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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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Figures 1 & 2: Cover and interior page to a tourist brochure for Kenya acquired by the Berg family shortly after they fled there from Germany. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives #63521 and #63521A. Courtesy of Kurt and Jill Pauly. Copyright of USHMM.

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.

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.

Figure 5: Group portrait of the extended Berg family who had found refuge in Kenya. First row, left to right: Gisela Berg, Herman Mayer with Egon on his shoulders, Hannah, and Inge Berg. Second row, left to right: Ernest Berg holding Phillip, Else Berg, Klara Berg, Joseph Berg, Erna Berg, Rosel Berg, Sara Berg, Josef, and Adolf. Courtesy of Kurt and Jill Pauly. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives #49600. Copyright of USHMM.←ix | x→

Figure 6: Stefanie Zweig, visiting Eldoret with her parents. Stefanie is third from the right and Owuor on the far right. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives #63599. Courtesy of Ruth Weyl. Copyright of USHMM.

Figure 7: Poem written by Stefanie Zweig for her father, Walter Zweig, for his birthday on September 5,...

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