"Gay's story could hardly be other than interesting . . ." From a New York Times review of My German Question by Frank Kermode, October, 1998
Peter Gay, retired Sterling professor of History at Yale, who, amongst his many scholarly works has written a highly regarded biography of Freud, decided to write this memoir to answer a vital question. How should he feel, how does he feel, about contemporary Germany and its German citizens? He narrates the story of his family’s Berlin years – he was born in 1923 - in order to provide a context for that vital question.
In filling out his early life story the author deals with some issues that he has thought a lot about. For example as a German Jew he feels the need to defend himself and other German Jews against the charge that their mistake was being too “German.” He also deals with questions he is frequently asked: Why didn’t your family and others leave sooner? Didn’t you see what was happening?
All this leads up to his question about his attitude toward contemporary Germany and its German citizens. It is not an easy question with an easy answer. He discusses the slow evolution of his feelings, from early hatred and rage to an acceptance of a new generation whose members were not responsible for the actions of their parents’ generation, though he does say that in encountering members of the post-war generation, he often wonders what their grandparents/and/or parents were feeling and doing during the war.
This memoir includes many photos.
To read a copy of the speech Gay delivered in Munich in November, 1999 on the occasion of his being awarded the Geschwister-Scholl prize for the German translation of My German Question, click here.
Author's father's family
Moritz Frohlich (Morris Gay) – author’s father
Peter Jack Gay (Peter Joachim Frohlich) – their son; married Ruth; author of this memoir
Esther – author’s father’s sister; married Moritz Jaschkowitz
Recha – author’s father’s sister
Werner – her son
Siegfried – author’s father’s brother
Max – author’s father’s brother
Author’s mother’s family
Albert and Regina Kohnke – author’s maternal grandparents
Hedwig – mother’s sister; married to Samuel Frohlich, author’s father’s uncle (families intermarried)
Hanns (Jack Gay)– son of Hedwig and Samuel
Edgar – son of Hedwig and Samuel; married Comer
Siegfried Kohnke – their son
Willy Kohnke – their son; married Gertrude
Alfred Kohnke – their son; married Grace
Albert- son of Alfred and Grace
Author's mother (unnamed) - married Moritz Frohlich
Peter - their son
Jacob Wolfsohn - distant cousin