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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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This book could absolutely not have been written without the support of friends and family, colleagues and staff at archives and libraries in Germany, Great Britain, Kenya and the US.

I was very fortunate to work with Laurel Plapp, Laura-Beth Shanahan and Jonathan Smith at Peter Lang, who showed extraordinary patience during my writing of Roads Less Traveled. I also want to thank Diane DeBella for reading my work and for helping me prepare the first version of the manuscript. While she bears no responsibility for the flaws that may remain in the final version of this book, her comments and criticism proved helpful time and again. I want to express thanks to Jutta Vinzent at the University of Birmingham, too, who shared with me documents from her archival research on German refugees from Gross-­Breesen interned as enemy aliens in Kenya and with whom I enjoyed talking about my book project. It is not often that one finds scholars who so generously share their archival discoveries. I am especially grateful to the staff at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in particular photo archivist Caroline Waddell and reference librarians Ron Coleman and Vincent Slatt; the director and staff at the Exilarchiv at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Frankfurt, in particular Sylvia Asmus, Jörg Hasenclever, Katrin Kokot and Regina Elzner; the friendly librarians at the National Archives in Kew and The London Metropolitan Archives, Great Britain. I would also like to thank Adinah Zola at the Nairobi...

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