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Roads Less Traveled

German-Jewish Exile Experiences in Kenya, 1933–1947


Natalie Eppelsheimer

Before Nowhere in Africa won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002, the fate of German-Jewish exiles in Africa was not widely discussed. The film, based on the autobiographical work of Stefanie Zweig, tells the story of the Zweig family, who escaped the perils of Nazism and found refuge in the British colony of Kenya.

Taking Zweig’s written works Nowhere in Africa and Nirgendwo war Heimat: Mein Leben auf zwei Kontinenten [Nowhere was Home: My Life on Two Continents] as a point of departure, and drawing on extensive sources – including previously unexplored government files from the Colonial Office and other archival records, correspondence, first-person accounts and personal communication with former refugees – this book provides a detailed historical look at German- Jewish emigration to Kenya. The volume explores British immigration policies and the formation of the Plough Settlement Association, under whose auspices German-Jewish refugees were to be settled in Kenya as farmers. It also traces the difficult lives of refugees, both adults and children, within the complex dynamics of British colonial society in the Kenya of the 1930s and 1940s, paying special attention to the experiences of children in the colony.

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Chapter 2 Safe Haven in Kenya: First-Person Accounts


Chapter 2

Safe Haven in Kenya: First-­Person Accounts

The previous chapter dealt with the historical background and the complex bureaucratic machinery behind German-­Jewish emigration to Kenya. I will now turn to first-­person accounts and examine the experiences and perspectives of numerous persons who spoke or wrote about their escapes from Nazi-­Europe and their lives in the Colony between 1933 and 1947 in memoirs, letters, literary narratives, interviews and oral testimonies. Specifically, this chapter will portray the experiences of Ruth and Heinrich Weyl, Inge and Gisela Berg with their family, Heinz Bauer, Stefanie Zweig with her parents, and Gert Stern with his parents. Also included, albeit much less detailed due to the limited sources available on these persons, are the stories of Walter Süßkind, Inge Sadler and Elsa Conrad. The final part offers a British perspective on German-­Jewish refugee life through the lens of British author Elspeth Huxley and her mother Nellie Grant.←85 | 86→

Figure 3: Map of Kenya, indicating locations of towns mentioned in this chapter: Gilgil, Londiani, Limuru, Mombasa, Nairobi, Nakuru, Ol’ Joro Orok, Rongai. Designed by Sarah Howard ’19, Middlebury College.←86 | 87→

Ruth and Heinrich Weyl

Figure 4: Ruth Weyl and her African staff in front of her boarding house in Nairobi, Kenya. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives #63593. Courtesy of Ruth Weyl. Copyright of USHMM.

Ruth and Heinrich Weyl left their hometown Breslau in September...

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