Maiden & the Jew
The Story of a Fatal Friendship in Nazi Germany
Publication Date: September 14, 2004
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IN 1932, IRENE SCHEFFLER, a vivacious, beautiful, young photographer, moved from the provincial town where she’d been raised to the city of Nuremberg. Her father wanted someone to keep an eye on her as she attempted to make her way in the world, and his old friend and business colleague, Leo Katzenberger, an urbane German Jew, agreed to help. He found her an apartment in a building he owned that adjoined the offices where he worked each day.
A friendship developed between Irene and the sixty-year-old Leo. Other tenants in the apartment house started to gossip — there was talk of signals at the window and kissing in the stairwell. Soon the neighborhood teemed with rumors. Harmless gossip turned into a death sentence when Nazi judges condemned Katzenberger for racial offenses, and on June 3, 1942, Katzenberger was beheaded. Irene was convicted of perjury and sentenced to two years of labor. After the war, she testified against Oswald Rothaug, the judge who ordered Katzenberger’s execution, at the Nuremberg Trials. (In the 1961 film Judgement at Nuremberg, Judy Garland played the part of Irene and Burt Lancaster the Nazi judge.)
The Maiden and the Jew chronicles how, bit by bit and sometimes chunk by chunk, a government, with the full cooperation of many of its citizens, stripped away the most basic rights of others, all in the name of patriotism.
CHRISTIANE KOHL, a correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, lives in Rome. She researched the holdings of major archives in Germany, Jerusalem, New York and Washington, D.C., uncovering letters and documents once believed lost and interviewed more than fifty witnesses and descendents of both the perpetrators and the victims. Born in 1954, Kohl has also worked as the Bonn (capital city) correspondent for the Kölner Express, was the press officer for today’s foreign minister Joseph Fischer, and a columnist for the news magazine Der Spiegel. She is a published novelist, and The Maiden and the Jew has been made into the movie Leo and Claire by acclaimed German filmmaker Joseph Vilsmaier.
"Kohl conducted primary research, including dozens of interviews, for this excellent amount of the charged atmosphere in Nuremberg at this time."
- Library Journal
"A tale of foul and petty mistrust, nastiness, corruption, and careerism that led to a man's beheading and the incarceration of his charge, during the Nazi Nuremberg years...Khol does a fine and fierce job of letting this story unfold, complete with evil characters..." - Kirkus Reviews
"Kohl recounts with the cadence of a Greek tradgedy a case of perverted justice in Nazi Germany." - Publishers Weekly
“A breathtaking book. In precise, yet sympathetically rendered prose the author succeeds in bringing to the surface a dreadful apprehension over the fact that something like this could have happened.” — Nürnberger Nachrichten
“Demonstrates the murderous mixture of petit- bourgeois repression, racial prejudice, and culture of prying and informing vividly and with great sensitivity.”— Süddeutsche Zeitung