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Julia Nelki, Villa Russo. A Jewish Story. With a foreword by Stephan Lohr

  • The book focuses on a villa in Wernigerode from the late

    19th century, its builders, owners and inhabitants. It offers

    a view of over 120 years of German history: the pride of

    an entrepreneur, the success of the industrial production of

    Harz cheese, and its abrupt end with the seizure of power of

    the National Socialists in the 1930s. The villa’s Jewish owners,

    Benno and Clara Russo, are terrorised, deported and violently

    killed in a concentration camp, while a local Nazi takes

    possession of the house.

    Under East-German rule the villa became a vocational school

    for children with special needs.

    With German unification, the ownership question arose anew.

    The Russo descendants offered to give the school and factory

    buildings to the municipality provided it stayed as a school,

    but this was blocked by an opaque administrative act.

    This process exemplifies difficulties that occurred with

    unification. Political-historical facts and social-moral principles

    were often disregarded. A fortunate turn meant that the

    villa and outbuildings became a musical-artistic meeting place,

    radiating new life, while also serving as a memorial to the


    »A work of tremendous force and emotion, beautifully written,

    an important and original contribution to our understanding

    of the impact of malevolence on a family and its home. A book

    for our times, sadly.«

    Philippe Sands, QC, Director of the Centre on International

    Courts and Tribunals at University College London


    Dr. Julia Nelki, grandniece of the owners Benno and Clara Russo,

    describes in empathic detail this German-Jewish family history.



    Morning Star, Monday March 21 2022:


    Neue Rezension von Gail Simon: