Dieses Volk: Juedische Existenz, by Leo Baeck
Leo Baeck’s last act, an hour before his death, was to affix his signature to the completed manuscript of the still unpublished second volume of Dieses Volk: Jüdische Existenz. Of the first volume, published, in accordance with his wishes, in Germany in 1955, he says in the Preface that “it was written in a dark time”—the time when the Nazis were systematically exterminating his people. During much of this time, as President of the “Reichsvertretung,” Leo Baeck represented the German Jews before the Nazi government. When it became clear that it was impossible for him to do anything for his fellow Jews in that capacity, he voluntarily followed them into the concentration camp at Theresienstadt. Early in the Nazi terror, Baeck had incurred the wrath of the Nazis through the Yom Kippur prayer, read in synagogues throughout Germany, in which he answered the Nazi denigration of the Jews with the ringing declaration, “We bow our heads before God, but we stand upright before men!” Now he carried on his justification of Jewish life in secret, writing the pages of this volume on chance scraps of paper and managing to bring them forth with him from Theresienstadt at the time of liberation.
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