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A Bookshop in Berlin
Cover of A Bookshop in Berlin
A Bookshop in Berlin
The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman's Harrowing Escape from the Nazis
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A PEOPLE BOOK OF THE WEEK
WINNER OF THE JQ–WINGATE LITERARY PRIZE

"A haunting tribute to survivors and those lost forever—and a reminder, in our own troubled era, never to forget." —People

An "exceptional" (The Wall Street Journal) and "poignant" (The New York Times) book in the tradition of rediscovered works like Suite Française and The Nazi Officer's Wife, the powerful memoir of a fearless Jewish bookseller on a harrowing fight for survival across Nazi-occupied Europe.
In 1921, Françoise Frenkel—a Jewish woman from Poland—fulfills a dream. She opens La Maison du Livre, Berlin's first French bookshop, attracting artists and diplomats, celebrities and poets. The shop becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. In 1935, the scene continues to darken. First come the new bureaucratic hurdles, followed by frequent police visits and book confiscations.

Françoise's dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht in November 1938, as hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses are destroyed. La Maison du Livre is miraculously spared, but fear of persecution eventually forces Françoise on a desperate, lonely flight to Paris. When the city is bombed, she seeks refuge across southern France, witnessing countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Françoise survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.

Published quietly in 1945, then rediscovered nearly sixty years later in an attic, A Bookshop in Berlin is a remarkable story of survival and resilience, of human cruelty and human spirit. In the tradition of Suite Française and The Nazi Officer's Wife, this book is the tale of a fearless woman whose lust for life and literature refuses to leave her, even in her darkest hours.
A PEOPLE BOOK OF THE WEEK
WINNER OF THE JQ–WINGATE LITERARY PRIZE

"A haunting tribute to survivors and those lost forever—and a reminder, in our own troubled era, never to forget." —People

An "exceptional" (The Wall Street Journal) and "poignant" (The New York Times) book in the tradition of rediscovered works like Suite Française and The Nazi Officer's Wife, the powerful memoir of a fearless Jewish bookseller on a harrowing fight for survival across Nazi-occupied Europe.
In 1921, Françoise Frenkel—a Jewish woman from Poland—fulfills a dream. She opens La Maison du Livre, Berlin's first French bookshop, attracting artists and diplomats, celebrities and poets. The shop becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. In 1935, the scene continues to darken. First come the new bureaucratic hurdles, followed by frequent police visits and book confiscations.

Françoise's dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht in November 1938, as hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses are destroyed. La Maison du Livre is miraculously spared, but fear of persecution eventually forces Françoise on a desperate, lonely flight to Paris. When the city is bombed, she seeks refuge across southern France, witnessing countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Françoise survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.

Published quietly in 1945, then rediscovered nearly sixty years later in an attic, A Bookshop in Berlin is a remarkable story of survival and resilience, of human cruelty and human spirit. In the tradition of Suite Française and The Nazi Officer's Wife, this book is the tale of a fearless woman whose lust for life and literature refuses to leave her, even in her darkest hours.
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About the Author-
  • Françoise Frenkel was born in Poland in 1889. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, she opened the first French-language bookshop in Berlin with her husband. In the summer of 1939, with war looming, Frenkel fled to Paris. She sought refuge across occupied France for the next several years until finally escaping across the border to Switzerland, where she wrote a memoir documenting her refugee experience. Her memoir, originally published in 1945 as Rien où poser sa tête (No Place to Lay One's Head), was rediscovered in an attic in southern France in 2010 and republished in the original French as well as in a dozen other languages. This is its first publication in the United States. Frenkel died in Nice in 1975.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 14, 2019
    In this riveting memoir, rediscovered nearly 60 years after its original publication, Jewish bookseller Frenkel documents her harrowing experience escaping Nazi persecution in WWII France. Born in Poland in 1889, Frenkel fulfilled her dream of opening a French-language bookstore called Le Maison du Livre in Berlin in 1921. She fled to Paris after Kristallnacht on Nov. 10, 1938, and escaped Paris in 1940 when the Germans occupied the city. Seeking refuge in Southern France, Frenkel experienced threatening situations while Nazis were “hunting” humans and was smuggled from one safe house to another. She witnessed children being separated from parents and Jews being shipped to camps; while trying to sneak into Switzerland in 1942, she was arrested and held in a French detention center. She was tried for attempting to illegally cross the border and acquitted, and in 1943 successfully found her way into Switzerland, where she began writing her memoir, No Place to Lay One’s Head. After the war—and the book’s publication—Frenkel returned to Nice. Frenkel, who died in 1975, writes that it is “the duty of those who have survived to bear witness to ensure the dead are not forgotten.” Frenkel’s remarkable story of resilience and survival does just that, and will truly resonate with readers.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 1, 2019
    The potent story of a Jewish woman who fled, hid, endured imprisonment and debasement, and eventually escaped to Switzerland in June 1943. In a republished volume that has enduring relevance, Frenkel (1889-1975), who originally produced her long-forgotten and recently rediscovered work in 1945 (original title: No Place To Lay One's Head), chronicles her life before and after the Nazis rose in Germany and invaded France. As the new title suggests, she was a bookshop owner. She tells about her early love for books and her decision to go into the business--and to locate that business in Berlin, where she found no shops specializing in French literature (her love). When the Nazi oppressions grew more severe in Germany, she returned to France, where conditions were tolerable--at least for a while. Then she was forced to hide with sympathetic gentile friends, but she soon realized France was no longer safe, so she resolved to escape to Switzerland. She was apprehended in the process and spent time in custody before, miraculously, a judge freed her after a brief trial. A bit later, she made a second attempt to cross the border and succeeded despite gunfire and a near recapture. Frenkel, who originally wrote the book not long after her escape, is a fine writer: detailed, emotional, and careful about giving her readers sufficient information to keep the tension taut and not overwhelm. The current edition features some useful additions, including a chronology and a "dossier," a compilation of some research to validate what the author wrote, as well as a preface by French novelist and Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. Pictures, photocopies, and translations of documents comprise nearly 30 pages of engaging and relevant backmatter. A compelling account of crushing oppression, those who sought to flee it, and those who, at great risk, offered help.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from November 15, 2019
    Born in Poland and educated in Paris, author Frenkel opened the first French-language bookstore in Berlin in 1921. It soon became an extremely popular destination for writers and poets, and counted embassy officials and well-known intellectuals among its clients. Despite its fame, the shop and Frenkel (who was Jewish) became victims of the Nazi purges of 1939, resulting in the shuttering of the shop and Frenkel's hasty flight to France. Thus began a nightmarish four-year odyssey of scrambling to secure proper papers, seek safe havens, and avoid capture and deportation to a work camp. Frenkel's chronological first-person narration details narrow escapes, serendipitous respites, and acts of unbelievable cruelty, indifference, bravery, and kindness. Her story is compelling not only because it sheds light on a unique aspect of WWII (foreign nationals trapped in France during the German occupation) but due to the circumstances of its publication. Originally published in France in 1945 under the title No Place to Lay One's Head, the book remained largely forgotten until a copy surfaced in southern France in 2010, leading to this English-language release. Insightful, sympathetic, suspenseful, and eventually triumphant, this memoir is a worthy addition to the WWII canon.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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A Bookshop in Berlin
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The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman's Harrowing Escape from the Nazis
Françoise Frenkel
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