28. 5 out of 5

    Allan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Judy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tina

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