A child of a Jewish family fleeing Nazi-Germany and settling in apartheid South Africa in the 1930s, Ruth Weiss’ journalistic career starts in Johannesburg of the 1950s. In 1968 banned from her home country, and then also from Rhodesia for her critical investigative journalism, she starts reporting from Lusaka, London and Cologne on virtually all issues which affect the newly independent African countries. Peasants and national leaders in southern Africa – Ruth Weiss met them all, traveling through Africa at a time when it was neither usual for a woman to do so, nor to report for economic media as she did. Her writing gained her the friendship of diverse and interesting people. In this book she offers us glimpses into some of her many long-nurtured friendships, with Kenneth Kaunda or Nadine Gordimer and many others. Her life-long quest for tolerance and understanding of different cultures shines through the many personalized stories which her astute eye and pen reveals in this book. As she put it, one never sheds the cultural vest donned at birth, but this should never stop one learning about and accepting other cultures.
A young German aristocrat defies convention to become a musician in the heady days of Berlin in the 1920s and ‘30s. Charming and exuberant, she braves the mesmerising ascent of Nazi Germany to marry one of the three men who love her. She is betrayed by the second who cowers before the voice of popular racism. Finally, continents away, she is revenged by the third. This novel considers how racism impacts the intertwined, families of victims and oppressors and the everyday voices of silence and dissent.
Daniel Löw is one of the many poor Jews in the period immediately after the Thirty Years’ War. These people live on the streets and are forced to beg. Many are pushed into crime. In order to avoid the hated personal toll that every Jew has to pay when crossing borders, they use Jewish roads. The young Daniel defies society, which denies him being human, and founds a gang of thieves.
This novel tells the story of the descendants of Daniel Löw, whose life was described in Der Judenweg. The focus of this volume are Daniel Löw’s grandson, the doctor Menachem and his sister Hannah, who was kidnapped by a priest as a child and grew up in a monastery. Only as a grown woman will Hannah be able to escape and return to Judaism. Even if the descendants of Daniel Löw are wealthy and thus not quite as without rights as the poor Jewish population, the family members are exposed to the power of the church, the arbitrariness of the rulers and the ever-flaring hatred of the population against the Jews.
The time of court factors came to an end in the middle of the 18th century, which is why Uri Löw, scion of a court Jew dynasty, founded a private bank in Berlin. Thanks to his sons and the marriage of a daughter, the Löw bank was networked with similar companies in other countries. In the course of the following century, as part of the development of German Jewry, the bank also developed. Orpa, daughter of banker Adam Loew, like many upper-class Jews, was drawn to the world of German literature and culture. Like other Jews, around the time of Moses Mendelsohn, whose work promoted the Jewish Enlightenment, she and her family spoke German, no longer Yiddish. But despite the French Revolution and Napoleon, Orpa’s hope for equality remained unfulfilled in her lifetime without the baptismal certificate. This is how a relative has to be baptized in order to work as a scientist. Orpa withdraws into private life. Another relative, nephew Simeon, an enthusiastic democrat who was involved in politics as a youth, experienced the rise of the bank, the German Jews and, after 1871, equal rights, but his political hopes remained unfulfilled. Simeon therefore also seeks fulfillment within his family.
The novel spans the ups and downs of the 19th century.
Aaron Löw was seriously wounded during the Prussian war against France in 1870/71. But he finds conjugal happiness with a deaf woman and founds a home for disabled children on the good of the family. He cares about his environment and worries about the future of the Jews because he fears growing anti-Semitism. Like the majority of Central European Jews, the Löws have long been integrated and have become ardent patriots who see themselves as Germans of the Jewish faith. During the First World War, they suffered the painful death of several young relatives.
Aaron Löw’s fears of increasing anti-Semitism at the time of the Freicorps, high inflation and unemployment are confirmed. The architect Adolf Löw was one of the Löw families who converted because he married a German; his daughter Melanie and son Manfred grow up Germans. Other Löws are also in a relationship with Germans. The Nazi era and the destruction of Central European Jewry begins. The Löws lose the bank, their trust in Germany, their homeland and some of their lives. Several Löws were able to flee, others survived in hiding in Germany and Holland, others died in concentration camps. After the war, the survivors try to put the pieces of their lives together.
The stage designer Phillipa, great-granddaughter of Adolf Löw, doesn’t know her family history. Through the legacy of a villa in Wannsee, she explores her roots and meets the Jewish and German Löws. The death of an asylum seeker who lives in her house causes a police investigation that leads to neo-Nazis, Islamists and a mentally confused person. Phillipa becomes the bridge of the future and a means of reconciliation.
“2019 is not very far from 1930”. Sabine Peschel in conversation with Ruth Weiss on Deutsche Welle.
The role of women in revolution is reflected, courageously and brutally, in The Women of Zimbabwe, where Weiss often cites the women’s narratives directly. One woman’s description of avoiding a massacre by hiding in a pit latrine for four days is particularly heart-wrenching.
The former English secret agent Miss Emily Moore is invited by her former secretary Mary Thompson to Germany in her adopted home of Burghofen for a stumbling block. But not everyone in town seems to be happy about the new stumbling blocks, because as soon as they arrive, a murder happens. Not only the police, Miss Moore is also beginning to investigate. And she quickly finds out that Mary Thomson has begun researching the small town’s former Jewish citizens and former Nazis, who do not fit everyone’s stuff …
Ruth Weiss has an exemplary biography of the 20th century. She knows what she is talking about when she takes a well-informed look back at the war years.
“South Africa’s revolution of change has not yet ended”
After fleeing Nazi Germany, the 94-year-old journalist and author grew up in South Africa and dedicated her life to combating racism. Weiss tells DW about her upbringing and her thoughts on democracy in her country.
Ruth Weiss fled from the Nazis in 1936 and headed for South Africa, where she later campaigned against apartheid. She now lives in Germany. DW spoke with her about racism in Africa and multicultural interaction.