A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman’s Harrowing Escape from the Nazis
“I don’t know exactly when I felt the calling to be a bookseller. As a very young girl, I could spend hours leafing through a picture book or a large illustrated tome.”
From the first line of Françoise Frenkel’s memoir, A Bookshop in Berlin, I was hooked. Being a book lover and collector who haunts local bookstores every chance I get, I felt that immediate connection that all booklovers feel with a kindred spirit. Here is someone who understands, but also someone who clearly was in the wrong place at the very worst time possible.
I was intrigued by the difficulties Frenkel faced in opening a French bookshop and, to be honest, why she would even want to do so knowing the growing negative political climate in Germany towards all things foreign. However, then she describes how in 1921 her shop becomes a literary haven for Berlin: “professors, students, and members of the aristocracy.” Also, there are well-to-do women, poets, philosophers, scholars, and high school teachers. It is a place of solitude and solidarity which crosses all social boundaries. Until, one day, it isn’t, when this story really begins. And perhaps why some think the title seems a little strange. However, consider that it is this feeling of belonging that Frenkel creates in Berlin, in her bookstore, that this entire book continues on in the hopes of finding. Her memoir is a story of that perilous, often heart-stopping, journey, and I feel privileged to have been permitted to travel it with her in spirit.
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