German Jerusalem

Thomas Sparr

‘Sparr … is an engaging guide, with a fine eye for detail. Ably translated by Stephen Brown, he walks us through apartments, schools and cafés and takes us into the lives of Rehavia’s former luminaries and visitors. German Jerusalem is a sparkling introduction with a dazzling cast.’
Times Literary Supplement

‘An elegiac, anecdotal study’
Literary Review 

‘This engag­ing­ly writ­ten his­to­ry brings a sig­nif­i­cant neigh­borhood to life as it nar­rates the sto­ry of its res­i­dents, entic­ing those who may not be famil­iar with this part of Jerusalem to fur­ther explore its his­tor­i­cal roots as well as its mod­ern joys.’
Jewish Book Council



‘The greatest Weimar poets, thinkers and creators gathered in a couple of elevated neighbourhoods and dreamed an impossible dream. Thomas Sparr brings it brilliantly to life in this scintillating evocation of an intellectual paradise.’ 
Norman Lebrecht, author of Genius and Anxiety

‘[Sparr’s] tome effectively performs the function of a topographical Gedenkbuch – a memorial book comprised of a dense, spatio-temporal network of names and addresses, recording who settled here and when.’
Nicolas Whybrow, University of Warwick

‘Based on intimate knowledge, careful study and eloquent style, Thomas Sparr takes the reader through Rehavia…’
Menachem Klein, author of Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron

‘I highly recommend this book which brings to life a first-class historical/human story of Rehavia as Jerusalem’s intellectual, cultural and architectural landmark.’
David Kroyanker

‘Lively and poignant, German Jerusalem captures the key personalities and spirit of a remarkable time and place. This book will no doubt contribute to a greater appreciation of vital aspects of Jerusalem’s history that are in danger of being eclipsed from memory.’
Michael Berkowitz

‘Thomas Sparr, an observent literary-historical flâneur, explores the past and present of the district. He sketches cameos, real and imagined, of the thoughts, actions, and interactions of some of its luminaries, such as the philosopher-theologian Martin Buber, the architect Erich Mendelsohn, the poet and dramatist Else Leasker-Schüler, and the kabbalist Gershom Scholem. As we wander with Sparr into their living rooms, libraries, and cafés, peer into their correspondence, and overhear their conversations, a unique milieu of modernist culture emerges into view.’
Bernard Wasserstein, author of On the Eve: The Jew of Europe before the Second World War

‘A compelling chronicle of an oft-overlooked piece of 20th-century European history’
Kirkus Review

‘Sparr’s intellectual enterprise of reconstitution and research of half-erased traces is eminently seductive.’
History: Reviews of New Books Journal

‘[Sparr is] like one of those highly-qualified ‘‘blue’’ guides who know so much about London – and can make every detail interesting.’
Association of Jewish Refugees Journal


Displaced by the rising tide of Nazism across Europe, a generation of German-speaking Jewish poets, thinkers, writers and architects left their homes and emigrated to Palestine.

They settled in Rehavia, a garden suburb of Jerusalem planned in the early 1920s and brought to life by cultural and intellectual influences ranging from Bauhaus to Kabbalah.

With Thomas Sparr as our guide, we encounter the people whose German-Jewish identity – unique to that time and place – gave Rehavia its character: from the poet and playwright Else Lasker-Schüler to the historian Gershom Scholem and the philosopher and scholar Martin Buber. Through them, German Jerusalem reveals the trauma of exile from not only a country but a language and a culture. The result is a group portrait of this extraordinary neighbourhood and of a vanished world.

Thomas Sparr worked at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Leo Baeck Institute from 1986 to 1989. Today he lives in Berlin, where he works as an editor-at-large for Suhrkamp and as an independent writer and scholar.

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