“A beautiful and important book” (The Independent) in the tradition of rediscovered works like SuiteFrançaise and The Nazi Officer’s Wife, the prize-winning memoir of a fearless Jewish woman whose beloved bookshop was destroyed by the Nazis, sending her on a harrowing fight for survival across wartime Europe.
In 1921, Françoise Frenkel—a Jewish woman from Poland—fulfills a lifelong dream. She opens Berlin’s first French-language bookshop, La Maison du Livre, attracting artists, diplomats, celebrities, and poets. The shop soon becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. But as the occupation intensifies and politics darken, Frenkel’s bookshop is frequently visited by police officers who confiscate her beloved books.
Frenkel’s dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht—The Night of Broken Glass—as Jewish shops and businesses, including La Maison du Livre, are destroyed. She flees to Paris where she witnesses countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses, and worse. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Frenkel survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.
Originally published in 1945, and rediscovered nearly sixty years later in an attic, A Bookshop in Berlin is the remarkable tale of one woman whose passion for life and literature helps her survive history’s darkest hours.
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 1939, after her bookshop was destroyed in Kristallnacht, she sought refuge in Paris, fleeing to occupied Vichy after the German invasion the following year. After several years in hiding, she escaped across the border to Switzerland, where she wrote a memoir documenting her refugee experience. Originally published in 1945 as Rien où poser sa tête (No Place to Lay One’s Head), the memoir was rediscovered in an attic in Southern France in 2010 and republished in the original French. Frenkel died in Nice in 1975.
“An astonishing memoir . . . as gripping as any thriller.” —The Sunday Times
"A beautiful and important book...shocking yet delicate prose, cruelty and beauty combined in just over 250 pages." —The Independent
"[Frenkel] spins, almost out of nothingness, a crucial moment in time that ought to suspend itself over the consciences of her readers, her fellow men, vitally, critically and irrevocably. We are given only hints of a past, nothing of a future, a highly selective panorama of a present. Yet what we hold in our hands, as we hold this little volume, can be said to be pure gold."—Bookanista
“I cried and still couldn’t put it down.” —Lisa Appignanesi, award-winning author of Losing the Dead and Mad, Bad, and Sad
“A lost classic . . . Frenkel’s tale and prose is utterly compelling, at once painful and exquisite.” —Philippe Sands, author of East West Street
“Remarkable . . . A French equivalent to the anonymous A Woman in Berlin, and a non-fiction counterpoint to Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise. . . [A book that] everyone should hold in their hands." —Daily Telegraph (five stars)
“The book is not only a moving memoir but also an intriguing historical document, thanks not least to Frenkel's emphasis on the often unsolicited help she received from ordinary French people.” —Natasha Lehrer, The Times Literary Supplement