A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman’s Harrowing Escape from the Nazis by Françoise Frenkel
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.convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences. (publisher)
In 1921 Françoise Frenkel, Polish-born Jew, opened the first French-language bookstore in Berlin. After Kristallnacht, she fled Berlin to France. She went to school in Paris and lived there before moving to Berlin so it must have felt like a safe place for her.
We see her difficulties with bureaucracy when starting her bookstore and the danger of being a Jew in Germany. Many advised her not to open a French-language bookstore in Germany in the aftermath of WWI.
What was strange, was her omission of her husband from the book. It is mentioned in the preface by Patrick Modiano that Françoise opened the bookstore together with her husband. In the book, it is never mentioned that she was married. Simon Raichenstein was born in Russia and died in Auschwitz. She writes about wanting to see her mother but not much about other relatives.
Published: Atria Books (December 3, 2019)